Here are my lessons and takeaways from Humans Are Underrated by Geoff Colvin

Humans Are UnderratedWe had a another terrific session last Friday for our October First Friday Book Synopsis. I presented my synopsis of Humans are Underrated: What High Achievers Know that Brilliant Machines Never Will by Geoff Colvin. Really good book!

Here is my one paragraph summary of the book:

Computers will take over in so many ways. But the truly human tasks will remain the domain of humans. Learning what these are; getting better at them. That is the agenda set by this book.

Here’s the argument of the book:

  • Work is changing.

  • The threat comes from narcissism, and less empathy … leading to … exploitativeness and entitlement.

#1 — Computers will take over everything we can program computers to do. And, they are doing this fast, faster, month-by- month, year-by-year.
#2 – But… there are human beings doing human things that computers can never do. Identifying what these things are, and getting better at such, is the future (and the high-value future) we have to build.
#3 – The human skills are in us – but our ability to practice them is threatened by technology.
#4 – These human skills are “learnable.” You can learn such skills!
#5 – These human skills are all about interaction – requiring physical presence, in turn-taking interactions.

Empathy plays a big role in his approach to the future. What do we mean by empathy?

  • It means discerning what some other person is thinking and feeling, and responding in some appropriate way.
  • It goes far beyond just feeling someone else’s pain. Spotting someone’s joy, anger, engagement, confusion, or any other mental state is just as important.
  • And, there is a coming narcissistic wave of too little empathy…

Geoff Colvin is a superior “explainer,” and his book is worth reading because of that aspect of the book. I’ve now read numerous books describing how we are entering a “second machine age,” and how computers and software and robots will continue to march forward and replace more and more human tasks and jobs. This book affirms that, and maybe explains the why behind it as well, if not better, than other books.

So, in other words, the challenge is real, coming at us fast (very fast), and we’d better adjust.

Here are my lessons and takeaways from the book:

#1 – The “Alone Zone” is great – Maybe the “Together Zone” is greater.
#2 – You won’t beat the computer. But the computer will not beat the human in interaction skills…
#3 – If you weren’t born an interactive champion, you can learn to be one. So, learn to be one!
#4 – Training, (constant training), done right, is truly critical.


My synopsis of this book, with my full handout plus the audio recording of my presentation, will be available soon on our companion web site,


One thought on “Here are my lessons and takeaways from Humans Are Underrated by Geoff Colvin

  1. Enjoyed your take on the book. I agree in a big way on point 4, constant training. Being in the field of leadership development I’m obviously a huge believer in it. It’s amazing the results you see in others when they consistently read book and listen to audios on the correct subjects over time. It’s not a one and done deal, it’s a way of living.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s