The vast steps forward in technology we experienced in the last two hundred years has fuelled companies’ efficiency and productivity - two essential factors for the success of any business. After all was the invention of the steam engine and its various applications (locomotives, steamboats, mills, mines, etc.) that gave birth to the industrial world.
The industrial economy made us all wealthy – well, some more than others – yet it’s safe to say that created the right conditions for what we name today ‘middle class’. Both my parents and grandparents belonged to it - I’m the son of the industrial economy.
In the last twenty years though, things have been gradually shifting. Today is no longer the brute force of the machine that overpowers the human strength, but rather its ability to outsmart us.
Machinery has evolved from strong apes to civilised and smart computers.
So, can we give up thinking, and outsource this ability to computers? In other words, can the success of a new business be coded in an algorithm? Like the human genome in the DNA?
Despite tech enthusiasts, I’m afraid not.
At the essence of any new business ideas, there are empathy and creativity, two functions or better privileges reserved to humans.
Empathy: while computers can recognise you, can read your fingerprints or scan your retina they are not able to comprehend your beauty, needs, wants, emotions.
Creativity: computers avail of ‘virtually’ unlimited memory, but they can’t develop memories. While calculators can outsmart humans at playing chess, or any other zero-sum game ‘by calculating all the possible moves on the chess board’ they can’t envision a move outside the instructions they receive.
Any new or existing business to grow sustainably requires the creativity and the empathy of leaders, people able to recognise an un-articulated customer need, see a solution outside the current interpretation (offer or value proposition) and bring a team together to anticipate that future.