25 January 2018

robot, machine learning, automationAll too often the working world is depicted by people doing mundane, repetitive tasks; running the metaphorical hamster wheel. To me that’s a fundamental problem with how industry works.

People are creative, passionate, caring and considerate; not machines.

With that in mind, I was interested to tune into a TED Talk by a man called David Lee, the Vice President of Innovation and the Strategic Enterprise Fund for UPS, where he questions the future of the workforce. There are so many areas within his talk that resonate.

In ‘Why jobs of the future won’t feel like work’, David suggests that we need to design new jobs that are less focussed on tasks and more on how to harness the way people ‘bring together capability with creativity when faced with problems [they’ve] never seen before.’ He also suggests that entrepreneurs, nurses, plumbers and therapists all work in this way already.

He’s absolutely right. There are machines and computers to do the data analysis, the heavy lifting or even to drive vehicles. What machines can’t do, is bring the human element. This, interestingly, tallies with my post yesterday about Amazon’s new Go service with cashier-less stores that you simply walk out of with your goods.

There are some things that machines simply cannot do.

In his talk, David suggests that we need to invite people to be more and empower them to do more. The result – they’ll amaze us. We’ve seen this first hand at UKFast.

We have always harnessed automation to free up time for people to do more of what they love. In the customer-service team this means automatically opening the client’s file when they call up and the team member is logged in. It also means automatically routing the call to a person assigned to them. No annoying menus to get through, no waiting while files loads. It speeds the service up and enables better relationships.

The more simple tasks that we can automate, the more time we’re freeing up for people to do what they do best.

Equally, we empower innovation with an 80/20 rule for developers to spend time working on projects that they’re passionate about. Empowering people to bring all of themselves into the office, not ‘leaving too much of yourself in the trunk of your car’ as Harry Davis of University of Chicago describes it, is essential in business. All too often potential is overlooked because it doesn’t fit in with the task in hand.

We’re learning every day how to help people to meet their potential in this way. Currently, we have a creative environment where people can relax, exercise and work. We automate as much of the monotonous workload as possible and we empower people to make their own decisions. There’s always more to learn though, and David’s talk is a good place to start the conversation around the workforce of the future.

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