Episode 6 – Humalogy and The Future of Work
Jan 14 9:00:00 am
Today’s guest is Scott Klososky, the founding partner of Future Point of View and creator of Humalogy. Host Jon Knisley, long-time technologist helping companies win the market with emerging AI technologies, talks with Scott about the transition to automation, and working alongside AI and automation. They also talk about how the pandemic has disrupted Scott’s process (as a consultant), and how humalogy principles should be utilized because of the shift to virtual work environments.
For years the promise of technology has been the ability to produce a more productive workforce. The challenge however is that while technology may improve productivity and efficiency by automating routine tasks, today it does not embody or transfer the human conditions necessary for building interpersonal relationships.
Humanizing technology is still in its infancy therefore when trying to maximize efficiency and develop connectedness, there’s a careful balance that must be struck. To that end, Humalogy examines blending available technologies with human effort to maximize performance and potential.
Scott Klososky is an international speaker, futurist, author of four books, as well as an entrepreneur who has started five successful companies.
- “Many is the waves but one is the sea”: working alongside AI
- Automation and the public
- Processes, and the golden triangle of people, framework and technology
- Leaders should utilize the technology that is already available
- How Scott uses the concept of humalogy since the pandemic
- Working alongside technology and how tech is changing because of the pandemic
- The internal impact to staff that needs to be reskilled, retrained for new tech
If you enjoyed this episode, subscribe and check out our series at fortressiq.com/podcast. Thanks for joining us today on hello, Human.
Full Episode Transcript:
Jon: Scott Klososky, the founding partner at Future Point of View joined us today at the hello, Human podcast where we discuss the latest topics in artificial intelligence and how it’s being applied in the real world.
I’m Jon Knisley, the host of hello, Human, and a long time technologist helping companies win in the market with emerging AI technologies. A big thanks to FortressIQ for sponsoring the program, and be sure to hit the subscribe button wherever you listen to podcasts.
In this episode, we’re going to explore Humalogy and the future of work. Since the days of the industrial revolution, technology has been positioned for its ability to create a more productive workforce. Ever since—while tech may improve productivity and efficiency, too often it fails to embody the human conditions necessary for creating positive experiences. Humalogy examines blending available technologies with the human effort to maximize performance and potential.
Scott is the creator of Humalogy, so it promises to be an interesting conversation. In addition to his consulting work with Future Point of View, he is also an international speaker, futurist, author of four books, as well as an entrepreneur who has started four, five successful companies. I should also note that I’ve known Scott for close to 30 years now, and that is a scary number to be sure because it ages me considerably. He’s been a great friend, boss, and mentor over the years.
Welcome to the program, Scott. To get us started, maybe you can share a nugget from your interesting and varied career for our listeners to give them some context and perspective.
Scott: Sure. First of all, I got to say I love being in a podcast called hello, Human that is going to be talking a lot about AI. I love the name. I think the nugget that I would give that might help people know me a little bit is when you said I developed Humalogy, we actually sat at a whiteboard and developed this concept probably 10 years ago. We developed it because there wasn’t a word to describe very eloquently the integration of humans and technology, nor was there a way to measure it.
I was really interested in how are we going to have a conversation around it’s not technology or human, it’s technology and human integrated. How are you even going to talk about that? How are you even going to be able to have a language to say that a process is this much human or this much technology?
The reason that I was interested in this was to try to help the world make the transition between everything being done by hand to a world where machines will do a lot of the tasks for us. Glad that we came up with the concept. The motivation was just to be able to help us make the transition that we are flat in the middle of right now.
Jon: That’s great. Thanks for sharing and it’s probably a topic for another conversation, but Humalogy is not the only word that we’ve invented over the years, as you know. I grew up in New England on the coast, and we’ve got this local saying that many as the waves, but one as the sea. I think that embodies our relationship. In many ways, we are very different but at the core—especially around our outlook on technology and society—were of that same mindset.
When people ask about the impact of technology on humanity and society, generally, they fall into these two camps. You either have this Hollywood dystopian view that the robots are going to take over and destroy the universe, or you’ve got the more utopian view that technology will make life better and lead to a more prosperous future. You’ve got a podcast of your own called The Digital Optimist so I can imagine where you stand on this, but is there a darker side to technology that we need to worry about?
Scott: There is, and for somebody who spends a lot of time looking into the future, I also spend a ton of time looking at the past. I love the concept or the idea that the past doesn’t necessarily dictate or tell us exactly what the future will be, but it rhymes. The future rhymes with the past. I love that concept.
When I look at humans, humans for thousands of years, we fear things we don’t know. We fear something that is new and as such, it is with technology and at many levels, not just AI. They feared robots when robots first started coming out. We fear laptops. My mother, to this day, fears her laptop. She thinks it’s the most complicated device in the world that is meant to frustrate her.
Your question about yes, I am an optimist about ultimately what happens with the blend of technology in humans, but there is a darker side, of course. Just because I’m an optimist doesn’t mean there aren’t also problems. I am often saying to people that when I look at the future of AI, robotics, and machine intelligence, it’s 55% good and 45% bad.
The good wins out, but there are some darker, painful aspects that we’re going to see over time. We could spend the next 30 minutes talking about what they are, but certainly, it’s going to be the misuse of machine intelligence. It’s going to be the bias that gets built into machine intelligence. It’s going to be human beings losing skills because machines do the skills for us, and we forget how to do the skills. That kind of thing is already happening to us. There’s a list of things that are a bit negative. I just believe that the list that is positive is slightly larger.
Jon: I like that breakdown of good versus bad. I also think that sometimes, the bad is an unintended consequence. It’s because the technologist didn’t think through the AI completely, and it’s not because of some evil nature of the person. I mean, that’s obviously going to be a part of it, but again, in general, we like to see the good in people. People have positive intentions, and sometimes those challenges that come up are those unintended consequences, then you can adjust those as well.
To get a better handle on this integration between technology and humanity, you developed this concept of Humalogy to really describe that appropriate blend of humans and technology to optimize those targeted outcomes and amplify performance. You’ve also got a framework for determining what that amount of technology is appropriate.
First off, can you just give us a primer on Humalogy? How did you come up with the concept? How do you define it? How it gets measured? How it gets applied? Just some background to give the audience an understanding of the concepts.
Scott: Sure and we’ll keep this simple. If you think about a process and much of life is based around processes, you could look at any process and there’s a continuum that at one end of the continuum is a process that is completely done by hand. We give that a score of H5. And then at the other end would be a process completely done by technology. Knowing that we have to build the technology, but let’s just say the process is completely run by some type of technology, and we would give that a number of T5.
We build a continuum. There’s zero, which would be something that’s right in the middle that’s half human half machine to get it done. Then you have H1, H2, H3, H4, H5, and then T1, T2, T3, T4, T5. When you look at that continuum, it now gives you a vocabulary to be able to say, okay, if we look at a process like hiring a person in HR, how much of that today is based on technology, and how much of hiring that person is based on humans? It is a mixture, and it is a different mixture. It’s a different recipe for different companies.
For some companies, the hiring process like Amazon might be T3—very little human, but some. Then there might be a law firm, and their hiring process is an H3—there’s some technology involved, but it’s predominantly human. That’s what the term when we say Humalogy, we’re talking about that scale. We’re talking about a continuum that is an integration of humans and technology.
You mentioned also optimizing that. Optimizing where a company should be or where a process should depend completely on the type of company, type of process, and type of culture. There are no fixed right or wrong answers, but there is what is best, what is efficient, and what is most along with the business plan for the company.
There is a proper place, as you can imagine. If you have a process and you are H3 and you have competitors and they are at T2, they’re much more efficient, much higher throughput, much higher quality because they’ve integrated technology. You may be at the wrong place on the Humalogy scale and it might be bad for your organization.
Jon: To me, one of the most beneficial takeaways is that Homalogy can address more than the typical automation use cases. In today’s environment especially, it’s easy to look at everything and see an opportunity to automate, and that’s the soul drive of the technology. What do you see as the major use cases beyond automation where your clients are applying Humalogy? Can you provide any real-world examples?
Scott: Yeah, and it’s a good point because automation is powerful. Automation is something that organizations will be deep into, especially driven by the pandemic now. There will be even more of a hunger for automation over the next few years because when you have people working from home or in a distributed work environment, you really need automated processes and systems.
The best example that I can give you—for instance of a good change. There was a client that we had in the middle of the pandemic who had a payable system. The way their payable systems work was they got invoices from vendors. The invoices could come in over fax, they could come in over email, or they could be mailed. They would accept invoices any way that anybody wanted to send them.
They had staff who would type in the invoices and then it was in their payroll system. Then they would have it reviewed by a payables leader and say this is okay to pay, then they would print out checks, then they would take the checks over to the CFO, and the CFO would sign the checks. That’s a fairly standard right in the middle of Humalogy—part technology, part human—to get payables paid.
In the middle of the pandemic, they couldn’t pay payables because they work together. It wasn’t as easy to get the invoices, harder to get them keyed in. You couldn’t print checks out. You couldn’t have the CFO sign them. In three weeks, from the time that we went to the emergency work from home, they went to an online payable system. They completely automated the payables program. Obviously, they will never go back now.
You have to deal with the reality that there were two or three people that were payables clerks who now don’t have a job. Those people can be upskilled. They can be moved somewhere else in the organization.
That’s the kind of thing that we are seeing, which is a shift—the constant shifting that automation does. What we try to do is look at every process and say, all right, is it appropriate for it to move from H2 to T2? Or is that something that doesn’t fit with this business because the customers don’t want a technology interface? There are cases where it’s not about moving from H to T. It’s about staying at the right place in H and optimizing that. I think the misnomer is everybody should be moving from H to T.
Jon: Along those lines, you touched on the impact internally to the staff that needs to be reskilled, retrained. How do you deal with the situation where the company realizes it needs to go from H to T on the spectrum, but their customers may not be ready to go from H to T? Is that a decision the company drives, obviously, but what are the factors that go into determining that shift?
Scott: As you know, I am right now visiting my 82-year-old mother. I spent my last two days dealing with this topic. The companies are switching to full automation, and I’ll give you an example. I’ll give you a couple.
One was there’s a magazine that she absolutely loves out of England. She resubscribed and they had changed it over to a digital magazine. They wanted her to download a PDF and read a PDF. She lost her mind. I am not doing that. I want a paper magazine. If I can’t have the paper magazine, then cancel my subscription. That’s a customer who isn’t going to accept your automation and digitization.
Then there was the whole health care issue with my mom where all the health care providers and pharmacy people wanted to set up online sites and use their online locations to manage her health care information and all her prescriptions. She’s like, no, I’m not doing that. Give me a phone number and I’ll call somebody, talk to them.
They started taking away the phone numbers, they don’t answer the phones, or they get her stuck in an IVR. These are cases where you’ve got to look at your customer and say, hey, automation is fantastic, but not if your customer base is 80-year-old people who don’t feel comfortable with technology.
Jon: Yeah, I can relate. As much as I love talking to my dad, I dread when the call comes in and it is the computer help desk call. The browser is not working or the website won’t load. I know I’m in for a good 45-minute conversation at a minimum.
You mentioned the process word a couple of times. As a consultant, you’re taught to fall back to that golden triangle of people, process, and technology. I think in many ways, Humalogy really takes that framework a step further. Obviously, it explores the people and the technology dimension, but the process dimension is also front and center with Humalogy because it dictates how those other two relate to each other.
I’ve been arguing recently that a big part of the challenge with transformation is that the process element has been ignored in recent years. There was a number from McKinsey that I saw last month, that was I think only 14%, 15% of companies have seen sustained and material performance improvements through all their efforts.
Another one I saw just last week was less than 1% of companies have enough process understanding to fully leverage the digital solutions that they have in place. There’s been too much reliance on technology in my mind. Do you see this in your work?
Scott: Yeah, I absolutely do. I do believe in the triangle of people, technology, and processes. I just think those are not silos, first of all. I think those are integrations, and I agree the integrations have not done well. I see this is just a maturity process. This is a digital maturity process because we are farther ahead with the tools than we are with applying the tools. I think in some ways, if I step way back, that’s natural, that’s to be expected.
I do think that leaders—any of you who are listening right now who are leaders, one of the most beneficial thing a leader can do is to say, hey, let’s fully exploit what’s already out there. A lot of it is taking that Humalogy view of a process because I agree with you. We have the technology, we have people, but what we don’t do is rebuild the processes fast enough or well enough. That’s really where the gap is.
There is no excuse in that we do have the technology. It can do wonderful things. We do have people. They can do wonderful things. All we are lacking is the focus on automating the processes in the appropriate way.
Think about the example I gave you about payables. That company could have automated those payables in the way I described any time in the last three years, but why hadn’t they? They were forced to do it in the pandemic. You have to ask yourself, the technology existed, why hadn’t they moved their payables? Well, because whoever was running the accounting department was perfectly happy with the H2 or whatever the way that they were doing payables,
Jon: I was just going to say—from my time at FPOV—I think one of the things I’ve taken away and continue to stress is you can’t undertake a major, complex change program without first being able to map your processes, map your experiences, and map your technology. Those three areas of understanding that the current state is so critical to successfully getting to that magical future state that everybody is trying to get to.
As a professional speaker, I imagine that your work has been disrupted by the pandemic, and you’ll be excited to ultimately get back on the road. Hopefully sooner rather than later. How have you applied the principles of Humalogy to make adjustments to your work in that area? You’ve always worked hard to integrate technology into your events, but working virtually—I must imagine—has accelerated some of that technology adoption.
Scott: It has. Thankfully, we were already experimenting quite a bit with virtual speeches, keynotes, and things like that because I was getting asked to do a lot of international work, and we couldn’t always fly over to other countries, so I kind of had a head start.
But in March, April, May, we really invested in new technologies, trying new ways to deliver content. Let’s try to break down the 45-minute keynote or the 1-hour keynote with very little interactivity. Let’s throw out the rules on (what I’ll just say as a) virtual interaction. Let’s try to create whole new ways to virtually interact with an audience that’s a lot better than just the traditional keynote.
The speaking industry got decimated in 2020. I gave more speeches than I ever have and experimented the whole year with interesting ways to deliver content. A lot of the experiments worked really well. Speaking, it’ll go someday in 2021. It’ll go back or it will go to some kind of integrated format. We’ll go back to more in person, but it’ll be a hybrid, it’ll be a mixture. I’m comfortable along the way if it remains highly technology, virtual-oriented, we will continue to try to pioneer cool ways to deliver content. If it goes back to being quite a bit in person, great, I love that as well.
Jon: The virtual events are obviously a challenge for everybody—participants and speakers. People tend to joke at me a little bit in company meetings because I tend to have my camera on, and that’s just the way that I’ve been taught and brought up. If you’re going to be on there and you’re going to be part of that conversation in this new world that we’re living in, you’ve got to use the technology to have that connection with people.
If you treat it just like a conference call or how you put it on mute and you’re doing 15 other things, you’re not actively involved in that conversation. I think that’s where companies need to come in sometimes and have some governance involved in what’s the appropriate use of the technology and how you should engage with it to get the most value out of it. Would you agree with that assessment, or do you have a different take on that?
Scott: Absolutely. We tell clients the same thing. You have to have rules for how you work from home. You have to have rules for how you do virtual meetings. It’s not how do you handle a sales call? How do you handle a meeting with just two people internal? How do you handle a meeting with four people external? You have to look at every virtual interaction, then you have to design it.
Organizations are way behind the curve on this. They got Zoom, they got Teams, and they got whatever. They figured out how to have virtual meetings and then they stopped. That’s crazy. You’ve got to step back now. What’s every kind of virtual interaction you have and you need to design it. When I say design it, I agree with you. I think when people have internal staff meetings, and they don’t turn their videos on, that’s rude. It’s just rude.
If that offends anybody, I apologize, but I mean it. Because in a world where we’re distributed, you’ve got to build relationships in some way. Humans are designed to want to be able to see each other, see the body language. I think there’s a lot of leaders that just allow people to have a black screen who say, I didn’t want to get dressed up. I didn’t want to put my makeup on, whatever the excuse is. I find it to just be, honestly, rude when people don’t want to turn their video on.
Jon: Yeah, and I think that goes a little bit back to our previous point around the people, process, and technology. It’s ignoring the process piece of it. You’ve gotten this technology, it’s in place. It’s what I’ve seen as a consultant in my past. Most times, companies have made the right technology decisions. They’re just not necessarily using the technology fully or using it as it’s been intended. That ultimately ends up being a process issue.
Jon: To bring this conversation full circle, I want to shift quickly to the future of work. The Brooklyn Institution cited some research that over the last three recessions, over the last 30 years, 80% of job losses—just a massive number—took place in what they call routine automatable occupations. Essentially meaning that the jobs accounted for all losses and the crisis all came down to automation. How do you respond to that data point using the Humalogy lens?
Scott: I think about this a lot. Machines are going to replace three things that we do—highly repeatable tasks, which is what you just mentioned. Highly repeatable tasks that are pretty consistent and a machine can replace them. They’re going to replace very complicated tasks that humans don’t even have the ability to do on their own.
For example, predicting the weather. No human is going to take in data in their brain from a thousand different weather stations and then do all the math to figure out what the weather is going to be. That’s going to be an AI and it is now. A very complicated decision, some health care decisions. Those are going to be made by machines.
And then the last is anything that could keep somebody safe. Where a robot or a machine can do some tasks that keep people safe. That’s the formula. Machines are going to replace things that are highly repeatable and simple, very complicated so no human can really make great decisions or tasks that make somebody unsafe.
Now, that represents a large amount of jobs. Over the next decade, there will be a big transition. If you want to know the future of work in my mind, we will have a decade or two of transition. It’ll be painful because some of the people who get knocked out of work are going to have to upskill or reskill. They’re not going to like it, some won’t do it.
I do not see this collapsing the economy. I do not see this causing a lot of problems for humanity. I actually see it the other way. That this is going to free humans to do work that is more interesting, more fulfilling, and safer, but the transition will be rocky.
Jon: Scott, I think that’s great insight and a great point to end on. To recap today’s conversation with Scott Klososky, the founding partner at the technology consultancy Future Point of View, as well as an international speaker and entrepreneur.
Humanizing technology is still in its infancy, so when trying to maximize efficiency and develop connectedness, there’s that careful balance that must be struck. To that end, Humalogy examines blending the available technologies with the human effort to maximize performance and potential. It’s a great framework to consider as a solution to the miserable success rates of transformation programs that we talked about by bringing the focus a bit back to process awareness.
Thank you, Scott, for joining me today. I want to give you an opportunity to make any closing comments or provide any final insights, but I also have a final question for you as well. As you know, I’m a bit of an information junkie and always looking for the latest and greatest resources. My question to you is, what resource—whether it’s a website, a newsletter, a podcast, or whatever it may be—do you rely on most to be successful and knowledgeable in your role?
Scott: Well, I love podcasts. I listen to them all the time when I’m driving, running, in an airport. I would give you three podcasts. One is called Singularity.FM. A great podcast about AI, transhumanism, ethics, philosophy, and all those kinds of things mixed together.
I would probably also say there’s a new one out called In Machines We Trust, which I believe is MIT talking about AI and where it’s headed. And then there’s a podcast called Future Thinkers, which is not always technology-based. Sometimes it is, but a lot of future thinkers. It’s just on philosophy and what’s going on in the world.
To me, it’s a combination, Humalogy. I don’t want podcasts that are just about technology, and I don’t want podcasts that are just about humans. I want podcasts that mix up those topics. If you listen to each of those three, it’s a good river of information for you.
Jon: That’s awesome, and those are three new ones for me. I’ll be sure to put them in the show notes for today. I think my resource for this episode that I can’t miss is I’ll also go the podcast route, the Trailblazers podcast with Walter Isaacson. Each episode is about 30 minutes, and he really explores that untold story behind some of the world’s biggest digital disruptions, the people that really make it happen, and what they learned from it. Recent topics have been everything from genomics and esports to robotics and mattresses, of all things. Really pretty fascinating stories about different topics.
That’s a wrap on today’s show. Thank you, Scott, for joining me and for FortressIQ’s sponsorship. I’m Jon Knisely, and this has been hello, Human.