The tech-people partnership

Innovation must create value for humans, Korn Ferry’s Anthony Colella says. Second in series.



Anthony Colella is the firm’s vice president commercial product development.

Although technology is positioned to reshape the future of work, without a critical component—acceptance and adoption by people—it can never achieve its full impact. Korn Ferry believes that people are central to the future of work and that only a partnership between them and technology will release greater value for organizations. So what should the people-tech partnership should look like, and what will make it work?

Second in a series.

The Future of Work: To work is human

Read the full series. >

No company advances technology for the sake of innovating. Whether it improves the customer experience—by increasing choice, offering better pricing, or helping to increase employee performance— technology’s purpose is to create value for people, or to solve a human problem. People are ultimately the reason for every innovation.

But as people get more, they expect more. The challenge for business is to keep pace with ever-increasing customer expectations. Established companies often hesitate to invest in new, unproven technology, while start-ups with a “fail fast, fail better” attitude deploy it in unconventional ways to disrupt the status quo. Yet businesses that harness technology’s power stand to win big. The trick is for businesses to partner technology effectively with their value proposition to customers and their core competencies, usually embodied in the knowledge and talents of their people. Then the technology works for, not against, them whether it boosts performance, releases greater value, or creates more customer choice.

Three key trends: personal, predictive, just in time.

In the future, we will expect a hyper-personalized experience from companies. We will expect technology to be even more “predictive” and to deliver relevant information to us “just in time.” This trend is only accelerating.

Consider the healthcare firm that augments its physicians’ expertise with technology like IBM’s Watson. Advances in medical science are published every day; to keep up, physicians would need to spend 160 hours reading about them every week, clearly impossible.

But if a patient presents an unusual case and the doctor wants to confirm her diagnosis, Watson can analyze and combine information on symptoms, patient data, and family history with relevant articles and all current findings with speed and precision that no human can match. Ultimately, the machine delivers a list of potential diagnoses, along with a confidence score for each hypothesis, based on all the relevant data available. This increases the chances of an immediate, accurate diagnosis, and the physician’s own time is maximized: Doctors do the “human” part of the job (using their expertise and judgement to hypothesize) while the computer mines data (to support or disprove the hypothesis and enable accurate treatment to commence faster). Partnering with technology helps more patients and increases each physician’s productivity.

Imagine translating such capabilities and benefits to your businesses and customers. The “just in time” delivery of relevant, sifted content that enables more accurate, faster decision-making will help organizations increase agility and productivity.

But to serve us better, technology needs human help. Machine learning and artificial intelligence are sophisticated algorithms that “learn” by analyzing data about people and their actions; essentially, people train the algorithms through use. Facebook’s newsfeed function is a good example: It analyzes human behavior on the platform to refine the algorithm. To take it up a level, networked devices can “learn” from one another by sharing information in the cloud, meaning that machine learning can be replicated at scale. But none of this can occur without people and their cooperation, without the data and content that people constantly create.

So, strange as it sounds, people and technology need one another. It is only through their partnership and collaboration that the full potential of both can be realized. The challenge for business leaders is to identify the right technology to serve their customers best, then to connect it with their people.