Automation vs. Automaton

The Future of Work is now and more than ever, we’re thinking about the concept of Automation. Automation, in many circles, is a naughty word. People immediately think that robots are gunning for their jobs.

You may know that in the 1970s, bank tellers were widely sceptical about ATMs and worried that fewer bank tellers might be needed. What you may not know is that the number of bank tellers actually increased after the introduction of ATMs. ( The reasons for that are many, but let’s really get into the meat: Do bank tellers really want to spend their time dispensing dollar bills? Or would they prefer to offer value-added services like financial consulting, sharing ideas about insurance, or talk about the differences between an annuity and a 401(k)?

Skip forward to today’s workplace. What is being automated away? Perhaps workflows, accounts processing, intelligent search recommendations… are those things that people really want to do? If you picture real people performing tasks that have been automated, what do you picture:Perhaps a worker shuffling papers around for critical signatures… or picking up papers from one stack and placing them in another. Is this Automation or just someone acting like an automaton?

I, for one, think there’s a better place for those automatons once they’re released from having to do the same, rote task over and over. Perhaps their ideas of how to improve workforce productivity can finally be heard and enacted. Perhaps their ability to shine, to help clients find the right solution, or to fix a critical issue can be developed. There are so many ways to flourish the workplace. Let’s let Automation take care of itself so we don’t need to act like automatons.

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