Who is afraid of the big bad robot
The past couple of weeks we’ve discussed change within organizations. Since I have « discussed » with at least one robot last week, and seen a lot of headlines about AI (Artificial Intelligence), it is fitting that we talk about technological change today. Those have the potential to make the way we work, connect to customers and sell easier. They also, if not planned and adopted, have the potential to render a few businesses redundant in the medium term.
Last week I had to renew my car insurance. I couldn’t find the closest office to my house because that information is not available on the insurer’s website. I had to go to a brick-and-mortar office to sign several pieces of paper and pay cash. In some countries, the process to renew insurance takes a couple of minutes without leaving one’s house or office.
People born the year 2000 are entering university next year. The so-called “Android generation” will be in the workforce in 4 to 5 years. Those new employees have always had the internet. As young people, they communicate with their peers mostly via social media and text apps. They are the are the employees and consumers of tomorrow. But when they arrive in the workforce, some things they have taken for granted may not be available to them. And if you are using Facebook Messenger you can already see all the robots (AI; chatbots) that will take over customer service and other functions tomorrow.
Should we be afraid of them?
Companies are reluctant to embrace new tools and techniques
I’ll just talk about two very simple examples we’ve all seen around us:
Most business cards I receive list a generic email address Gmail or Yahoo address. Employees essentially use their personal email in public and unsecured providers to conduct company business. While the person is employed the data doesn’t belong to the employer. When the employee leaves the company often loses precious information because it wasn’t saved with them to start with.
Medium and even some large companies don’t always give laptop to their employees. Even professional ones that routinely send their staff to work with clients seem to believe that a laptop is a privilege. I have been given laptops to work. The first time I was young and I thought “how cool is that?” Before long I realized it’s a way for the employer to chain myself to my work. They could call me during the weekend to ask for a file, a piece of information, and before long, because they gave you the means to work from home, you ARE working from home most evenings and week-ends! And yet some employers think they are doing a favor to their employees, and not the other way around.
But change will happen and companies should either adapt or prepare to disappear. Cameroonian start-ups already connect doctors and patients to connect online; some insurance companies already sell coverage via mobile.
Why companies don’t want to change?
- The manager is a guru in his/her domain.
- They’ve learnt something in school or on the job and have always applied it that way.
- New technologies are introduced at too fast a pace and it is difficult to keep up
- Companies don’t understand the new tools and technologies and don’t see how they can benefit from those compared to the old ways of working
- Companies make money anyway. They don’t think they need to adapt: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”
So, how do you get to change?
Start with one: Identify the ONE area where you struggle daily or where your employees spend the most time and see how you can improve it.
Choose something simple: Find a tool that solves that specific problem without bells and whistles. Whatsapp allowed people to send SMS like they were used to. The only thing that changed was it went through the internet instead.
Look for free: Most solutions will allow you a free trial or you can find several that are outright free. Get used to it, see how it works. Get to the paid options when you are comfortable that you will get value for your money.
We mentioned company emails to employees earlier? You can get that for the price of two beers a month.
Which tools have you had difficulties adopting in your company? Comment on the section below.