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Looking for the future of work, look no farther than your fantasy sports league

by Mark P. McDonald  |  October 23, 2019  |  Comments Off on Looking for the future of work, look no farther than your fantasy sports league

How will we work in a world of artificial intelligence, machine learning, process automation and the like?  Researchers and thought leaders will tell you that it will be utopia or dystopia based on their views with screens, data, buttons, gestures etc.  While that stuff is cool and the subject of movies, realty is always more grounded and therefore easier to see in actions today.

I joined my first fantasy sports league this year.  Never very interested in the past as I thought I would need to spend time researching and adjusting teams, etc.  But I was asked so I said sure and I am encountering a future of work experience.  Here is what I mean.

Analytics dominates fantasy sports leagues giving you more statistics and information about players than you could ever really use.  Robotic processes sit on top of all of those processes, from automatic drafting of players, to operating the weekly waiver process, trades and the like.  Reporting is comprehensive and automated, just like the business is envisioned to be in the future of work.

So, what is there for me to do, if everything is done for me.  Well there are a few things based on the first eight weeks of living in a fantasy league.

  • Checking, I am surprised how often I check in on my team and the league. Who am I playing, who are others playing.  What are the interactions between my players and others?  What if ….?
  • Observing status, goes into a frenzy when teams play over the weekend. Yes I watch the games differently, but I look at my fantasy app more than the TV.  Again checking
  • Worrying, which may be too strong of a word but, thinking about if I have made the right decisions, are the projections right, can they be counted on, etc.
  • Adjusting, fidgeting with the system and too often regretting that I made a change rather than just following the guidance implied by the analytics. I have dropped players right before the turned the corner and became great in the following weeks.
  • Thinking and ruminating on my performance, what others are doing, why they are doing things better.

It’s a time sink

It’s changed the way I look at sport

It is a potential example of the way we may all work in an AI, ML, PR world.

Here is what I mean.  The tasks associated with managing a fantasy team revolves around making decisions that are heavily informed by analytics.  The goal is to maximize the points production of the players on your team, particularly in comparison to the other person you are playing against.  You make your decisions and then the process runs — plays the games — and you see the results.  There is little beyond making some choices, you do not control the process, you cannot influence it.  It just happens, then you adjust.

This is similar to one  way people will work in a future of work environment.   The processes are automated, with many making their own decisions based on rules.  The human will have input into the process and will be accountable for its result.  The process conditions will change and the human will have data to help identify adjustments etc.

I think about the ‘work’ I am doing in a fantasy sports league and what my job would be like if the rest of my job worked in the same way.  It seems to me that:

As systems do more work, create more information, provide more recommendations, the nature of work changes from doing things to observing things.  You become a passive participant, more of a tuner than a leader, less of a producer more of a consumer, etc.

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Category: future-of-work  human-resources  leading-the-next-generation-workforce  

Mark McDonald
VP Analyst
12 years at Gartner
33 years IT Industry

Mark McDonald, Ph.D., is a Vice President and Fellow Emeritus in Gartner for General Managers Program. Read Full Bio

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