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Hello.

The phone dings. The caller ID shows it’s from the school. I breathe deeply and answer; hello. Immediately I realize it’s a recorded message. The voice on the other end is that of “your proud principal.” (That’s his sign-on in every message.) 😊 Mister A alerts us parents to a popular social media challenge, which in this instance, is no fun and games. He has a call to action that we engage in conversations with our teens.

 

This countrywide trending challenge, incites students to do dishonest and illegal things every month. In the month of September, students dared their peers to vandalize school property, film the activity and then post it. Minutes after the principal’s call, a recorded message from the Interim Superintendent of Public Schools in our county followed. Without the advances of technology, large-scale challenges such as this one could not be carried out—neither could attempts at intervention, for that matter.

 

Photo credit: toofab.com

 

What a double-edged sword technology can be, right? On the left hand, it can be used for devious, deceptive, destructive outcomes. On the right, it can be utilized for pre-eminent, paramount positive ones. (Switch up hands if you’re a lefty.) ✋🤚

 

In shifting our focus to the productive payoffs that technology brings, I believe that if a survey was conducted among small business owners on whether technology was a game changer during the pandemic, the number of those who jumped in front of the line over their competitors who failed to adjust and adapt, would be paramount. We all know scores of businesses that have shut down.

 

 

Let’s look at a couple of payoffs. One will take us back and one will swing us forward. Are you ready?

 

Photo credit: Wikipedia.org (PBX switchboard, 1975)

 

Communication

Did anyone operate a PBX board? 🙋‍♀️ It seems complicated, but it wasn’t. Although, it did demand all of our attention. Learning to put the round peg in the round hole as a child surely paid off in this type of office job. Needless to say, it took a lot of patience to operate most of the business machines in the 70s and 80s. Some, like the Telex, had several steps in order to operate, and they were super noisy!

 

 

As far as word processing, until the IBM Selectrics came out, typewriters were manual. If you took typing class in middle or high school in the late 70s, you probably learned to type on a manual typewriter. Remember how you had to put carbon paper between two clean sheets of paper to produce an extra copy to file? Oh, and G’d forbid you hit the wrong key—you then had to take your little bottle of white-out fluid, or correction tape, and lightly and skillfully blot out the original (top sheet), as well as the copy (bottom or back sheet). If all you had was the liquid, you had to blow on it till it was dry!

 

 

Going down memory lane, small businesses didn’t own copy machines, so if you wanted to make copies of a printed sheet, there was a manual machine called a Mimeograph. It consisted of a large drum roller of ink. You had to use a stencil and special paper. Did anyone else like the smell of that paper? 😆 A bit nostalgic, no?

 

 

Retail

What about the cash register? My first retail job was in a department store. I operated a manual machine similar to this one.

 

Photo credit: Emil Danut Mihaila

 

We had to enter the product number, price, and then figure out the change through mental math. They didn’t care how we did it. Some cashiers had a little note pad, others like myself, counted up from the total to the amount tendered. In other words, if the total was $16.34 and the customer handed us a $20.00, we counted up like this: .35 (grabbing a penny), .40 (grabbing a nickel), .50 (grabbing a dime), $17 (grabbing two quarters); then, $18, $19, $20 (grabbing three dollar bills). So the total change was $3.66.

 

Sure, a math whiz would subtract 16.34 from 20.00, but a math whiz I was not. This was the sure way for me to give my customer the exact change because at the end of each shift, we were accountable for any difference. It was deducted from our weekly paycheck.

 

If I were to tell you about the calculator I used in a bookkeeping summer job, and my groovy beeper, this would go on and on. Young people have it so good and easy today! Yet again—that’s exactly what my grandmother’s generation said about us baby boomers.

 

Processes that decades ago were unimaginable, such as apps, texts, e-mails, and video-conferencing, are like second nature to us today. Sure, most businesses still have use for a land line but not for long. Everyone is interested in more time and if there are other methods available, those where customers won’t have to spend 10-20 minutes on hold to get a task or transaction completed, most business owners will jump at the chance to utilize them.

 

Automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency.

Automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.

Bill Gates

 

 

As a business person, you have a myriad of ever-evolving software and processes that can help convey your messages clearly and concisely to consumers; in a more efficient and expeditious manner. Isn’t that the sustained goal? I mean, if your focus is not your customer or client, who or what else could possibly be!

 

 

Automation

In Kyoto, a new Buddhist priest has been assigned to read a “pre-programmed sermon about the Heart Sutra.” As the article in zestradar.com highlights, Mindar “does everything other priests do—interacts with worshipers, performs sermons, and reads mantras,”

 

This machine cost $1 million dollars, and its creators are in the planning stages of installing the AI that will give him the “necessary learning capabilities to interact with worshipers on a deeper level.” I respect everyone and their beliefs, but this is pushing the envelope. My question is: why; is the shortage of priests in Japan insurmountable?

 

Humans are the greatest, most excellent creation that has ever and will ever exist on the face of the earth. Above all, we have been endowed with the intelligence, talents, and skills, to build machines and program them.

 

For decades, Hollywood has banked on the idea of a dystopian future with a diverse list of films. Many of the movies like the Terminator series, I, Robot, Ex Machina and others, include takeovers by artificial intelligence (AI).

 

Although these are fictional and oftentimes quite extreme, business leaders have been making predictions about the future of robotics and automation pretty much since these films started coming out in the 50s. The professional services powerhouse PwC, for instance, has been forecasting that 3 out of 10 jobs could be automated by the mid-2030s. I think it might be a lot sooner, don’t you?

 

Just today, the young man at the drive-thru window, took my order, processed my payment, and disappeared for over 6 minutes. From my vantage point, I couldn’t see anyone else inside. Turns out, he had to go prepare and bag my food too! 😲 No wonder the signing bonus at this particular fast-food restaurant is $500.

 

 

In no particular order, the top five industries that will be most impacted by robotics and automation are:

 

Manufacturing

Agriculture & Food Service

Transportation

Law Enforcement

Health & Medicine

 

It occurs to me that given the current global events, business owners would not intentionally replace workers with artificial intelligence; but that the opposite is imminent. AI would need to be programmed to collaborate with whatever existing humans there are—with those who want to remain employed.

 

This grim reality is not one to be overlooked. We are already beginning to feel the effects. So, what are we to do in order to thrive? In an article published by the Harvard Business Review, James Wilson and Paul Daugherty address the topic of humans and AI joining forces. Here is an excerpt of what they discovered in their research of over one-thousand companies in twelve industries.

 

Companies benefit from optimizing collaboration between humans and artificial intelligence. Five principles can help them do so;

reimagine business processes;

embrace experimentation/employee involvement;

actively direct AI strategy;

responsibly collect data; and

redesign work to incorporate AI and cultivate related employee skills.

 

…the more of these principles companies adopted, the better their AI initiatives performed in terms of speed, cost savings, revenues, or other operational measures.

 

 

 

It would appear that in order to better than survive—for businesses big and small to thrive in the coming years—it is imperative they adapt! It is no longer a matter of if there will be a workforce transition greater than what we have experienced throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but simply, when?

 

As leaders navigate and manage this unprecedented technological change in the coming decade, there is no doubt that they must create new blueprints for employee engagement, work-life integration (over work-life balance), redistribution of capital, and cutting edge approaches that will attract younger consumers.

 

Photo credit: yahoo! entertainment

 

Against this backdrop, keep in mind for then and now that just because the customer experience is automated, it doesn’t have to be “robotic.” I believe machines will never be able to replace humans, but humans can get to the place where they will prefer to connect with machines. It’s vitally important that we remain professional while still being friendly and/or kind.

 

In a world where you can be anything, be kind.

Author Unknown

 

Workplace indifference and/or apathy spreads easier and faster than “the rona”; whether six feet apart or in virtual mode. If you were to ask me, I would say that it has more to do with a lack of purpose than anything or anyone else. Along those lines, click here for access to a great resource for workers, students, leaders—everyone who wants to find or confirm their mission, calling, or job fit.

 

 

Many fear a formidable future, I have faith the future will be formidable. Like technology and how it is used, the word formidable has two separate and contrasting meanings. One of fear and dread, the other of stunning wonder and magnificence.  So, which perspective will you embrace and make your own?

 

Hello. You are not on a recorded line. I hope this message is heard loud and clear. While times can be charged with challenges, by working smart, you can continue to rise above them all and lead your business ahead of the proverbial pack.

Enjoy this cool video because the future looks fantastic and we should be thrilled for the opportunities it will bring!

 

 

 

Get started today and check out the possibilities of what Team National can do for you. To learn about the Team National opportunity, please visit saveandearnmore.com.