When you think of humans interacting with machines, there’s a huge spectrum of examples that may come to mind—using Siri as your digital assistant through speech recognition software, exploring a 3D gaming experience with virtual reality, storing emails and large files in the cloud—the list goes on. Machines are all around us. Technology has grown to encapsulate our lives, and the evolution of new technology is only accelerating in momentum. So as a business, how do you keep up?
Technology is accelerating exponentially in capability and adoption because of the value it brings to humans. Machines fulfill specific needs and desires—they serve people. Similarly, a business exists to bring value to the marketplace—to people. This intersection is the key to using technology in the right way to unlock new value.
Technology must work for people and bring value to them.
The best guide to generating new value is understanding the people you’re trying to serve. Look through the lens of human desirability and think about the needs and wants of your stakeholders. Think about how you can remove pain points and make their lives better. If you want to bring value to your business, you must keep people at the center when creating new digital products and services.
Steve Jobs first used this analogy in 1980 to explain the human relationship with technology.
Think about the distance and the speed at which a human can travel down the road. Now think about the distance and the speed at which a human on a bicycle can travel down the road. The bike elevates human performance and increases the potential of what the human is trying to do. The bike is designed to take the human further and faster. It’s a machine that’s designed to fulfill a need. This is a great analogy for how technology and humans should interact. Machines should be used to amplify, enhance, and fulfill a human need—not replace it.
Machines should complement humans, not compete with them. When we don’t get this relationship right, we start to become servants to the technology versus masters of the technology. It’s through the right partnership where new potential and new possibility is unlocked. Don’t ask, “What can technology do for people?” Ask, “What can people do with technology?”
Machines remove the mundane, the redundant, the repetitive, and allow humans to focus on creativity and innovation.
Machines excel at accuracy, precision, speed, and automation, whereas humans do not. Machines are also better at processing massive amounts of information. For example, think of the process of driving a car and reading a text at the same time. That’s not something a human can do very well. In situations where there’s a lot of inputs that need to be watched, accommodated, and acted on, a machine can do this very well. So, allow the machine to do this for you.
A machine is also good at repetition. Humans are not designed to complete tasks that need to be done accurately over and over and over again. The human mind will start to waste away if we can’t consume new experiences and do new things during the day. So let the machine take care of the repetitive tasks and let the human tackle the complex tasks that require creativity, innovation, and thought.
Humans can lead with curiosity, ask questions, and explore new variables. They can empathize, experience different perspectives and build deeper relationships.
When humans are doing the work of machines, it becomes very difficult to cultivate a high level of engagement. Engagement is enhanced when humans are encouraged to exercise their mind, explore creativity, and unleash their imagination. There’s a nice synergy and balance between employing technology in the right way to open the door to higher engagement, increased productivity, and new economic value for your business.
Consider the impact of predictive maintenance versus preventative maintenance.
Think about the number of semi-trucks traveling around the country moving goods and services, and the value these trucks bring to people. Now pose the question, “How do we keep those trucks moving and minimize the amount of time during the year when these trucks are not moving, but instead are in a service bay, or broken down alongside the road?” The current practice is preventative maintenance, which basically means a timer is set and when it expires, you bring the truck in, and you do work to it. Well, the latest tools in technology allow us to think about the problem in a new way.
Instead of setting a timer and waiting for it to expire, we can now look at the data generated by the truck and only bring it in when the data indicates that it needs to be worked on. With prognostics replacing “blind” preventive maintenance, the truck could run for another two or three months without a problem. Eliminating this unnecessary work at scale unlocks significant economic value. The teams working on the trucks will still have a healthy backlog of work, but the work will be more valuable. Think of the magnitude of waste that technology could eliminate and the significant value this would bring to the people that own the trucks and the people using the trucks to move their goods and services.
Unlock value by getting the right data in the right place and applying it in the right way.
When you hit the right balance between technology and people and allow the machines to work for us, you can increase efficiencies, enhance engagement and generate a higher level of value for your business. Keeping people at the center of technology will allow you to create a road map of new, innovative and profitable offerings that you can use to grow your business for years to come. This is an approach that won’t happen naturally but will need to be followed intentionally.
Imagine—if you shift your mindset from possibility to desirability, what new pain points or opportunities could you discover and turn into economic value for your business?