What’s the opposite of automation? Manualization? What I’m referring to is deliberately engineering humans back into processes that were formerly automated. Why? Because making it faster, or making it cost less, is sometimes too expensive.
Sure, it’s faster for me to “press 1 for tech support” to get put in the queue, but maybe having a human answer the phone puts the value in the right place, rather than just in the place where it’s easiest to count. To quote John Thakara we need to “deliver value to people – not deliver people to systems”. The first time I read that, I had a flash of insight (it’s rare, but it happens):
Why shouldn’t we be able to design a call centre system that a) is financially progressive, and b) is enjoyable to work in? Let’s design people in and create new opportunities for meaningful, interesting, fun work to be done.
It’s mythology that machines are more efficient than people. More efficient for what? With all due respect to our local telecom monopoly, having people greet other people is a much more efficient way to be friendly, as people are simply better at it than machines. Exception handling is usually the single greatest expense in any automated system. It also happens to be what people are best at — in fact, (surprise, surprise) it turns out that they enjoy the variety.
- Ezio Manzini
- In the Bubble, 2005, by John Thackara
- Resisting the Virtual life, 1995 by James Brook (Editor) and Iain Boal (Editor). Wow, has it really been 10 years since I read this?