Intelligent processes, enabled by digital technology, create a virtuous cycle of constant improvement fed by continuous feedback. And they are set to soon reinvent much of the way that businesses are run.
First, managers and workers alike need to adopt an experimental mindset and skills. A firehose of data won’t put out a fire if managers don’t know how to direct it. Managers and workers will need to get more comfortable using data to design experiments that lead to meaningful results. They will also have to live by rules that appear exotic now—along the lines of Facebook’s admonitions to “move fast and break things” and “done is better than perfect.” They will need to reward experimentation and foster a culture that encourages resilience in the face of inevitable failures. Companies have a steep learning curve ahead of them.Second, managers will have to recognize that their real value-added contribution will increasingly take the form of judgment rather than knowledge creation. Knowledge work won’t disappear completely. But much of what is currently referred to as knowledge work—the formulation of plans, completion of forms and coordination of data files—will soon be done by software guided by algorithms. What remains is judgment work: balancing opposing views and stakes, crafting a plan of action and making decisions. But judgment requires insight drawn from experience, and experience often involves a form of experimentation.Third, managers and professionals (whether they are in engineering, medicine, marketing, business strategy or operations) will need to get accustomed to taking advice from machines. No one disputes the value of contextual knowledge and human judgment, but it is a limited perspective—being able to see only what’s out your own window—that has most often prevented managers from seeing and exploiting opportunities for great gain.Finally, managers need to understand that the pursuit of intelligent processes is a choice. They can choose conventional approaches, but if they do, they shouldn’t expect the powerful results that can come from intelligent processes. Capturing the benefits of new technology will not be automatic.
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