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Future of Work: Re-Designing our value proposition in the age of cognitive computing (part 1 of 3)

In my book The Way of the Navigator I write extensively about how robots, smart machines and intelligent software will pretty quickly become intelligent enough to do many of the jobs that we do today. This disruptive innovation is going to force us as business leaders to re-define both the value that our company provides to our customers as well as force us to re-design the very way that our employees work and the job that they do.

In order to do this we need to first start with the needs of our customers. In too many instances when technological disruption is accelerating and providing us with more tools, as well as presenting us with greater challenges, we tend to think first and often times exclusively about how this effects “us” (i.e. our organization, ourselves) and then only after we have spent countless hours on inward transformation do we turn our attention to our customers. I believe that this is huge a mistake. We exist solely and simply to serve our customers. If we do not meet our customers needs they will find a company, or an individual, that does.

In my book I argue that our customers are facing two parallel challenges and that if we want to remain relevant to them going forward we need to help them address these challenges. The first challenge that they are facing is intense and accelerating technological disruption. This leads to the second challenge, which is an outgrowth of the first, and which is expanding complexity that becomes paralyzing.

I make the argument in the first section of my book that big data, analytics, cognitive computing, intelligent machines and robots, as well as the Internet of Things are all game changing technologies that will lead to dramatic changes in literally everything that we do, the way that we work, the way that we communicate, etc. The complexity that will follow will be potentially crippling for many.

The good news is that once we know the types of challenges our customers face we can help them. I have a chapter dedicated to what I call “Navigation as a Design Philosophy” where I contend that the greatest service (and/or product) that we can provide to our customers is that of helping them navigate through the parallel challenges of disruption and complexity that they face.

This requires us to focus on gaining a robust understanding of the specifics contained within the parallel challenges that they face. We need to ask ourselves (and of course our customers) what types of technological disruption do our customers face within their industry? How is this changing their industry, their company, etc.? What types and forms of complexity result from this disruption and change? Following this process really orients us towards our customers in a way that is deep and meaningful.

The reason this is important is that as epochal technological advances such as cognitive computing become more pervasive we are going to have to continue to re-orient our company, and our people, to serve our customers at a much more holistic level. Designing products and services that help them successfully navigate the disruption and complexity that they face brings us more in alignment with their needs and makes us more relevant and less disposable.

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