Scene One: A car park outside a hotel on the York ring road. A man and a woman, Neil and Sophie, come out of the hotel. They’re both carrying a leather case. Possibly it contains an iPad, or something of similar size.
Sophie: Ed was on form today…
Neil: Unbelievable. How can anyone have that much knowledge? Scanned straight through that proposal of ours.
Sophie: What was it? Twenty pages?
Neil: Thirty six. Full of really complex technical data as well.
Sophie: It’s relating the proposal to all the previous experience that staggers me. Honestly, Neil, I thought I’d reached the age where not much impresses me, but you put a proposal in – a business plan – and two minutes later Ed’s analysed it, compared it to about a thousand other businesses and told you the strengths and weaknesses. TAB is staggeringly good value for money.
Neil: Not like the old days, eh?
Sophie: (laughing) You can say that again. I mean, I liked Ed Reid. He was a decent bloke. But the difference in my business since they replaced him with Edwina…
They shake hands and climb into the back seat of their cars. They can be seen speaking some instructions. The cars start up and drive out of the car park.
If the blog is still around in ten or twenty years’ time that’s what you might be reading. Like Sophie, I thought I’d reached the age where not much impresses or surprises me – but the other day I came across this story on the BBC news site.
I had to read it twice to make sure it wasn’t a hoax. But no, the story’s real and the implications are enormous – for all of us. I’ve often written on the blog, ‘don’t think it can’t happen because it can.’ Amelia has taken that one step further – especially when you click on the link in the BBC story and see that a Hong Kong company has appointed an algorithm to its board of directors.
History is littered with people who’ve thought their business model was untouchable – that there’d always be a demand for candlesticks. Now more than ever you need to think the unthinkable – and think about how it would impact your business. Ten years from now the world will be a radically different place – and machines managing humans may be one of the least surprising aspects.
After all, as it says in the BBC article, “human judgement is often clouded by irrationality, emotion and imperfect knowledge.”
But human judgement and human behaviour is also distinguished – by insight, empathy, gut feeling and the sheer bloody-minded will to win.
Nowhere is this more evident than round an Alternative Board table. One business owner acting on his own is frequently irrational and emotional and acts on imperfect knowledge. But when he’s run that decision by six or seven of his peers irrationality is replaced by careful consideration; emotion by cool detachment and the imperfect knowledge is supplemented by the wisdom of the group. And when you’re accountable to your peers, your determination to succeed is even stronger. To repeat one of my favourite sayings, ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’
None of us knows what will happen in the future: but if you have to meet the challenges of running a business in an ever more rapidly changing world, you can’t be better armed than to have your TAB colleagues at your side.
But yes, I suppose it’s possible that it could play out like this…
Scene Two: The same car park, one month later. Sophie and Neil meet as they climb out of their cars.
Sophie: Hi Neil. How are you doing? Good month?
Neil: Staggeringly good thanks, Sophie. Smashed all our targets.
Sophie: Ed’ll be pleased with you.
Neil: Well it’s all thanks to her. Trouble is, she’ll make me increase our targets for next year.
Sophie: Yeah, she did that in December last year…
Neil: No Christmas drinks, either…
Sophie: Nope. One thing a Cognitive Learning Hologram doesn’t have is the Christmas spirit.
Neil: Maybe we should bring back Ed Reid…
They look at each other. Simultaneously they laugh and shake their heads. They walk into the hotel. Lights dim…