“The Future If,” is a global community of business leaders, authors and futurists who explore what our future can look like IF certain technologies, ideas, approaches and trends actually happen. The community looks at everything from AI and automation to leadership and management practices to augmented reality and virtual reality, the 4th industrial revolution and everything in between. Each we explore a new topic and this week we looked at whether we should Fear or Embrace AI, this was the discussion starter we used! Visit TheFutureIf.com to learn more or to request to join the community.
Technology is everywhere—from robots and chatbots to self-driving cars, wearable devices, and sensors, it is nearly impossible to escape advancing technology. As technology grows and plays a larger role within organizations, it is easy to let it take over. However, one of the most important things humans can do with technology is to just be human. This week our community discussed how we can combine people with technology for the best of both worlds.
Principal Consultant Kathi Enderes, who led the discussion, told of an experience she had with a chatbot. She had ordered something online and had an after-hours issue with her order. The conversation with the chatbot was frustrating because the bot couldn’t understand the simple things she was saying, and Kathi quickly left the conversation. The next day a human solved her problem in just a few minutes. Sometimes companies are so anxious to adopt new technology that they forget about the human aspects of customer interaction. As others pointed out, it seems like many people are obsessed with removing humans from the equation when what we really need is just better access to humans.
Co Founder of The Missing Chair Sonia Cluff expressed that right now machines are good at information fetching but not as good at handling situations when something has gone wrong. As Owner of Networks&Partners Jesper Simonsen pointed out, bots often fail to understand the irrational choices, feelings, and creativity of humans because it is hard to program into a system. In its current state, technology isn’t very effective in creating personalized, tailored experiences, especially when dealing with customer service issues that may arise. Some community members suggested taking away technology from those kinds of problems and instead focusing on high-quality human interactions.
There has long been concern that machines and robots will replace human jobs, but very few companies have actually had to lay off a lot of people after investing in technology. Instead, our community agreed it comes down to choice of if an organization will replace workers or support them, and many organizations have seen the value of using humans in partnership with machines. Some of the most successful organizations don’t rely solely on technology or humans, but rather combine the two. Technology has strong analytical powers, but humans have strong emotional connections; the two traits often work well together.
Multiple community members expressed concerns and frustration with the internal workings of using new technology within an organization. With so much powerful technology available, especially when combined with human workers, it can be frustrating to be stuck using the same old systems and not evolving with the times. Some forward-thinking employees that want to embrace technology have been stopped by the IT department that they say wants to control everything. Others talked about working for organizations with very little in-house control over IT because everything was outsourced and done through various vendors. If companies are truly going to harness the power of new technology and combine it with the human interactions of their workers, they need to add a personal touch to technology at all levels, not just with customers.
In the future, most community members agreed that we’ll see the gap between human characteristics and tech start to lessen as human-centered tech grows. Technology is expanding rapidly across all industries, but there will always be room for human communication and interaction. Bots may be able to perform medical tests and scan for cancer, but the news of a diagnosis is best coming from a human doctor in person or on the phone instead of a computerized recording from a robot. No matter much technology grows, it will never be able to truly be human, so there will always be room for human interaction.
Technology is a powerful force in the workplace, and advances in AI and machine learning can help organizations expand and reach new areas. However, technology isn’t a replacement for humans and instead should be thought of as a partnership to combine emotion and intuition with programming and code.
My new book, The Employee Experience Advantage (Wiley, March 2017) analyzes over 250 global organizations to understand how to create a place where people genuinely want to show up to work. Subscribe to the newsletter here or become a member of the new Facebook Community The Future If… and join the discussion.
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