“My job is just to comply”

I was being THAT guy in the cab.  After changing destinations a few times chasing the elusive blue dot that represented my friend in the park, I finally had the decency to apologize to the driver.  He chuckled in an understanding way “My job is just to comply.”

The response was in jest, but it really struck me.  Should anyone’s job description be so limiting?  Computers have command lines, people shouldn’t.

Yellow Cabs in New York City (2)

Aside from the moral implications of world reliant upon dictated service, let’s look at the economic consequences.  When you assert a task on someone it implies that your idea of that person’s productivity is better than their own.

In some cases this is totally appropriate; a more senior employee or manager may have the experience necessary to give people challenging tasks that help them grow.  But if we underestimate of the talents of others, or worse – continually put our immediate needs over their goals, we leave a lot of potential on the table.  That lost opportunity exponentiates when we make these mistakes for entire segments of the population across entire industries:  transportation and hospitality to name a few.  The time and energy poured into driving a car could be used to teach a new language at a public school or host a restauranteur at a local farm.

Firms that understand the efficiency of using technology to free human labor from jobs best left to machines are organizations that understand half the battle of “Digital Era” economics.  Google has made heavy investments in transportation automation with it’s huge effort into driverless cars and landmark stake in Uber.  Tech innovation alone has costs though; It hurts for those caught in the transition.

Thus, the other half of progress will come in finding and deploying the unique strengths of those who have been pushed into a box for so long.  Once employees move “out of the weeds”, firms will have to organize around human strengths in order to capture the full value of improvement in technology.  Firms can cut costs with automation alone, but will severely lack in competitive innovation and market connection without the crucial, complementary inclusion of human networks.