Monday, February 24, 2014

"The automation doesn’t replace us. It makes us better."

From Wired: What UPS Drivers Can Tell Us About the Automated Future of Work:

Many of us are a lot like UPS drivers in our daily lives: The only difference is we spend our days shepherding virtual bits between destinations rather than driving physical boxes around. But we still face many of the same prioritization and optimization challenges.

Yet one of the biggest misconceptions about software-enabled decision making is the idea that it’s far removed from us. Many people think of data as something technical that only accountants, warehouses, data scientists, or the latest slew of tech technology-as-a-coach startups need to worry about. We don’t recognize the strategic connection between information collection and decision making, or see how data can help increase our own performance.

This skepticism was in evidence during UPS’s first roll out of ORION. In hindsight, Levis admits that he bears some of the blame for that. “We’d go in the morning and say, here’s your planned number of miles,” he recalled. Telling a driver with years of experience that an algorithm knew how to plan a route better than he did struck them as more than a little dismissive.

Levis’s team decided to change approaches and tackle the drivers’ resistance head-on by issuing a challenge: “beat the computer” by combining ORION’s suggestions with their own. One driver who used ORION’s suggestions ended up subtracting 30 miles from his daily route.

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