It’s time to work on robotic humanity
"We’ve had robot workers for years" says Ryan Falkenberg, co-CEO, CLEVVA, it's time to work on robotic humanity.
If you analyse the work most knowledge workers perform, it is repetitive. The decisions they have to make, and the actions they take are prescribed to them. Someone in the business has already worked out what they need to do and documented it in some product, policy, or process manual. Their job is not to think. It is to do. It is to follow the process, and get it right in a consistent, compliant and context-relevant way.
To prepare people for this work, we put them through an education system that is designed to deliver conforming humans whose brains have been pre-coded by socially approved knowledge. This knowledge is not to be questioned. It is to be learned. Learning is about memorising given facts, and repeating them back in tests. Good students are those who learn our formulas quickest and who can best apply these formulas to different scenarios.
When they then join our organisations, we do the same thing. We code their brains with our specific company formula. We ask them to upload our rules into their brains using training, and then we test the upload using assessments. We know they will forget most of the code we upload, and so we offer them a knowledge base to reference when they do.
Then we set them loose, and spend significant organisational energy double-checking their work. We build in system checks and quality assurance reviews. We schedule regular ‘refreshers’ and keep sending rule updates via e-mail in the hope they will version control their brains. To motivate them to do this, we invest significant resources on change management.
The truth is that we treat people like robots. We don’t really want them to think for themselves. We just want them to apply our formula accurately, every time, just the way we designed it.
The problem is people are not mindless robots. They are individuals with their own unique brain hardware, each performing off a slightly different operating system. This operating system is shaped by biology, past experiences, instilled values and personality lenses. Not everyone sees the world the same way. We don’t learn the same way. And we certainly don’t behave the same way. Unless of course we are placed into a system specifically designed to beat the ‘individual’ out of us. Conformist systems like Nazi Germany; North Korea or even Apartheid South Africa.
Come to think of it, most organisations are conformist systems, whether they acknowledge it or not. Efficiency requires it. The only difference is that regulation requires us to treat our staff fairly. Competition for human resources also encourages greater use of reward rather than punishment systems for behavioural reinforcement. Either way, our organisational systems are designed to reinforce conformity to an approved behavioural and decision-making formula.
The Digital Era offers us a way out. A way to reclaim our lost humanity. It gives us the opportunity to transfer this doer role to a digital worker, ‘someone’ who specialises in formula replication. This means wherever a decision or action needs to be taken based on a prescribed formula, we can hand this over to a digital worker. This then frees us up to think more, dream more and create more. It shifts our role away from replication and into creation.
Digital workers are already taking over major parts of organisational work. Robotic Process Automation bots are increasing performing system-based work. Other digital workers are taking over the responsibility to ensure customers are asked the right questions, offered the right answers and that the right actions are triggered, based on relevant front-office processes.
For staff, this is transforming their roles. In contact centres, agents are being asked to specialise in multi-cultural customer conversations while their digital team mates worry about process compliance and system execution. It allows staff to focus on customer conversations while trusting the navigational guidance of their digital colleagues.
Soon any decision or action that is prescribed by rules will be done by digital workers. These colleagues will free us up to add value, not simply replicate. The challenge we now face is to work out what this value looks like. Our brains are trained to think out of the box, to innovate and create. It’s hard to change. But with chance comes the opportunity to reclaim our humanity, and to re-awake.
For more information on business topics in the Middle East and Africa, please take a look at the latest edition of Business Chief MEA.
G7 Summit guide: What it is and what leaders hope to achieve
Unless you’ve had your head buried in the sand, you’ll have seen the term ‘G7’ plastered all over the Internet this week. We’re going to give you the skinny on exactly what the G7 is and what its purpose on this planet is ─ and whether it’s a good or a bad collaboration.
Who are the G7?
The Group of Seven, or ‘G7’, may sound like a collective of pirate lords from a certain Disney smash-hit, but in reality, it’s a group of the world’s seven largest “advanced” economies ─ the powerhouses of the world, if you like.
The merry band comprises:
- The United Kingdom
- The United States
Historically, Russia was a member of the then-called ‘G8’ but found itself excluded after their ever-so-slightly illegal takeover of Crimea back in 2014.
Since 1977, the European Union has also been involved in some capacity with the G7 Summit. The Union is not recognised as an official member, but gradually, as with all Europe-linked affairs, the Union has integrated itself into the conversation and is now included in all political discussions on the annual summit agenda.
When was the ‘G’ formed?
Back in 1975, when the world was reeling from its very first oil shock and the subsequent financial fallout that came with it, the heads of state and government from six of the leading industrial countries had a face-to-face meeting at the Chateau de Rambouillet to discuss the global economy, its trajectory, and what they could do to address the economic turmoil that reared its ugly head throughout the 70s.
Why does the G7 exist?
At this very first summit ─ the ‘G6’ summit ─, the leaders adopted a 15-point communiqué, the Declaration of Rambouillet, and agreed to continuously meet once a year moving forward to address the problems of the day, with a rotating Presidency. One year later, Canada was welcomed into the fold, and the ‘G6’ became seven and has remained so ever since ─ Russia’s inclusion and exclusion not counted.
The group, as previously mentioned, was born in the looming shadow of a financial crisis, but its purpose is more significant than just economics. When leaders from the group meet, they discuss and exchange ideas on a broad range of issues, including injustice around the world, geopolitical matters, security, and sustainability.
It’s worth noting that, while the G7 may be made up of mighty nations, the bloc is an informal one. So, although it is considered an important annual event, declarations made during the summit are not legally binding. That said, they are still very influential and worth taking note of because it indicates the ambitions and outlines the initiatives of these particularly prominent leading nations.
Where is the 2021 G7 summit?
This year, the summit will be held in the United Kingdom deep in the southwest of England, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson hosting his contemporaries in the quaint Cornish resort of Carbis Bay near St Ives in Cornwall.
What will be discussed this year?
After almost two years of remote communication, this will be the first in-person G7 summit since the novel Coronavirus first took hold of the globe, and Britain wants “leaders to seize the opportunity to build back better from coronavirus, uniting to make the future fairer, greener, and more prosperous.”
The three-day summit, running from Friday to Sunday, will see the seven leaders discussing a whole host of shared challenges, ranging from the pandemic and vaccine development and distribution to the ongoing global fight against climate change through the implementation of sustainable norms and values.
According to the UK government, the attendees will also be taking a look at “ensuring that people everywhere can benefit from open trade, technological change, and scientific discovery.”