Algorithms and business

The starting point for automation is to reduce an operation or process to a finite number of concrete steps that can be repeated with the same inputs to produce the same outcome. Algorithms are the basis for the astounding amount we can accomplish with computing power and often disappointing results we get from humans abiding by them.

They are, of course, very useful when deployed to guide human behaviour. In a not dissimilar vein, The Checklist Manifesto illustrates the value of checklists to avoid failure in complex scenarios – which is very similar to following an algorithm. The key difference is human agency.

The assessment and decision making of appropriately trained, empowered and motivated individuals can turn a smooth interaction into a delightful and memorable one. Such individuals can do more than solve problems efficiently; they can champion a brand and react spontaneously where something the algorithm didn’t foresee is occurring. This is more risky and expensive than simple compliance, but gives the potential for magic.

A significant algorithmic offender in my view – recruitment consultants. Automation is coming for you, because you “don’t have time” for magic.

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