21 Oct Wasting away. Part One.

For the last twenty years, innovation has focused on improving productivity. But when you step back and look at the whole picture, we’re wasting an increasing amount of time and money on technology.

In my personal life:
Weeks after online purchases were shipped and installed, “personalized” re-targeting ads are still interrupting the New York Times and Wall Street Journal articles I read.  Marketers are wasting money and customers are wasting time on “personalized advertising.”

My new washing machine is automated to conserve water and use less energy. Fortunately, the writer of the instruction manual is honest, with a chart that communicates that the “normal” setting, which is the most automated, has the lowest “clean” rating. Using almost any other, less automated setting produces better results. But their lawyers still approve advertising copy with water and energy conservation ratings based on “normal” settings and “sustainability” standards.

In my business life:
I didn’t expect an Apple operating system update to take longer than the 45 minutes before a scheduled ZOOM conference call.  Forty minutes after it re-booted, the screen said there were still 20 minutes to complete the update.

To add a new “tag” to segments on our Mailchimp list, I download the list to Excel, sort the data to group those I want to tag, paste the tag, and upload back into Mailchimp. Using two software to do what one should be capable of is not productive. 

We updated our WiFi service to 1 gig of Fiber up and down. Complaints increased. Now that the bandwidth is higher, even when the signal is weaker, the device is literally confused about which network to connect to, cycling from one to another, making our WiFi look unstable.

A guy called to pitch us on a service which automates member notification when a package arrives. I told him that our place is like a village, where everyone knows Elmer from UPS and he knows where they sit. This is a unique experience. We wouldn’t be unique with an automated solution he sells to everyone.

A relatively small organization I volunteer with has multiple sources of revenue, lots of data, but the reports can’t tell you if any one revenue stream itself breaks even or how it contributes to other revenue streams. It’s not the end of the world, overall we’re not losing money. But it has grown significantly in the last 5 years. Understanding how an enterprise performs at the unit level and how each contributes to others could make a big difference in improving the return on dollars invested. Not by lowering costs, but by growing more per dollar spent.

This organization is not alone, even large global companies are complaining about this problem. According to the 2018-19 edition of Gartner’s Top Insights for C-Suites, large global corporations have a similar complaint: “Very few companies even have a shared understanding among leaders of how to drive digital business transformation. This uncertainty has led to poor returns from digital investments.”

Hey don’t get me wrong. Technology has value. But it is something other than improving productivity.

A friend of mine works for a utility company where workers could die if they spliced the wrong wires together. She developed a robot to do the splicing. At least if it screws up, no one will die.

The robot’s purpose isn’t to eliminate jobs but to preserve the humans for the tough job – figuring out where to send the robots. Interestingly, she says they have been trying to automate that, but it isn’t so easy.

Many technologists complain humans resist properly recording the data needed to accurately extract the algorithm to replicate how they think – known as the Machine Learning that is required for Artificial intelligence.

But when I talk to young people who have studied neurobiology, they tell me we really don’t know how the mind works. If we don’t know what real intelligence is, how do we make Artificial Intelligence?

The answer isn’t spending more to fix this technology stack with better “User Experience,” we need to consider the 360° human experience impact of innovation:

  • Connect people with the real world instead of isolating them from it.
  • The money we pay businesses for products and services could be more wisely invested in marketing and innovation.
  • The business model should reward quality not wasting time and money.

Once the stack is de-centralized, directly connecting to un-manipulated human behavior, we may start seeing how the brain works and the data feeding artificial intelligence will be more insightful.

This is the strategy, not the product.

No lone inventor can make that product.  It will take diverse expertise with the soft skills to collaborate. The purpose of Comradity is to offer shared resources to help collaborators overcome the hurdles to sharing knowledge and intelligence.

We’ve got lots of resources and new ideas to do that, but we need your financial support. Wasting Away. Part Two. is a critical industry in which to begin. 

comradity
katherine@comradity.com