Digital Transformation – Nurturing the Human Touch in a World of Smart Machines and AI

Digital Transformation – Nurturing the Human Touch in a World of Smart Machines and AI

09. March 2017

Do you keep on hearing how the use of technology made people lose their empathy and emotional intelligence and how how robots will steal all the jobs? To many, digital transformation is a synonym for the dehumanization of our workplace and the society at large – which doesn’t come as a surprise if even a tech pioneer like PayPal and Tesla founder Elon Musk alerts us about the threats of digital technologies and – for that specific matter – artificial intelligence (AI): “I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I had to guess at what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that.” We tried to get to the bottom of this fear by looking for the true connection between human and digital as it develops.

Digital Is All About What You Want It to Be

Digital transformation changed the way we communicate profoundly – but it didn’t necessarily make us communicate less profoundly. So far, no study could prove that our relations actually became less meaningful or productive. On the contrary, cloud services and the different channels have opened up communications and enabled more people to communicate with each other. Any obstacle preventing information sharing and collaboration is considered a productivity killer. And productivity really counts, especially amongst the millennial generation which will count for 50 percent of the global workforce by 2020 according to a study by PwC.

On top of that, Generation Z – the first generation to grow up in a fully networked world – starts entering the workforce at the end of this decade. Gen Z assumes that any modern organisation runs its business based on cloud services, because well, why wouldn’t they? The importance of productivity to Gen Z and millennials should not be understated. A recent study by Microsoft reveals that 93 percent of millennials say that mastering productivity is the key to happiness!

Often, the difference between successful and unsuccessful digital transformation lies in the details. Google Strategy Consultant Lucy Adams claims that “digital is 10 percent tech and 90 percent human” even though “organisations talk about digital as if it is 90 percent tech and 10 percent human.” As a matter of fact, digital means nothing without the staff bringing it to life. In another study by MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte, one thing becomes obvious: Digital is created by the leaders and staff of a company. People choose how to use digital technology and tend to be more successful when they adapt it to their personal needs, shaping it according to their own personality.

More Tools + More Opportunities = Greater Happiness

While digital is surely changing the way in which we work, the change in itself, however, is essentially human. It is nothing more than applying the practices and technologies of the Internet-era to respond better to people’s changing needs. Thus, digital technology can simply be the new means to an old end: Building relationships and satisfying teams, partners and customers. Most of the time, cloud services and technologies were originally invented to connect people and bring them closer to each other.

In the professional realm, digital innovation, such as Communications as a Service (CaaS), has changed the way in which we work, rapidly permitting team members to communicate constantly and stay updated even while physically absent. Flexibility and new living and working models only became possible due to the digital alternatives to pen and paper.

Take the example of Google: The success of this one-of-a-kind company is sustained by its excessive use of new technologies. Google created various, personalised tools to have their people interact as much as possible through social media, hangouts, group calls and the like. Their teams are not only known to be extraordinarily happy in the workplace but also known for their digital creativity and motivation.

The Human Advantage Remains Unique

When used in a smart way, an organisation can spread their ideas wider than ever before and reach more people on a more intimate level, thanks to cloud services and new technology. Traditional, obsolete hierarchies and boundaries can be overcome when you communicate your values directly. Giving your company a face will add to its credibility. Thanks to voice and video, customer relations and partnerships can become more personal than ever.

This leads us directly to the last point and the key to any functioning relationship: Trust. A true trust relationship between nameless, faceless machines and human beings is not to be expected in any near future. On the contrary, in a world of bots and augmented reality, humans can do wonders and have a bigger impact than ever. Assuming that nothing will be more appreciated than the real time a person takes to talk personally to another person, showing a face, real emotions and empathy will continue to be highly valued. This is what we call the human advantage.

The bottom line: There is no use in ignoring or even avoiding digital transformation out of fear of a loss of identity. In fact, digital and cloud services have been invented for us to ease and improve our work, not to overwhelm us. In this sense, digital transformation is all about being human. Let’s use it to amplify the human factor in your organisation. Since younger generations will push for it anyway, you might just as well use it for your own purposes now – but don’t forget to make it individual, enjoyable, and human!

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