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Use Digital Workplace Programs to Augment, Not Replace, Humans With AI

By Manjunath Bhat | September 02, 2018 | 0 Comments

In a world that increasingly makes the AI-doomsday seem imminent, it is easy for the voice of reason to be silenced.  Hence my colleague , Matt Cain and I decided to write a piece of research earlier this year that can act as signal amidst all the noise of doom and gloom.

In our research titled “Use Digital Workplace Programs to Augment, Not Replace, Humans With AI” , we highlight ways in which organizations can build new competencies and embrace new ways of working by augmenting human capabilities with AI.


In our opinion, introducing AI into the workplace is indeed a seismic shift. It creates a step-function  change in how we deliver services that spans every single vertical. But, what exactly changes and why should you care?

Change #1:  AI will require workers to be more human. Ironically, it is not something we desire. 

One of the understated benefits of AI is that it allows humans to do what we are (or at least should be ) innately good at and allows machines to do things they are good at. This ‘separation of concerns‘ creates a centaur that amplifies human capabilities and hands off robotic and repetitive tasks to machines.

This is the first paradox we are unwilling to adapt to this change – a way of working that will cause us to be more human-like.  But why, you may ask?

Because being ‘truly human‘ is hard. It requires imagination, empathy, curiosity, critical thinking, passion,creativity – you get the idea. Being human requires us to eschew routine tasks, tasks that only give an illusion of being productive. Being human requires us to embrace creative work, work that is uniquely suited for human beings. In fact, work that is carved out to harness the the expertise and behavior of a specific individual.  (Ex: you know how you go to a restaurant and want to be served by a specific waiter because you hit it off the last time? )

That’s partly the answer – Creativity is (largely) diminished as we grow up because of the nature of standardized education and nature of employment. So, the less it is expected of us, the easier life seems. If you want to dig deeper, look up Do schools kill creativity? | Sir Ken Robinson (Best TED talk ever, IMHO)

Imagination is more powerful than Knowledge – Albert Einstein

Change #2: AI requires humans to take an ‘outside-in’ view of their jobs

Applying design thinking approaches to one’s own job involves taking a step back, rethinking the actual customer problem and identifying scenarios where machines best complement humans in supporting the customer. It applies equally to both non-routine (requiring greater cognitive abilities) and routine (mechanical and repeatable) tasks. This approach reveals the second paradox — those who re-imagine their own jobs with an aim to replace themselves will not be replaced, but instead will influence the direction of the organization’s AI strategy.

Change #3: Complementing Human Skills With AI Technologies Improves Decision Making and Process Efficiency

One of the prime targets for AI-enabled disruption is the human functioning as an intermediary for relaying information in the “request-response chain.” The human in this case adds little value beyond fetching data from systems of record, and hence is primed for disintermediation (see Figure below).

We should elevate the role of humans to provide personalized insights using the unique knowledge of the business domain and the customer, while delegating the responsibility of fetching repetitive information to AI-based virtual assistants.

Read the research to find out why Garry Kasparov concluded:

Weak human + machine + better process was superior to a strong computer alone and, more remarkably, superior to a strong human + machine + inferior process. – Garry Kasparov

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