I’m reading a great book by Tom Davenport and Julia Kirby called “Only Humans Need Apply: Winners and Losers in the Age of Smart Machines.” The central premise of this book is that the rise of cognitive computing has the potential to augment, rather than displace, human workers, if workers take steps to embrace the change and utilize technology to work better, smarter, and faster.
Davenport and Kirby go on to describe how knowledge workers, the next wave of people to have their work transformed by artificial intelligence and machine learning, can prepare for a future where machines encroach on decision-making. I won’t spoil it for you, you should read it yourself — it’s a worthwhile and timely exploration of the future of knowledge work.
In one chapter the authors cite a lead data engineer and his boss at the insurance organization XL Catlin, who describes a common situation:
“The business people…know what data they need and can define requirements, but don’t have the skill set to design a data architecture that gives them the data they need. Technology people don’t understand business requirements, but they can design the data architectures. It’s like the people in IT speak blue, the people in business speak red, but we need people who speak purple.”
I’ll leave aside the political metaphors, Matrix references and jokes (“I don’t work blue, but…”) for now, because what struck me as I read the above passage is that I can’t think of a better explanation of what I do than this: I speak purple.
The act of translating business needs and context into conceptual design of automated and analytical systems (and frequently, mapping them to a “canned” set of technologies like Office 365) is quite literally how I spend my time, why I formed Collacrity, and what I love to do.
I highly recommend the book — if you want some top-notch thinking about the future of knowledge work and how to prevent your skills becoming obsolete, it’s a fine read that complements Andy McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson’s “Race Against the Machine” (2011) and “The Second Machine Age” (2014).