How to become a humanity explorer, find the value in your thinking, and move yourself and the world towards wholeness over fragmentation.
“The reality is that even in this modern age, humanness remains fundamental for better decision making, even with all the wonderful messiness that we bring into the process.”
As the world becomes more connected, we start to realise that the differences we share aren’t as important as the similarities and that the boundaries between one interpretation and another aren’t as impactful as we may have first thought.
If we want to design a world that’s real and connected to our humanity, then we have to learn to look beyond our own limited points of view and to come together and explore the truth of our own humanity in a multidisciplinary and genuinely creative way.
Hunome is a tool for doing just that – an insights platform based in Finland designed for looking at ideas and issues from different angles, increasing awareness, and being able to take better actions as a result.
In this Creative Attitudes interview we spoke with founder Dominique Jaurola about their work and what it means to be a modern humanity explorer.
Here’s what she had to say:
What exactly is a ‘humanity explorer’ and why does the world need them at this time?
A humanity explorer is someone who has a hunger to understand the world around them. They may have a professional need to understand the human, like a marketer, a strategist, a designer, or they may be personally curious about why people do the things they do.
Either way a humanity explorer is someone who has a broad worldview and enjoys the detailed and the complex over the simplistic. For this reason, they may be fed up with social media of today, and the polarizing effect it has on society.
The need for humanity explorers is growing. As the world’s problems grow more complex, a shared understanding is needed to help solve these. The humanity explorer’s empathy and insight is necessary to develop comprehensive solutions with humanness at the centre.
Hunome is a collective insights platform – can you explain briefly how it works?
Hunome is a place where humanity explorers can build understanding to develop insights, either by themselves or with others.
Starting with a Spark, a rich and qualitative representation of a thought, idea, experience, members on Hunome can connect perspectives to create trains and systems of thought. The more Sparks are connected, the more comprehensive the overview of the theme becomes, and every perspective contributes to our overall understanding.
Sparks are given context by the author and other members, enriching the collective understanding of the theme. One person’s idea of genius may seem uninspiring to someone else, but both perspectives are equally valid. No effort is wasted on Hunome.
Members can explore other trains and systems of thoughts, before diving deeper into analyzed perspectives. And as thinking around a theme evolves, so do the insights.
“A combination of understanding from humans, designers, city planners, transportation specialists, politicians etc, provides a much richer, multidisciplinary picture than focusing on just one area of specialism.”
There seems to have been a cultural shift over the last decade or so that’s now reaching a tipping point. This shift is basically that from thinking in terms of fragments to thinking of wholeness and whole systems. How does the way we uncover and share new knowledge fit into this?
Currently our approach to knowledge is either in static entities: books, movies, etc or it is in bite-sized dynamic and fleeting moments, a tweet, a blog post, a search result, a question and answer.
These are based on a topic or key words. They are fragmented in all four corners of the internet. The result of the way we deal with information is that what we find is more of the same or a point of view that does not live or connect with the new.
What Hunome offers is a way to build, continuously, connecting the dots across the fields of knowledge that feed into the same theme space. A great example of this is our hopes and dreams for the cities we live in. A combination of understanding from humans, designers, city planners, transportation specialists, politicians etc, provides a much richer, multidisciplinary picture than focusing on just one area of specialism.
“Understanding or making sense of humanness isn’t as simple as just asking a person. It’s about understanding the quality of being human – what really makes us tick.”
Human beings seem to lack a shared vision for the future. How can we help them find one?
For the vision to be shared there are no shortcuts.
We need to bring diverse people together and understand why people say and do what they say and do and what they think is the better way.
Often the Nordics are brought up as the area where all decisions are the outcome of much conversation and then consensus. While this may not always be the case, the need to understand each other better is quite palpable.
Holding positions is counterproductive when your life may depend on you changing your mind. It is also counterproductive to take a society in an unsustainable direction where some have it all and most have nothing. It does not last and it creates gated communities where everyone is afraid.
In order to create a shared vision, a level of compromise is called for from all. Even if no one gets exactly what they want, they understand the drivers for the direction, and can see the benefit for the bigger picture and themselves.
With Hunome, we’ve created the environment for this deliberation and build, where all humans can join in shaping a world that lasts and sustains humans well.
Insight seems to be the key to innovation and growth in both our personal and professional lives. What barriers to insight have we designed into the world we’ve built?
The way the world builds insights is broken. Information is fragmented, scattered or siloed. If we want to build any kind of comprehensive understanding, we may read a blog here, and visit a knowledge based site there. We may download one report but not have access to, or even be aware of, the research paper on the topic. So making sense of a theme takes time and money. What we’re left with is poor decisions, based on simplistic or incomplete data.
Insights become useful when they are engaged with, together with others. It becomes less about convincing and influencing, and more about understanding what is best.
Humanity is now facing a moment of reckoning in a number of areas – environment, race, technology to name a few. While all of these issues are coming to a head, the model for insights building hasn’t evolved fast enough to meet the pressing need to make sustainable decisions that are human aware.
Traditional ways of ‘sense-making’ or conducting (design and marketing) research often end up with static ideologies or conclusions that end up being out-of-date. How is the Hunome approach more aligned with reality in its fluidity?
Understanding or making sense of humanness isn’t as simple as just asking a person. It’s about understanding the quality of being human – what really makes us tick.
The trouble with many of the qualitative research methods used today is how they relate to actually making the right choices going forward. Many of these methods work in an isolated manner. They deliver insights to what is already known, due to questions asked, and they deliver them too late, due to the length of time it takes to gather, analyse and interpret data.
They often produce the wrong kind of input to longer-term thinking or to areas where things are changing rapidly, and almost never take into account the next new thing that will shift the game. In this world, different styles of inputs are necessary to make unbiased, future-oriented decisions.
This is where Hunome is different. Perspectives on a given topic are instantly analyzed and contribute to the overall understanding of the topic. So as the thinking around a theme evolves on Hunome, so do the insights that we can take from it. Nothing is wasted.
Some people believe that AI can one day replace human intelligence and creativity. What has working on Hunome taught you about this?
There’s no doubt that AI makes connections between relevant and related, technology-found ideas of what something looks like easier. We’re increasingly using AI to help us make choices in our personal life (think Netflix recommendations – even so, not always the best suggestions), and even streamline processes in the workplace for better business decisions.
However, while AI’s integration into work processes can result in more effective decision making, there’s no way that an algorithm can build upon information that doesn’t yet exist, reassess rules to take into account the exception, or understand the impact of an unexpected anomaly.
Humans create discontinuities. When we consider what might be, we do not rely on past data alone. When we consider what is in our essence as individuals or systems, our humanness, we utilise our human ingenuity. Human ingenuity creates new directions in many ways. Sylvain Duranton made a compelling argument for this in his TedTalk back in September 2019.
The reality is that even in this modern age, humanness remains fundamental for better decision making, even with all the wonderful messiness that we bring into the process.
We tend to have a cultural assumption that learning is linear and that certainty is possible. How do we actually learn in your view?
Like shifting sands, our knowledge foundations are constantly changing. A new bit of research, human experience bringing in a new angle, even the hard sciences are living with this.
If you bring a new bit of insight to cholesterol conversation and add it to where it belongs, e.g., not what biological tests prove but what the surgeon knows to be true, then you add to the overall understanding from a different perspective. This way we learn in the connections of insight, not just the insight itself. This kind of learning teaches us the whole system level perspective, rather than rote bits, and speeds up our ability to see the gaps in our understanding.
“By focusing on the human experience, we encourage actual meaningful debate and our differences become just as valid as our similarities. We can begin to understand each other, and ourselves.”
If humans dig deeply into their explorations of themselves, will they find more similarities or more differences?
This depends on the layer we are talking about. If we talk about our genome, there’s very little difference. If we talk about the necessities like food, love and shelter our needs are very similar and yet the experience is very different. From there the differences start to accumulate and create very different experiences of the world.
When we seek to know what humans want from life, or are able to do in life, these experiences colour the wishes and engagement. At the system level, the human-made world depends on many variables that come together for a moment to be rearranged at a later date, with changed circumstances: transportation, food systems, global commerce etc. The basics are similar but the realities we live with are ‘very’ different.
Does our current incarnation of the internet only touch the surface or superficial side of our lives. What needs to happen so we can take it a bit deeper in your view?
The current incarnation of the internet is so focused on the instant, the easy, the simplistic. When we are looking for understanding, what we end up with are the ‘best fit’ answers that don’t take into account the complexity and the nuance.
A number of factors have brought us to this point; the social media advertising model, ‘like’ culture, addiction oriented designs and algorithms, poor implementation of technology, and not considering the unintended consequences, are a few things that spring to mind.
For the platforms of today to change the way they operate is difficult if not impossible. Nevertheless, there’s a need for more inclusivity, more of a focus on the collective experience and understanding.
By focusing on the human experience, we encourage actual meaningful debate and our differences become just as valid as our similarities. We can begin to understand each other, and ourselves.
Are most people scared to explore their own humanity? How did this happen if so? If not, how we can we help them explore it even more deeply?
Very interesting question.
Fears of all kinds are holding humans back. At times those fears are very concrete, like not knowing how to feed oneself and family, and at times it could be about fear of missing out.
‘Know thyself’ was a wise instruction on the forecourt of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. (The two maxims that followed “know thyself” were “nothing to excess” and “surety brings ruin” – Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Know_thyself).
I do not think most people are scared to explore their own humanness or humanity. It is just not very easy to do it, or we do it without realising at times through fictional stories, movies and so on. We assess our own position by being exposed to the many ways to live and see things.
Those more keen on making better decisions that suit one’s nature and nurture, may belong to a group called cultural creatives, and are continually seeking to understand themselves in the context of others. They want to know why humans do what they do.
For one’s career choices it is important to understand what kind of work makes sense. It is not just about whether one has a strong natural affinity to paint or solve mathematical problems but also what kind of work model works: engaged with people all the time or not for example.
What is the attitude needed to really innovate in your view?
A healthy dose of curiosity. Curiosity is the starting point for many journeys of discovery but can also guide us into shaping information for our own satisfaction. In other words, it’s not just about how you go looking for things, but how you seek to collide with the unusual and hold onto these things for different purposes.
Alongside, curiosity is empathy. The ability to understand other people’s perspectives expands our realm of understanding to encompass that which exists outside of ourselves. This diversity of thought enriches our ability to collectively comprehend, solve problems, and make decisions.
How does our relationship to knowledge stop us having as much empathy as we might need to flourish?
The word fact is difficult in this context. One truth is something we seek and then we seek to know that. However, we are in a continuous circle of evolving knowledge in all fields of knowledge. Knowing when to call it known and when to call it known, however… is hard. So we tend to repeat the old ‘knowledge as fact and truth’ until we have another fact to hang on to.
In between those two facts there is much greyness. Those who are able to hold the two in front of them and not go crazy at dinner conversations or become incomprehensible is art. Those who can understand that the world of knowledge is in progress and listen to the unusual angle. If it fits nowhere just yet, it might in a few year’s time.
However, this doesn’t mean that we go all relative, dispute all knowledge, and think that we can choose all our facts as we please. By building our ability to see the system, the bigger picture, we are more able to make decisions that are not limited to one way of seeing the world.
How does serendipity play into creativity?
The world offers some preconditions for some things to emerge as a new idea. This could be frustration-based shifts in human expectations of what to eat, how to travel and so on. It could also be technology evolution-based opportunities.
The ideas of the new emerge in different parts of the world around the same time. However, their path to tangible expressions may be very different and so is the outcome. Visibility of these new ideas is increased by the easier road to delivering these ideas to the market.
Creativity has to do with abundance of directions, methods and ideas rather than limitations of resources. Connecting the dots in a new way to deliver creativity requires bumping into new thoughts by accident or by assisted serendipity.