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Technology alone is not enough

As we approach a fourth transformation (according to Robert Scoble and Shel Israel it’s How Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence Will Change Everything), we face some challenges and questions.

  • Will machines master humans, especially in the work place?
  • How will we coexist with machines that begin to outstrip our intelligence capabilities?
  • What are humans uniquely positioned to do in a new world dominated by robots and super intelligence?

I cannot see into the future so its pointless prognosticating. Others far more knowledgable have done and at least concluded that No, the Experts Don’t Think Superintelligent AI is a Threat to Humanity.

Nevertheless it’s safe to say that software is already eating the world and robots and AI are going to play a massive role.

I am writing my next trend report on a related subject (post on that here) but am deeply embedded in the here and now. I work with some of the worlds largest companies and have been for many years trying to help them make sense of and drive value from their technology investments.

I am constantly thinking about technology in the here and now in making mine and my customer’s work world better? One thing I come across time and again is the misalignment of focus and priorities.

The technology and increasingly the data around its use is held in thrall. I’m not innocent of the many mistakes made. Here are some examples below of the kinds of ways in which I think we go wrong:

  1. The features and functions are exhorted over the outcomes they are intended to support or problems they are intended to solve. Great post on that here: 12 signs you’re working in a feature factory.
  2. Growth in usage data is also driven without giving thought to the outcomes or value being attained
  3. Technology is prioritised without giving thought to the humans and the behaviours around it – mindset, culture, etc.

I believe usable and useful technology that solves real problems is critical for driving adoption and deriving business value, especially in the more complex world of enterpise technology. But I believe you can get further when you address the mindset behind technology use and I am far from alone in this view. Ultimately tackling both in healthy doses is best.

adoption - technology vs mindset


A call to arms!

In addressing human factors, when it is done at all, are still often wrong. Organisations typically address it from a change management perspective. It’s become an industry in its own right.

Call me a cynic but most change management efforts I’ve been involved in or observed have often seemed shrewdly calculated to meet the ends of a chosen few. Not the user or a better way of working.

Often it’s simple humanity that is missing.

In the enterprise technology business we sometimes miss what I think Steve Jobs alluded to when he said “technology alone is not enough”.

To quote him in full he said:

“It is in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough—it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that make our heart sing.”

As robots and super intelligence increasingly play a greater role I want to avoid becoming one (a robot :).

I want to celebrate my humanity and the difference I can bring. This goes beyond what Steve Jobs was referring to. I’m thinking of a real caring and nurturing that is authentic and deeply rooted in our collective wellbeing.

I see our innate creativity as an essential human expression of being, hence the subject of my new trend report.

Creativity is what drives us. It’s essential to all progress. Sometimes at the expense of what we leave behind (read disruption). We are always on the march to creating new possibilities. It’s the way we grow.

I want to embrace new technology because I’m a tech geek and I trust my techno lust but I still want my heart to sing.

There is thrill to be found in technology that works and enhances my productivity and the way I live my life. This is momentary though. It does not penetrate the deepest recesses of my being.

It is in the way that I am empowered as a fully alive human being, constantly evolving, that makes my heart sing.

Most of all it is when I create something of value and it is appreciated, in even a small way, that my spirits rise. Progress and all of humanity is founded on the principle of creation. Of ideas and new possibilities and setting out on adventures to achieve them.

Organisations can play a big part in nurturing this. Here leaders have the greatest responsibility. They can choose to nurture our humanity and provide the freedom for our greatest creative expression and output. Failing that organisations and people will wither I believe and die soulless or go off and find it elsewhere.

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