Human + Machine: A book review by Bob Morris

Human + Machine: Reimagining Work in the Age of AI
Paul Daugherty and James Wilson
Harvard Business Review Press (March 2018)

Here is a roadmap for understanding and navigating the AI revolution

According to Paul Daugherty and James Wilson, “the key to understanding AI’s current and future impact is its transformation of business processes…To see how we got here, it helps to understand some historical context. The first wave of business transformation involved standardized processes…The second wave consisted of automated processes…Now, the third way involves adaptive processes.” Daugherty and Wilson share the revelations of their research that involved more than 1,500 organizations.

In 1859, Charles Darwin observes: “It is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able to adapt to and to adjust best to the changing environment in which it finds itself.” More recently, Alvin Toffler observes (in Future Shock, 1984): “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” Daugherty and Wilson say this: “The simple truth is that machines are not taking over the world, nor are they obviating the need for humans in the workplace.” On the contrary, all manner of research studies stress the importance of human+machine collaborations.

In fact, Daugherty and Wilson note, cobots are literally extending workers’ physical capabilities: “In a study with Mercedes’ competitor BMW, researchers determined that human-robot interactions in the car plant were about 85 percent more productive than either humans or robots on their own.”

These are the five critical skills that workers will need to thrive in the AI Era:

o Mindset: “Assuming a radically different approach toward business by reimagining work around the missing middle.” That is, humans and machines help each other to perform at their best. “People improve AI and, in turn, smart machines give humans superpowers.”

o Experimentation: “Actively observing for spots in processes to test AI and to learn and scale are reimagined process from the perspective of the missing middle.”

o Leadership: “Making a commitment to the responsible use of AI from the start.”

o Data: “Building a data ‘supply chain’ to fuel intelligent systems.”

o Skills: “Actively developing the eight ‘fusion skills’ necessary for reimagining processes in the missing middle.”

I agree with Paul Daugherty and James Wilson: “The AI revolution is not coming; it is already here, and it is about reimagining your processes, across all functions of the company, to get the most benefits from this technology’s power to augment human capability.”

It remains for companies and their leaders to reimagine what they do and how they do it, replacing policies, strategies, and processes that are either insufficient or self-defeating. Given the abundance of information, insights, and counsel provided in Human + Machine, just about everything they need to know about the WHAT and — more importantly — the HOW is now available in a single volume.

Here is a thought that John Kotter once expressed to me: that the single greatest challenge to those leading a change initiative is to change how people think about change. The same could be said for those who lead efforts to reimagine work in the Age of IA.


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