Redesigning work in an era of cognitive technologies

Cognitive Technologies cannot be ignored. They are an emerging source of competitive advantage for businesses and are on their way to ubiquity at work and at home. Over the next three to five years cognitive technologies likely will have a profound impact on work, workers, and organizations.

Over the next three to five years cognitive technologies likely will have a profound impact on work, workers, and organizations. These technologies can and will be used to eliminate jobs. But they will also make it possible to redesign work, creating new opportunities for workers and greater value for businesses and their customers. Business leaders should understand the four main automation choices and the cost and value strategies. And they should tune their talent practices to attract and develop the skills, including creativity and emotional intelligence, which will become relatively more important in an era of cognitive technologies.

Cognitive Technologies tend to fall into three categories: product, process, and insight. Each category of application has distinct impacts on work and workers:

·         Product applications embed cognitive technologies in products to provide “intelligent” behavior, natural interfaces (such speech and visual), and automation.

·         Process applications use cognitive technologies to enhance, scale, or automate business processes.

·         Insight applications use cognitive technologies to reveal patterns, make predictions, and guide more effective actions.

Although automation is undeniably valuable, decades of research have shown that it does not always deliver the benefits it is intended to and can have unintended consequences. As business and technology leaders contemplate using cognitive technologies to automate work, they would do well to learn from the history of automation to avoid repeating its mistakes.

An automation design should be evaluated first by examining its consequences on human performance and second by considering factors such as automation reliability and the costs associated with the consequences of the actions or decisions.

When it comes to the impact on and use of labor, organizations need to do more than sort through the four main automation choices- replace, automate, relieve and empower.

To properly evaluate their options, organizations need to choose between a cost strategy and a value strategy.

·         A cost strategy uses technology to reduce costs, especially by reducing labor

·         A value strategy aims to increase value by complementing labor with technology or reassigning labor to higher-value work

As cognitive technologies automate narrowly defined tasks, the skills and temperament necessary to size up and execute broadly defined tasks—such as critical thinking, general problem solving, tolerance of ambiguity, drive, and resourcefulness—are likely to become more valuable.

There is no single right set of choices for organizations to make. As leaders prepare to bring cognitive technologies into their organizations they should consider which set of automation choices will fit best with their talent and competitive strategies.

Redesigning work in an era of cognitive technologies
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