Caveat: the following represents my personal views only.

Earlier today I wrote a post on the New Year and the Importance of “Getting Stuff Done” – Part 1 with the intent of waiting a day or two before doing part 2. Alas my brain has been buzzing with what I’d like to write and, in keeping with the getting stuff done (aka, #GSD!) spirit, I’ve opted to draft Part 2 this afternoon. After all, no time like the present.

If I could make one prediction for 2016, and one prediction only, it would be that networks of GSD’ers, a.k.a. positive “change agents”, will be ever-increasingly important. Networked GSD’ers will need to include human and technology nodes, to include smart algorithms and other automated approaches to help augment human abilities.

We’re going to need to think about how to we integrate the use of automated assistants “as team members” on teams. We’ve already seen the introduction of x.ai as an automated assistant (the default assistant is named Amy) that helps humans find time of their calendars to meet. What’s interesting is how human participants treat the automated assistant as if Amy were human, for example thanking Amy and wishing Amy a good weekend. How many of us refer to the voice of a GPS assistant as a ‘she’ or ‘he’ depending on its tone?

There’s also Siri, Cortana, Google Now, Watson, and other automated assistants that can help with finding information or automated searches. Facebook’s demonstration of algorithms answering questions about what is included in a photo is an interesting example of early “sensemaking” of a scene using automated image recognition.

Technologies as Ways to Overcome Our Limitations

In the past our species, Homo sapiens, used tools (a.k.a., technologies) as a way to overcome the limitations of our human bodies. More recently, with the advent of the printing press, mass production of books, the creation of the internet, world wide web, mobile apps, and related information technologies also allows us to augment the limitations of our minds. In the short-term, I don’t see advances in automated technology as replacing human workers completely; rather shifting work that humans used to do that was either routine or rote in nature to the machine – thereby allowing humans to focus on those activities that require creativity or ability to explore and search for “why”.

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That said – early examples of algorithms that can write music or attempt to write poetry exist, as do algorithms that can evaluate if a song is likely to make the top music charts. So automated technologies able to help augment some elements of human creativity in the workplace may also be on the horizon. Either way, we’re going to have to prepare for a future in which all of us will need to continuously train and retrain, as what we know and what is useful in the workplace will change at a speed faster than before.

The principle challenge for 2016 and going forward – especially if organizations are going to continue to exist and thrive in our rapidly changing world and if networks of positive “change agents” are to succeed at Getting Stuff Done (#GSD!) in the years ahead – is that we’re going to need leaders with the courage to experiment with new ways of encouraging teams of both human and automated technology nodes to work together in ways dramatically different than the past.

We have to be willing to disrupt how we work, lest some other organization, sector, or nation disrupt us first.

Working Smarter, Together

Judging from current trends, “krewes” (term taken from Bruce Sterling’s Distraction) composed of human and technology nodes focused on adapting to and accomplishing certain tasks, will become more important. Instead of hiring a specific person for a role, organizations may opt to assign it to a krewe. Krewes may float across organizations, akin to a freelancing team that brings its own devices, software, and algorithms to bear on challenging topics.

Long-term, organizations may be replaced by networked krewes bidding on work assignments, accomplishing them, and moving on to new assignments – and to degree contractors and contracted work already parallels this. What will be interesting and different from contracted work today is that automated technologies can help the krewe’s talent and time management be smarter than it was a decade or more ago, to include: (1) highlighting issues for different team to focus on, (2) suggesting what the best pairing of different team members might be, (3) removing some human biases from decision making to include decisions to recruit and promote, etc.

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Not that software is infallible, in fact we know software will have bugs and biases that human programmers may have included – which means we’ll need to experiment with ways to evaluate the effectiveness of krewe’s using automated approaches, to identify and fix bugs, and pioneer ways of making what an algorithm does more open and understandable to all human participants so they can spot bugs or biases in the code if they exist.

I mentioned in “Part 1” that with our rapidly changing world, it appears that the rapid changes regarding societies, technology, and how we connect as a planet provide no shortage of important “Getting Stuff Done”-opportunities. Several of these opportunities are around issues that no one person has all the answers, has all the abilities or resources by themselves, or can do completely by themselves.

Networks of GSD’ers, a.k.a. positive “change agents”, will be ever-increasingly important, as will leaders to willing to experiment with new ways of working smarter to include both human and technology nodes for the future ahead.

Here’s to 2016 and beyond. Any thoughts or comments, as always, are welcomed. Happy New Year to all!