September 18, 2020

Would You Visit a Human Library?

human library blog

Internet memes are fun, aren’t they? Sometimes funny, sometimes educational, always endlessly recycled, and often spreading some kind of rumour or outright lie.

Good times on the internet.

On a more serious note, misinformation spread through Facebook can have a devastating impact on democratic elections, so please in the coming election season, always always fact check any information you see on Facebook regarding policies and candidates.

Careful scrutiny of sources, fact checking and logical thinking about information presented can stop misinformation from spreading. Please be careful what where you receive and where you share important information about political candidates and policies.

With that out of the way, back to memes. This one in particular:

Now the reason this one caught my attention is because when I originally saw it, I sort of assumed this was mostly an embellishment of facts. I mean, wouldn’t it be weird to go to a library and check out a human?

I have to admit I was intrigued, so I dug a little deeper and found out that it is in fact a thing! There are libraries across the world where you can sit with a human volunteer and ask them about their life, their experiences, their culture - anything appears to be on the table.

The original purpose of the human library was to combat prejudice and stereotypes by breaking down the us/them barriers that humans tend to put on all social interactions. At its core, if you learn about another person as a human being, you overcome the fear or discomfort of “the other”.

As with any idea, though, its applicability could be vast.

I Don't Know: Phase 2

A while back, I wrote a blog on how to overcome the instinct to hide or prevaricate rather than just say to someone: “I Don’t Know”. The concept of overcoming your ego and allowing a more expert witness on a topic expound upon their passion area I suggested is very valuable.

Being open to learning from someone else is a good step towards expanding your mind; it is just a first step, though.

The human library concept has vast potential to be a valuable second step: the step towards real curiosity about someone else’s experience, and entering a conversation purely and solely for the purpose of listening. Too often we go into even casual conversations with no intention to really listen and engage with another person’s knowledge or experience, but merely to expound upon our own.

Why am I talking about this?

I’m kind of interested in the prospect of building a network within which we don’t just sell products or services, or find out if there are other connections we can build. These are absolutely valuable and necessary parts of engaging with your professional network, but it could be more than that.

Too often during our workday, we grind. We focus on minutiae of running a business, of meeting sales goals, of finding new opportunities for growth and expansion. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like it wears a groove in my brain.

However, networking - as we did back in the time before this time that shall not be named - could have the potential to be more educational, more mind expanding, and less focused on the trees and more on the forest around us.

It’s an interesting idea, that within your network, a connection could indicate through their LinkedIn profile, or their email signature, or their marketing materials, that they are a part of the human library experience, and they are open to have their brain picked clean on a topic about which they are passionate, related to their work or not.

So I’m going to roll on back up to the previous paragraph on elections and democracy. These are subjects about which I am passionate. I will always take the opportunity to talk to people about them. Now that you know that, what questions would you ask me?

Would You Volunteer?

And now I’m going to toss it out to you: if you were a volunteer in the human library, what would you talk about? Would you engage with someone new in your network if they reached out to you and said hey, I’m interested in general in your story. Can you tell me more about you?

I think both personal and business connections should be used for learning, listening and getting out of your brain box comfort zone. What do you think?

Thanks to our boys for saving me from another stockphoto! Left to right in the pic, we have Kory Prior, Jared Fedorchuk, Kyle Zeabin and Cristian Rocha.

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