Everyone wants to innovate. No one wants to change.
The good news is that technology is advancing to the point we can interact with one another and with our systems in a way that reflects our nature as social, conversational beings, with instant access to boundless information and freed from the constraints of physical presence. The bad news is that we are too often trying to use technology to avoid dealing with some of the more problematic aspects of human interactions, the ones that technology doesn’t fix and often exacerbates. And we are missing out on real opportunities.
Step away from the machine
“Computer literacy…is really a euphemism for forcing human beings to stretch their thinking to understand the inner workings of application logic, rather than having software-enabled products stretch to meet people’s usual ways of thinking.”
— Alan Cooper, About Face
Technology is just a tool. It’s easy to lose sight of this, even though that’s literally the definition—knowledge applied to some task or purpose. The growth of the internet and advances in processing power over the last couple of decades have changed so many things so fast, it is legitimately difficult to tell when you have a technology problem and when you don’t. And technology problems attract more attention because they are newer and seem solvable.
If the telephone isn’t working—that’s a technology problem. If someone is hitting you over the head with a telephone, that’s a people problem. If dealing with your bank’s interactive voice response system makes you want to throw your phone at the wall, that’s a people problem, too. Scaling and automating systems and processes that make people want to throw their phones at the wall doesn’t help anyone. Except maybe phone manufacturers.
Using conversation as a model for design is exciting because it gives us more ways to adapt technology to a wider range of human needs. Instead, too many companies are lining up under a banner reading “Put a bot on that!”
Whether a system that interprets natural language on the fly is an improvement over other ways to do things depends on what people need and what value that interaction might create. Just because a technology is cool and tricky doesn’t make it superior in a given human context.
Solving the right business problems in the right way requires the perspective to figure out which parts are technology problems with technology solutions and which are people problems with…well, you get where I’m going here.
Everyone loves a makeover
“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.” —Bill Gates
“Digital transformation” is the consulting term for overhauling a business operation to stay afloat as everything is being digitized and interconnected. This term became popular because “Oh shit! What the hell is even happening?” doesn’t fit on a Powerpoint slide as neatly.
The tangle of problems called digital transformation may be the thickest and thorniest for those large established enterprises constituting the core client base of management consultancies, but absolutely every business or not-for-profit organizations of any size of complexity has to wrestle with some set of these issues.
Let’s continue the conversation when you are ready. Send me a message on Linkedin, I am ready to help.