our friend N met with a potential employer. she asked him a few questions to see if he was a reasonable boss. he assured her that he ran a very progressive organization. he said: “oh no, we’re human.”

N noted this phrasing and was pleased. later, upon hearing this story, I too was pleased. but by the words he had chosen. if not human, what else would he be? robot? ashtray? popsicle? then i remembered that we have an entire industry to remind us to care for our “human” resources.

human resources is a modern process. the treatment of people as a precious resource shows a migration away from material to intellectual property. (companies that are primarily in the business of exploiting physical resources tend to treat their workers only slightly better than animals.)

many of today’s wealthiest companies depend greatly on human resources. for example, Goldman Sachs, Google, Apple. these companies are particularly successful because of their democratic organizations. when innovation is a common concern, the herd or hive mind is engaged. that means, essentially, an extended and highly sensitive feedback mechanism at work.

without adequate feedback, an organization responds too late or, sometimes, not at all to the reality of their situation. are the most human companies the most successful? not yet. but as the information sciences continue to transform traditional trades we may be headed in a more human direction.

I’ll close with a headline that speaks to the transition we’re undergoing: Record Apple profits dampened by iPhone contractor suicide