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The Benefits of Combining Human Intelligence and Automation in the Workplace

Blog: ProcessMaker Blog

Automation initiatives that combine AI with human talents outperform those that rely exclusively on AI. For many, AI is a sword of Damocles: it promises a new wave of efficiency few of us can predict. But using it responsibly, and most importantly, not rashly, must remain a top priority. Going all-in on AI can carry more risk than reward. 

It’s a new era of collaborative intelligence, fusing the best of both worlds: 

Successful companies aren’t just using AI to boost efficiency scores. 

They’re using AI’s skills to complement human talents. 

They’re tapping into humans-in-the-loop automation strategies that synthesize the two. 

Thinking how one can collaborate with the other vs. how one can supplant the other. 

Instead of establishing a division of labor between human and machine, find the symbiosis hiding in the cut—that’s where the most successful companies will mine their AI competitive edge. 

Why the future of automation demands tight coordination between human and machine

Ask inventors where they came up with a world-changing idea. The notion rarely hits during the 9-to-5 grind. 

Humans are extraordinary forgers of bizarre interconnections. Inspiration strikes in the shower or while doing something entirely unrelated. 

Steve Jobs toyed with electronics after reading an article about hackers who scored free phone calls. He famously cites the exercise as a pinnacle moment that inspired Apple. The founder of GoPro took a year-long walkabout after his ad business failed—and the concept of the wearable action cam hit him on a surfing trip. The inventor of the floppy disk thought it up while drowning.  

The concept fuels the commonly exchanged allegory on how Isaac Newton first theorized his gravitational theory: he was hit in the head by an apple.

Ask an AI like ChatGPT or Bard a question, and it churns through its knowledge to find “most likely” connected information. It’s a slot machine that gauges the strength of a connection, then provides an output that nabs the highest grade. 

On the other hand, humans are excellent craftsmen at applying seemingly unrelated concepts to construct something novel. While generative AI is inherently probabilistic, humans are more free-flowing. 

Which is good. Because most of the time, revelations lie in the improbable. An innovation pops into existence through a patchwork of unlikely experiences and insights that an AI would deem too far-fetched to relate. 

So don’t think about how AI can reduce human involvement or slash the workforce. Consider how you can use it to complement human thinking and create something even more powerful. 

Use AI and machine learning to:

AI fills the brainstorming clouds with a string of starting points that stimulate the human “lightning strike” of a brilliant idea. 

Risks for going all-in on AI at the expense of human involvement 

AI and human collaboration require explicit coordination. Black-box AI, or AI running through a human’s understanding, is a recipe for disaster. Humans need to be the helping hand guiding “good outcomes.”

Unmonitored AI can make decisions that can tarnish your reputation or eat away at your bottom line. Several loose-cannon AI models have made the news for self-taught biases. Unbeknownst to the company, computational models made heavy-handed decisions that discriminated against certain mortgage borrowers, job applications, and potential mates for the dating pool. 

When introducing AI into their processes, here’s what organizations need to think about. 

Opportunities for human/AI partnerships 

Today’s workplace automation success is less about putting the pedal to the metal to maximize efficiency, but focusing on symbiosis. 

If AI can deliver what automation leaders have promised—allow humans to focus on better uses of their natural-born talents—then these opportunities will reveal themselves. 

How do job roles evolve?

How do we reorganize when the goal is no longer utmost efficiency but a clearer mind for generating bigger and better ideas? 

What can AI take off your rockstars’ plates so they can do what you actually envisioned hiring them to do? 

After all, few hiring managers intend to fill roles that exclusively slog through mundane to-do lists, juggle endless email threads, and attend pointless meetings. 

But for most workers, those tasks overshadow their day, limiting the time they have on hand to make the big difference you originally intended for the position. Here’s how AI can erase many of the mental roadblocks that plague the modern workplace. 

Fuel human creativity with the power of big data 

The biochemist and sci-fi author Isaac Asimov once contemplated, “the most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not “Eureka!”, but rather, ‘Hmm…that’s funny.’”

Many AI tools promise a “Eureka!” moment without sharing the breadcrumbs of the journey with humans. However, it’s often along the way that humans collect the nuggets, insights, and experiences they need to generate the next big idea. Starving the creative process of the “hmm…that’s interesting” moments deteriorates creative possibility. 

AI can comb through big data and turn it into actionable insights. Its recommendations don’t blindly guide your team, but unearth knowledge that would’ve otherwise remained buried under an unmanageable flood of data. 

Don’t deify AI over your own differentiation

Avoid templating your competitive edge. Companies offloading the whole of their operations to AI are only in an arms race with other competitors using similar tools. 

Siloed in your own organization, an AI’s calculation or ideation appears to be a stroke of genius. 

But it’s hard to say if other businesses using the same tool are provided with the same intel. 

The winning differentiator won’t come from the tools themselves, but through the humans who know how to wield them effectively. 

Welcome new innovations from staffers

The human and AI collaboration can welcome new staffers into ideation. For example, AI start-ups are working to turn sketches into Figma prototypes, and Figma prototypes into ready-to-go code. Swung as a brute sword, one could cut jobs. 

But bigger thinkers see this as an opportunity to welcome a fresh batch of ideas into the fold. In this instance, an employee could launch a new app through a sketch alone—without knowing the “language” of its execution. 

Use these new tools to invite cross-department collaboration. 

Ask workers in unrelated job roles how they would approach another team’s problem.  

AI has an opportunity to become the ultimate “unsilo-er,” turning everyone in your organization, from executive assistants to sales managers, into an innovator. 

Rewrite job roles

As the barriers to implementation come down, jobs will evolve. 

Some experts believe conventional job duties will become increasingly fuzzy. There will be more overlap between departments. Humans will be hired strictly for their cognitive skills or a set of talents that help generate ideas, guide decision-making, or direct AI models. In this world, teaching, creativity, and judgment are the hired “role” vs. an analyst, a sales manager, or a programmer. 

You can’t drop AI into your organization and walk away. For much of the workforce, it requires a 180° mental reset. People will need to learn how to shake their old habits and form new ones. When faced with a problem, the new snap reaction should be, how can we team up with AI to solve it? Only through training will every team member view AI as an opportunity instead of a threat. 

Enable workers to become more involved with the customer journey 

The Ritz-Carlton famously grants each worker a budget they can use unilaterally to improve a guest’s stay. These are tasks extracurricular to a workflow. They’re more nebulous. But they dramatically impact customer experience and satisfaction. 

The book “The Experience Economy” by B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore outlined what they call, The Progression of Economic Value. In this model, there are four tiers of business:

Many companies get hung up on the first three phases, toiling with to-dos and minding internal processes—all at the expense of caring for the customer. According to Gilmore and Pine, the premium competitive differentiator is in the fourth element: the staging of experiences. 

This is where AI can shine the brightest. It can help businesses better govern the more undifferentiated, commoditized aspects of doing business. Humans can focus on the real game changer: the customer experience

AI can help you break free of the low functions. It can shoulder tasks staffers were just flat-out too busy with in the past. Your team can then focus on serving the moments that are unpredictable, improbable, and unpredictable. These experiences are often the moments customers find most captivating. The ones that make your business memorable and you inextricably intertwined with your customers. 

The Industrial Revolution’s battle cry was “utmost efficiency.” How can we best organize tasks, lay out the workday, and entice employees to churn out the maximum output? If efficiency headlined the industrial revolution, what will mark this next phase? Utmost imagination? Utmost innovation? Hopefully, we’ll use AI to absorb all the mundane, repetitive, brain-clogging work to debut an era of even more remarkable ideas. 

The post The Benefits of Combining Human Intelligence and Automation in the Workplace appeared first on ProcessMaker.

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