Contrary to popular fears that the advance of technologies such as data analytics, machine-to-machine communications and robotics are circumscribing the influence of humans on business activities, new research from the Economist Intelligence Unit suggests that future human-technology relationships are much more likely to be marked by harmony rather than acrimony. Nearly three in four respondents (74%) to a global EIU survey, for example, dispute the notion that technology is making it more difficult for employees to be more creative or imaginative. Almost six in ten (58%) say increasing technology-intensity has made employees more rather than less creative in developing ideas both for new product ideas and for new or improved business processes. And little more than one-third believe that technology is stifling open discussion with their organisation (36%).
These are among the findings of Humans and machines: The role of people in technology-driven organisations, a new report published today by the EIU and sponsored by Ricoh. (It is being released at The Economist Event's Technology Frontiers Summit, opening on 5th March in London.) The report consists of a series of articles examining issues posed by human-technology interaction in selected sectors—financial services, healthcare, education and manufacturing—and their implications for decision-making, customer relationships and many other areas. Each of the articles points to areas where the line between humans and machines are becoming blurred and where potential exists for the role of human imagination and intuition to recede. Examples from disparate sectors include medical diagnostics, automated equity trading, manufacturing-floor robotics and, in education, massive open online courses.
"In all of these examples, the given technology developments are likely to enrich individuals' roles and push employees up the cognitive value chain rather than squeeze them out of it," says Denis McCauley, the EIU's Director, Global Technology Research and editor of the report."
Other findings from the research include the following:
· System disconnects and process failures cause most technology-related problems. Only 12% of survey respondents say that technology is the main point of failure when things go wrong in their organisation. When problems do arise in the use of technology, the two most likely causes are that systems are not connected to each other (40% of the sample) or that technology is evolving faster than the processes being written to use it (38%).
· Threats exist, however, to scenarios of enhanced creativity and imagination. The vast majority of survey-takers (82%) report that the time they spend using e-mail has increased in the past three years, and over half (52%) say the increase has been substantial—a worrying trend if one accepts the premise that e-mail is a creativity-sapping activity. And while technology tools are helping employees to be more creative and innovative, they are not necessarily freeing up more time for such activity.
· Greater harmony requires more creative processes. Smoother interaction between humans and machines will not come about of its own accord. For this to be achieved, considerable attention is required to the processes organisations develop to govern how the technologies are used. Almost nine in ten respondents (87%) agree with the proposition that human-technology interaction will only add value if organisations are more creative with the processes created to connect the two.
Humans and machines: The role of people in technology-driven organisations
is available free of charge at:
Notes for editors
Humans and machines: The role of people in technology-driven organisations is an Economist Intelligence Unit white paper, sponsored by Ricoh.The analysis in the report is based on a two-pronged research effort. The first is a survey of 432 senior executives (including 63 from the financial sector; 40 from healthcare, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals; 50 from education; and 80 from manufacturing), conducted in November and December 2012. The sample is global, with roughly equal numbers emanating from Europe, North America and Asia-Pacific. All respondents are at a senior level: 50% hold C-suite or board positions. They hail from over 20 different industries, with the aforementioned ones being the most heavily represented. Just over half of the firms in the survey (53%) have annual revenue in excess of US$500m, with nearly one in five having US$10bn or more. Complementing the survey was a series of 20 in-depth interviews conducted with prominent business and technology thinkers as well senior corporate executives across different sectors.
About the Economist Intelligence Unit
The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) is the world's leading resource for economic and business research, forecasting and analysis. It provides accurate and impartial intelligence for companies, government agencies, financial institutions and academic organisations around the globe, inspiring business leaders to act with confidence since 1946. EIU products include its flagship Country Reports service, providing political and economic analysis for 195 countries, and a portfolio of subscription-based data and forecasting services. The company also undertakes bespoke research and analysis projects on individual markets and business sectors. More information is available at www.eiu.com or follow us on www.twitter.com/theeiu
The EIU is headquartered in London, UK, with offices in more than 40 cities and a network of some 650 country experts and analysts worldwide. It operates independently as the business-to-business arm of The Economist Group, the leading source of analysis on international business and world affairs.
Ricoh provides technology and services that can help organisations worldwide to optimise business
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