Imagine you are cut off from contact with HQ, no family, deep in space and all you have for personal support is an AI program. Some of you would say, great the AI program can control the routines of the ship and I can catch up on my reading or binge-watch a series, but the truth is that AI cannot anticipate everything in space. Anomalies such as asteroid fields, black holes, aliens, answering distress calls from another ship are outside of a program that is essentially learning from human experience and reactions to problems. The AI may believe that being a well-constructed ship it can withstand the brunt of the asteroid and may cause unforeseen damage, whereas a pilot would navigate around. The ship may also perceive an alien presence as a threat and may retreat from the area or attack, complicating our chances at first contact based on what its programmer’s biases were towards aliens. The ship may also ignore distress calls because it is programmed to put the company’s mission ahead of a human emergency. This could also include your own needs. If the AI has been programmed to keep you alive rather than keeping you happy, the tension between carrying out your mission and keeping your own wellbeing and happiness at an optimum can cause unforeseen stress, discomfort and cause a decrease in productivity and quality of work. Like humans, AI is programmed to recognise patterns and learn from them but unlike machines, humans can also intuit when a problem or a solution presents itself, not through the data presented but through gut feeling. Another problem that can arise is if the AI program cannot relate to outdated or incompatible technology on the ship, or in aspects of the mission then it is up to the human element to be the bridge between.
Organisations right now are facing these problems in communicating change with outdated and incompatible ways of thinking and need to look at the human factor to move forward. The idea that a piece of tech will solve our problems is naive at best and foolish at worst when we lose sight of the human interactivity between the user and the technology in the everyday running of the business. A lot of good leaders, when presented with the raw data that production of their business and quotas are not being met, can still intuit that there is a problem in the “how’ their product or service is being delivered over “what’ their product or service is being delivered. Inefficiencies between departments of your organisation and the ‘silo’ mentality where specialists of one aspect of your business struggle to communicate and share vital information with other aspects can bring production to a standstill. The importance of this situation is to not only have great communication technology but great communication skills of your leaders.
Creative approaches to problem-solving begin with people and end with innovative solutions tailored to meet their needs. Leaders, lead but there is no point if they look behind them and see no followers. Feedback from staff regarding new technologies and software in the workplace and how it changes the everyday landscape of the running of the business are vital and necessary for a business to grow. Change for the sake of change can lead to unforeseen problems such as Rio Tinto replacing all their truck drivers with self-driving trucks only to find out that the computer did not perceive potholes as a problem to a truck its size. Human drivers were careful to avoid the potholes knowing that the wear and tear on the vehicles would cause damage. The cost of this oversight far outweighed the replacement of human drivers and is a good example of looking at the “what” versus the “how” we get to a finished product or service in a business. The isolation of being left behind can be daunting and it is up to a good leader to connect their workers to the change and not leave them stranded in space. Human-centred design would look at the problem from understanding people first and the problems they face when completing a product or service for the organisation. Designing from their perspective a lot of the times you can arrive at unexpected benefits for the workers. Knowing the benefits and not just understanding how a technology works is key for workers to embrace new ideas and change in an organisation.
Inspiration for change is a good thing, knowing that improvements and innovations can be made to deliver great services and products are something we should pursue. The ideation process is also a great creative way to brainstorm on how we can improve the business. To implement changes, it is critical to get feedback from the workers who will be taking on these ideas and turning them into reality. This process is cyclical though as the first step is finding out the problems that cause isolation for workers, lack of communication, lack of knowledge, fatigue and lack of incentives are just a few problems they face. Future-proofing your workers from isolation starts with human-centred design and the refining of the process through a constant cycle of, inspiration, ideation, implementation and feedback.
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