The Strategist

Technologies that your business needs but doesn’t know about

03/29/2019 - 11:04

Will machines make us jobless? Will powerful platforms control the economy? Will we have less (or more) freedom of choice in where to live and with whom to communicate?

tec_estromberg via flickr
tec_estromberg via flickr
In the end, all these questions boil down to one thing: what will technology do to us? But this wording is wrong. Technology is nothing more than a tool, and it doesn’t matter whether it is a hammer or a neural network.

Tools don't decide what will happen to people. People decide. So the question is what we want to do with technology, and how can we use them in business to become stronger and more successful.

Atop the hype waves

Today, technologies do what previously seemed to be beyond the control of programming: they win chess and go, diagnose diseases, design objects, and even write music. Machines do not just follow instructions; they solve problems on their own.

At the beginning of the 20th century, enterprises that switched to electricity quickly overtook competitors operating in the old manner. Now, a century later, technology is changing the era again. They gave us a lot of opportunities, but put the usual ways of “doing business” at risk.

A signal from the crowd

Technological giants are constantly watching the crowd in search of innovations that could undermine their position. However, when they find them, they do not try to strangle them. On the contrary, they buy and master them. Between 2011 and 2015, Apple acquired 70 companies, Facebook - over 50, and Google - almost 200.

They do this even if they have already created something like this. Let's say Facebook has already created a messaging and photo hosting by the time of buying WhatsApp and Instagram. However, the tech giant did not miss the signal from the crowd: something new appeared and everyone likes it.

Inventing the future

After checking 82,000 predictions in areas such as politics, economics, and international relations, political analyst Philip Tetlock found that the accuracy of predictions of people “barely outperform a chimpanzee” that throws darts at a target. To build a business on forecasts is meaningless.

Successful companies have already understood this. They are moving from long-term forecasts to short-term cycles. By moving in small steps and receiving feedback, you can be flexible and make changes to your actions in time. Predict less, experiment more. And trust the data analysis to machines.

Assign it to robots

In the era of machines, many business processes do not require participation of people. With the advent of ATMs, customers are less likely to turn to bank employees. In restaurants, tablet-menus replace waiters. In Japan, 90% of the work on spraying plants produced by unmanned helicopters.

Think about what kind of work in your company can be called thoughtless, dirty, dangerous or expensive. Is there anything you could assign to robots?

Based on “Machine, Platform, Crowd. Harnessing Our Digital Future” by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee