NEXT16: AI brings Humans 2.0 to work

By Adam Tinworth

Warning: Liveblogging. Prone to error, inaccuracy and terrible crimes against grammar and syntax. Post will be updated over the next 48 hours.

Claire Burge, This is Productivity

Positioning your mind in AI is really important, because it's such a big idea.

What is work?

If work is busy transforming, and AI is part of that - what is work?

There are three components to work:

  • The human
  • The space
  • The technology

When people talk about AI and work, they tend to gravitate towards technology - a few look at the human, and nobody the space. And absolutely nobody is looking at all three.

S + Play + Humans

Next16 workshop

Gallup research all points toward the S-curve of growth as being most companies' ambition. Where does that lead? People tend towards thinking about AI and sales and marketing. But the chances of using it just in sales and marketing - and getting a success - is almost zero. It has to be integrated in the business, completely assimilated into the way it works.

Play is an everyday part of most people's work environment. And yes, Google and Facebook et al are doing it at a facile level of games and laundry services. It's not the cosmetic play that makes a difference -it's play in the work itself.

We aren't going to be doing the same activities for 80% of our day in five years' time. We will need to resell ourselves. Digital agencies and transformations are going to have to move towards HR, because the transformation work is going to be based around humans and their reinvention in the growth curve.

Have you thought about your business in three layers?

AI impacts on the role on the leader in the company. It impacts on the processes in the business. Any digital transformation project will stall at around 30% if it doesn't impact:

  • leaders
  • technology and processes
  • individuals

What does AI at a leadership level mean? Metrics and dashboards. The classic AI we see everywhere are the surface things. The next generation will move beyond automation to interpretation - how will consumption of that data change people's ordinary lives.

Have you thought about playground design?

Claire Burge at work

Look at a playground. Each object in the playground shapes a particular type of play. You put in a slide, you get sliding. The same with AI projects. Unless you match the technology to the desired outcomes, you won't make a success of the project. Playgrounds feel like uncontrolled spaces. You don't need to tell a child to go and play - the space tells them that. But the controls all exists in the design of the space. Apply that to AI and it gets really, really powerful.

Have you got a chaos-embracing mindset driving everything you do?

Everything we do around work is getting chaotic - and that's not going to change. But chaos is just a whole succession of micro-changes. Yes, it's frightening, but when you look at in details, you can understand what is happening - and manage it. Any digital transformation project is going to cause chaos - and you need to guide your clients through that.

Have you got rules established?

There are implicit rules of a playground, and the equipment is actually designed to enforce them. There are plenty of rules around e-mail inboxes. they're established. But in Slack and similar environments, there aren't those rules yet. You need to establish them and roll them out through the project. People need certain rules to allow them to function in a certain way.

Have you got playbooks?

People only know what they know. They only know what they've been taught. We are all collections of our experiences. All of the neutrons inside our brains, the energy they release is our lived experience. That's what we are. AI is such a disruptive force in work that it's leapfrogging us. We don't have a framework to work with it. They feel overwhelmed, out of their depth and stupid. And no-one's trying to address that.

The product may be brilliantly designed and intuitive, but its expecting things that humans aren't ready for…yet. You need to teach the people to behave in other ways.

Where do you start?

No-one starts with the question "what is the behaviour you want?". People always head to products. No. Start with the saviour. Start with the desired behaviour and work backwards.

Go back five years, and new technology almost imposed slavery on people. They had to adapt to the machine. But if much of what we do is automated, then we need to function much better as humans - we need to empathise, we need to listen. It moves the world of work to being more human-centric.

Education will have to completely transform. Outside of work, the entire schooling system will have to flip on its head. Much of what we're teaching now will be automated. Inside of work, we'll have to reeducate our businesses to focus on human-centred design.