The Next Big Thing
Posts about next generation technologies and their effect on business.

Is there a clash between automation and human-centered design?

 

human centered automation.jpgI was in a discussion a few weeks ago when someone raised the point that all future designs should be human-centered. When I first heard this, it conflicted a bit with my perspective about automation and the need to separate normal from the unusual.

 

I then began to think about what they probably meant. They didn’t really mean that human’s need to be in the center of everything but instead: if human interaction is required then focus first on designing and delivering great user experiences.

 

My view is that the automation of the mundane is part of having a human-centered solution. Why would someone want to be there if they are not adding value? Automating out normal is really empathizing with the user’s needs and pain points.

 

When we’re doing a human-centered system, we should be assessing the need to engage user and maximize outcomes. Some say that in order to be human-centered, you need to develop an emotional connection. Since there are positive and negative emotions, I’d rather the solution be one where the user feels needed as opposed to along for the ride.

 

Using the understanding of the users, their skills, availability and connections provides the contextual understanding to facilitate interactions helping users find each other and build a community. So I don’t think there is a conflict at all, as long as we’re maximizing the value of the user’s time.

 

Why is the service research agenda important?

decisions.pngI continue to think about the characteristics that will make up jobs of the future and the kind of services research the NSF needs to define – and why??

 

During our discussions last week, we talked about measures of quality and risk for services, but primarily from the service provider and sometimes from the service consumer’s perspective. What about for an outside entity, like the government? They have expectations of services as well. If the government doesn’t define and encourage new jobs for its constituents, the tax base erodes and power is lost. If enough power is lost than a revolution takes place by people who will redefine the power base and power structure.

 

That is why the service research agenda is so fundamentally important. As the economy moves to be ever more service-oriented, we need to understand and shape what will be needed for stability. Not just of the services themselves but for the ecosystem that the services depend upon.

 

The context recognition that is the foundation for automation of knowledge work actually requires stability to function. If the system is chaotic, context becomes very rare. Having a viable research agenda is not nearly as altruistic as it first seems.

Service Innovation Workshop with NSF

SaaS.pngJust finished up a very interesting couple of days at a workshop to develop a research agenda for service innovation. The objective was to define a roadmap for future service innovation research and education for the NSF as well as academic and industry partners.

 

This was a very diverse group of about 60 people that broke into working groups to look at service innovation from a number of angles. One thing that almost all the groups appeared to rally around was the thought that the service modeling techniques currently in use (and simulations) are not up to the task of bringing diverse groups to a consensus and (more importantly) action.

 

We tried to avoid the typical trap of spending the entire meeting defining ‘service innovation’ and instead focus on areas where NSF funded research would do the most good (e.g., automation, incorporating knowledge into service system design, skill definition and education for next-generation service innovation) -- generating value.

 

There was one area where I had a bit of concern: the goal of human-centered service systems. I don’t have too much of a problem where the humans determine the value and consume the result (focusing attention on the unique), but if humans are on the critical path of executing the service, there had better be a good reason since I still view that human attention is going to be scarce.

 

We did get into an interesting discussion of if it is attention or understanding intention that is scarce?!?

 

There was also an interesting idea coming from the DIY space that if you can be a consumer in the future you can be a producer in the future. We’re not there yet, but it does show the level of disruption that might need to be embraced.

 

One great outcome for me was the opportunity to meet a number of like-minded people who have problems where I and others at HP can help address.

Component skills of future roles?

 

juggle.pngThe other day I focused on the changes for education and automation… But what about our expectations? There is a great deal of concern about the elimination of jobs. Is the foundation of that really based on our inability to embrace the super-human capabilities that will be enabled and how that will change the roles we play?

The same automation that eliminates jobs also gives us significantly more capabilities – skills where humans excel. No matter how much we automate, there will likely always be work opportunities where human skills will be valued – until Skynet takes over.

 

We can now cultivate a network that spans thousands where just a few decades ago our network of ‘friends’ would likely be measured in double digits. The value of our flexibility, intuition and relationships will likely continue to be valued.

 

What are the component skills of the jobs of the future? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Change management – Individuals that can help others embrace change and transition to new modes of operation. They will need to be experts at context transfer.

  2. Transcendental optimization – Those that can move beyond just simple tweaking (that can likely be automated) to breakthrough optimization approaches.

  3. Disassemblers – What you shut down can be as important as what you start. These skills will focus on how to shut down existing environments.

  4. Strategic futurists – Roles that focus on envisioning the future and can convey that to others effectively.

  5. Ethicists – Functions that focus on the ethical and legal use of technology.

  6. Unique recognition – Although most situations can be handled in a standard way, those that can recognize when something is unique or at a critical inflection point will be crucial.

  7. User interface design – Although there will be less user interfaces required, the need to share that information and focus attention to greatest effect will be critical.

  8. Evangelist – Every good idea needs to be marketed effectively to be embraced.

  9. Modeler – All models are wrong but some are useful. The ability to effectively abstract complexity out of systems is a critical skill.

  10. Juggler – Keeping a number of balls in the air will continue to be crucial.

  11. Fixers – Abstraction is what makes many types of technology useful to the common folk. Sometimes though it doesn’t work and extraordinary measures will be required. Those who can do this best, will always have a job.

These can be aggregated together into thousands of new functions. What do you think?

 

Education and automation

 

education2.pngRecently, Jim Spohrer created a blog post stating: Most careers in the era of cognitive systems have not been invented yet. There are so many people concerned about the automation of knowledge worker roles, but we’ve not yet seen the new roles that will develop.

 

The role of education definitely needs to shift to making students more self-sufficient when it comes to learning, planting the seed for life-long learning. As I heard it stated recently “Education is preparation for an interview that has yet to be scheduled.” This week my son started a new job, teaching virtually down in Florida. This state is definitely serious about  students understanding the new options in education.

 

The value and needs of next generation services that take advantage of social collaboration, IoT, analytics and automation are only now beginning to be understood. Once we get a grasp on them, things will shift once again, at the tasks are understood and become mundane (and targets for further automation). We’re all going to need to be flexible – in our processes as well as ourselves.

 

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About the Author(s)
  • Steve Simske is an HP Fellow and Director in the Printing and Content Delivery Lab in Hewlett-Packard Labs, and is the Director and Chief Technologist for the HP Labs Security Printing and Imaging program.
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