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I recently read that the “intelligence amplification” of human beings through collaboration with automation could achieve IQ levels up to 300. Are people thinking and acting much more intelligently? The first thing I thought was, “There goes my chance of ever winning on Jeopardy.” 

And the second thing I thought was, “How does that work?” Automation and intelligence amplification are related, but I had only thought that automation would free up cranial capacity. I didn’t think it would add to cranial capability. 

So, I asked myself, “Where is a model that provides or proves that capability scaling is possible?” That is when a brilliant old friend (and serious nerd) spent some time at a hockey game educating me on abstraction layers.

Is abstraction key to working smarter?

All modern software is created using abstraction layers. An abstraction layer is a way of hiding the working details of a subsystem. And operating system abstraction layers make it easier and quicker to develop code for multiple platforms. A common theory in computing is that all problems in computing can be solved with another layer of abstraction.

After my educational session between goals scored by the San Jose Sharks one evening, I came to believe that the same abstraction level theory could be applied to the human social operating systems we use to manage people. Especially as we continue to move out of the management practices of the Industrial Age worldwide, it’s clear that the use of abstraction layers is what will amplify the work intelligence of your teammates and increase the IQ of your company.  

Send working details into hiding

If we think about management abstraction layers as opposed to software abstraction layers, we can see how applying this model provides innovation in the management and development of people by hiding the working details of the subsystems. One of the primary attributes of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is its ability to hide complexity. 

Through automation, we can encapsulate complexity, hide it from the human process, and provide managers with simpler decision-making scenarios—allowing people to make decisions on complex issues without getting mired in the complexity. 

With automation hiding or condensing the layers of complexity, people are able to make decisions like never before. In the past, understanding the density or the complexity of the subsystems took all the human cranial capacity. It took up far too much brain time to sort out what was a distraction and comprehend the bigger picture. With automation, you can distill layers of complexity to the most important decision to make—hiding the subsystems from the decision-maker.

So, how does that help with the human-social operating systems? 

Let me give you an example. At Automation Anywhere, we recently created a fully automated “Talent Investment” process. This process provides us with many outcomes:

  • An understanding of every:
    • individual’s performance in their role
    • the role’s relevance to our strategy
    • individual’s retention risk
    • individual’s positive/highlights and negative/lowlights in their experience
  • A set of actions for managers to take to:
    • reinforce the highlights
    • remove the lowlights

From those elements, we can create individual retention and development investment maps for every single teammate. Managers are provided with a specific set of actions to take for each of their direct reports, focusing on development, recognition, visibility, emotional and physical well-being, and career boredom. 

Say goodbye to data slogging

As part of our Talent Investment process, managers answer about 40 questions related to relevance, performance, corporate citizenship, and retention risk on a 1-5 scale for each teammate (relevance is weighted differently by function). Teammates answer about 20 questions related to their experience and retention risk on a 1-5 scale.

This creates 100’s X 1000’s bits of data—so much data that a human would never be able to slog through it. But our automated software bot sorts through that complexity like a boss and produces a summary of the retention risk, highlights, lowlights, and interventions sorted by quarter for every manager and for every one of the managers' direct reports. 

We’ve created abstraction, not distraction

By creating an abstraction layer with automation, we avoid having the managers sort through the data (which they would never do) and try to interpret what it’s telling them (which they would never do) and then try to figure out what they should do about it (which, again, they would never do). 

By hiding the complexity of the subsystem at work and providing managers with just the human actions to take, we’ve raised managers’ people IQ. They’re not guessing about what their teammates need. They’re not hoping that the current fad of one-size-fits-all solutions for holding valuable teammates in place will work. They know what to do. Knowing is smarter than guessing. They’re now focusing all their brainpower on the prescribed important actions and not wasting cranial capacity by trying to figure out what to do. They have a working model to use for every 1X1 they conduct over the next year.

By adding layers of abstraction through automation, we can make it easier and quicker to develop careers and help fulfill the hopes and dreams of the people who work with us. And we can amplify their intelligence with more automation, so they can focus on the important decisions while distracting complexity is hidden in the abstraction layers.

Good riddance to the Industrial Age, and welcome to the age of Amplified Intelligence.

And thank you, Bill Raduchel, for the tutorial.


See How to Work Smarter.

About Nancy Hauge

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Nancy Hauge is the chief people experience officer at Automation Anywhere. She is a recipient of the "Stevie Awards" for women in high tech and was named by the Silicon Valley Business Journal as one of the "100 Women of Influence" in Silicon Valley.

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