Human and Machine Collaboration in the Enterprise — Focus on the Output, not the Technology
People often ask if the future is humans or machines.
From my perspective it isn’t one or the other. It’s both working together. A person working alone can only accomplish so much. And the same is true of a machine. It’s going to take humans and machines together to get the innovation we want, and need. When we put the two together, that’s when we accomplish more and create something new.
So, while it’s easy to focus on the machines or the technology, we need to remember that the most exciting, and even magical, part isn’t the technology itself, but what the technology gives us. At Adobe, we’re interested in the higher-order customer experience that can come from applying artificial intelligence (AI). Keeping that end result in mind is a great place to start because technology provides essential help if we know what we want to get from it.
Once you have a goal in mind, then you can determine how to best work with the technology to achieve that goal.
Define your business strategy
Creating a customer experience takes a lot of effort and making all the parts work together can be profoundly complex. It’s like the old saying, “If you want to bake an apple pie, first you have to create the universe.” Creating great customer experiences is similar, and you may wonder where to even start.
The best place to start — in fact, the only place to start if you want to deliver an individualized customer experience — is with the business problem.
This step requires a capability that only humans possess — the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Think about the customer’s challenges, wants, and needs. Then build a customer journey with several touchpoints between the brand and the customer.
Delivering the right content at each of those touchpoints will comprise your brand experience. You need to interject some moments of delight, even if the process itself is one of utility and necessity. However, you also need to take experiences from just being personalized to being truly individualized.
Here’s what I mean by that. A personalized experience will deliver content that is relevant to you — for example, we know you’re visiting a certain city so it’s going to recommend a hotel for you to stay at. That’s personal. But now that you’ve booked a room, the travel company has even more specific information about you and can use that to let you check-in on your mobile app as soon as you enter the hotel, and your phone can even be used as a key to your room. That’s an individualized experience — and you didn’t lead with the technology, but rather a business strategy to improve the customer experience.
Collaborate with the technology
Once you know the business problem you are trying to solve, start thinking about the role that technology needs to play for you. By thinking about the roles that both machines and humans will play as you innovate and design new experiences, you can use the capabilities of both to create “magical” results.
Machines can play many roles — assistants, data managers, advisors, and more — in which they help humans. Once you figure out those roles, you can use and access the capabilities of both the human intelligence and the machine learning.
Voice AI is just one area where we already see a lot of progress with machine and human collaboration. Right now, we are comfortable with voice assistants looking up information for us. And we are quickly moving to more of a day-to-day, moment-to-moment assistant that can give us access to any type of information we need — from making soup to supporting a creative workflow or marketing campaign.
As an example, intelligent assistants can start to assess and predict your creative process by building a creative graph. With that data, it can also predict elements and assets that you’ll need in the creative process. This computational assistant is voice activated and can take your oral direction to access imagery and assets that meet your needs.
It’s an exciting glimpse of what’s to come as far as collaborative technology, and it’s a great example of how creativity will not be solely a human endeavor any more. And, on the other hand, it also won’t be solely computational.
Design customer experiences
On a creative level, we’ve reached an interesting moment in time with AI. In addition to creativity being a part of the ideation process as it is now, creativity will move into the output of products and experiences, too. This creates an interesting dynamic. We see what AI can do in one situation, and our creative juices flow about new ways to use the capabilities.
We are at a juncture right now where technology is slightly ahead of today’s processes and organizational structures. This makes it even more important to refocus on using technology to benefit customers, the processes that serve them, and their experience with a brand. We must consciously insert, over and over, the human element into the creative processes and the creative goals.
Where do we go from here?
The emergence of AI and related technologies is moving so fast that we can’t predict exactly what comes next. But we do know there is going to be constant change, and that creativity and innovation will be even more important.
To prepare for this future of working even more closely with machines, you must be able to adapt and be comfortable with the unknown. I think of this as creative elasticity — the ability to jump in knowing that things are going to change, and be comfortable with that as technology, processes, and organizations evolve.
Creativity and innovation are crucial to creating experiences that will continue to drive your business. That needs to be your focus so you don’t give in to the temptation to focus on the technology, even though it’s exciting. And while we don’t know all the answers, we can say for certain that you cannot deliver individualized interactions without the collaboration of humans and machines working together.