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The Rise of 3-D Thinking

Are machines taking over? Is the rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) going to eliminate the need for human beings in the workplace? The speculation that machines will eventually take over all the jobs that people have performed is probably exaggerated thinking. While it can’t be denied that technological gains over the last several years have resulted in the increased use of AI and automation, there has also been a huge psychological revolution that has occurred. Over the last 40 years, a deeper understanding of the human psyche has given us new insights into how people act and react to situations. It is at the intersection of these two revolutions, both technical and psychological, that we can help make our organizations better, specifically in regard to human resources and human capital management.

Machines are capable of performing jobs that are repetitive and easily measurable and often do them more efficiently than humans have. However, AI works best when there are people who are looking over and even in some instances training it. AI allows people to focus on the less tedious parts of their jobs. However, management has not always changed the way they interact with the workforce as these jobs and tasks become automated. When people performed the jobs that can now be automated, management often treated people like machines and their output could be easily measured and quantified.

When developing people and organizations you might consider the idea that Deloitte has put forward of “3-D thinking”: Data, Digital, and Design.

  • Data: All the information that organizations accumulate. This can be both statistical and behavioral.

  • Digital: Much of this data is captured through the use of our computers, smart phones, and other digital devices.

  • Design: Using collected data to develop systems that encourage desired behaviors and outcomes.

Increased technology makes it easy for us to collect and analyze vast amounts of data. But what good is that data if you don’t use it? That is where the design and a knowledge of behavioral psychology comes in. By effectively analyzing the data, there is the opportunity to create systems that have a goal of influencing behavior and actions. Ideally, we want to gently nudge people into the right behaviors that will benefit the organization as a whole.

For example, perhaps you have a goal of encouraging wellness in your organization and want employees to make healthier choices. You have the data collected of what people are purchasing in the cafeteria. Computers can analyze that data and perhaps tell you that at 3:00 there is a run on candy bars. Based on that, you could remove candy bars from the cafeteria, replace it with fruit, forcing people to make the healthy choice. But, behavioral psychology tells us that people like having choices. So designing the layout of the foods may be the best option, by putting healthy foods up front and less healthy foods less accessible. The choice is still there, but the design can influence the behavior. This is a basic example, but this behavioral design can be used to help eliminate bias in hiring decisions, provide an environment that supports ethical behaviors, as well as increase employee engagement.

Today, there needs to be an understanding of how AI and human psychology can work together. There is a difference between intelligence and feeling. Organizations can harness the power of data and AI to enhance human behavior, learning, and potential and harness that in ways that add value in a way that AI alone cannot.

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