Human + Machine by Daugherty and Wilson – My Five Lessons and Takeaways

One of the most important characteristics, for a human worker or a machine, is not necessarily to have the exact skill for a job but be able to learn. “Don’t be a know-it-all,” says Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on the topic. “Be a learn-it-all.”
• from Human + Machine


Human + MachineWhat is the point? — Ours is rapidly becoming a world filled with Artificial Intelligence (AI).  Developing greater abilities for humans to work with machines (Humans + Machines) provides the only future path forward.

I think that captures the point of the helpful book Human + Machine: Reimagining Work in the Age of AI by Paul R. Daugherty and J. James Wilson.  I presented my synopsis of this book at the September 7 First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas.  As I said in my synopsis, if you are in the midst of experimenting and working with/in artificial intelligence, this book does not provide the technical and technological help you need.  But, if you want your mind to swirl, or you want to understand what is here now, and coming soon, and coming later, with AI, this is the book to read.

Here are my three reasons why this book is worth our time:

#1 – This book is a pretty good and thorough primer on where things stand now in the development of AI.  We need to keep up; this is the world we live in. 
#2 – This book will help us think about the human place and role in work in the world of rising AI capabilities. 
#3 – This book will inspire us to think about what is possible in ways that we have not yet considered.

The book is filled with stories of the breakthroughs now here, and coming, with AI.  And there are plenty of examples included of humans working alongside machines.  I especially like the word “cobots” – robots working with humans. .  (Note: “machine” is pretty all-compassing; robots, automation; software…).

Here are a few key excerpts from the book:

In the past, executives focused on using machines to automate specific workflow processes.

…linear, stepwise, sequential, standardized, repeatable, and measurable,

But performance gains from that approach have recently been leveling off, as companies wring the last bits of efficiencies from mechanistic automation.

In essence, they are moving beyond rigid assembly lines toward the idea of organic teams that partner humans with advanced AI systems.

In essence, machines are doing what they do best: performing repetitive tasks, analyzing huge data sets, and handling routine cases. And humans are doing what they do best: resolving ambiguous information, exercising judgment in difficult cases, and dealing with dissatisfied customers. This kind of emerging symbiosis between man and machine is unlocking what we have called the third wave of business transformation.

Specifically, employees will be needed to design and train algorithms, to explain the algorithms used, and to do so in a way that sustains the algorithms within a process.

Decades from now (or sooner), it will seem absurd that doctors prescribed the same treatment to a wide swath of their patients. Everyone’s treatments will be personalized.

Businesses need to shift from seeing processes as collections of sequential tasks. In the age of AI, processes become more dynamic and adaptable.

Outcomes are no longer linear but exponential. Change is no longer episodic and human-led; it’s self-adaptive, based on realtime input from humans as well as machines. 

We’re at the cusp of a new era of business transformation, the age of AI. … it’s time to discard dusty old notions of humans versus machines, and instead embrace an exciting new world of human and machine.

Why did the authors write this book? — That’s why we wrote this book: to give people who are thinking about their organization, their team, or their career the knowledge they need that will separate winners from losers in the new age of A.  …the ability to reimagine how things currently are. In essence, this is what this book has been all about—reimagining how AI can transform and improve work, organizational processes, business models, and even entire industries. …Our primary goal in Human + Machine is to provide leaders, managers, and workers with the necessary tools to prepare for this coming third wave of process transformation.

I noted this about what’s here, and what’s coming:

• machines doing empathetic customer service; machines keeping, entering, and sharing medical records; machine hiring; truly self-driving (machine-driven) cars/vehicles; personalized drugs; “cobots”;incredibly precise surgery.  — “We’re working to provide empathy as a service to any voice or messaging platform . . . We think that’s a critical user experience for a world in which you’re conversing with computers.” 

I believe this is maybe the question the book is trying to answer:

Since machines will replace much of the work done by humans, what will be the (new) work for humans to do? This book seeks to answer that question. 

And I suggested these 3 additional questions:

• What are machines doing?
• What will machines do?
• What will humans do?

The authors are plenty optimistic that the new jobs created for humans working alongside machines will be enough; even plentiful.  This is what I wrote on my handout:  the authors want us to “relax,” and believe that as the machines take over many jobs from humans, there will be at least as many new jobs created for humans as the humans work withthe machines. I’m not so sure about that… There will be new jobs, yes.  They convinced me of that.  But, as many jobs?  I don’t know… 

But, here is one new job that will likely be needed, and filled: HR Directors for machines, providing training; correcting; firing; re-purposing; performance reviews for our machines.

And the authors make the case that the “big idea” is the “Missing Middle.” 

We call this the “missing middle”—“ missing” because almost no one talks about it, and only a small fraction of companies are working to fill this crucial gap. In the missing middle, humans work with smart machines to exploit what each party does best. For their part, machines in the missing middle are helping people to punch above their weight, providing them with superhuman capabilities.

They spend a lot of time explaining MELDS:  mindset, experimentation, leadership, data, and skills (MELDS), and tie back to these skills in quite a few sections of the book.

And their strong recommendation in that we focus on eight fusion skills:

#1 — FUSION SKILL #1: Rehumanizing Time — Definition: The ability to increase the time available for distinctly human tasks like interpersonal interactions, creativity, and decision making in a reimagined business process.
#2 — FUSION SKILL #2: Responsible Normalizing — Definition: The act of responsibly shaping the purpose and perception of human-machine interaction as it relates to individuals, businesses, and society.
#3 — FUSION SKILL #3: Judgment Integration  — Definition: The judgment-based ability to decide a course of action when a machine is uncertain about what to do.
#4 — FUSION SKILL #4: Intelligent Interrogation — Definition: Knowing how best to ask questions of AI, across levels of abstraction, to get the insights you need.
#5 — FUSION SKILL #5: Bot-based Empowerment — Definition: Working well with AI agents to extend your capabilities, and create superpowers in business processes and professional careers.
#6 — FUSION SKILL #6: Holistic Melding — Definition: The ability to develop robust mental models of AI agents to improve process outcomes.
#7 — FUSION SKILL #7: Reciprocal Apprenticing — Definition: (1) Performing tasks alongside AI agents so they can learn new skills; (2) on-the-job training for people so they can work well within AI-enhanced processes.
#8 — FUSION SKILL #8: Relentless Reimagining — Definition: The rigorous discipline of creating new processes and business models from scratch, rather than simply automating old processes. 

I ended my synopsis with my five lessons and takeaways:

#1 – AI is here.  Don’t fight it.
#2 – AI is here.  Learn about it; embrace it.
#3 – Because of the perpetual change in how the world will work, become even more intentional about learning. Always keep learning.
#4 – Pay special attention to your technological skills.  Keeping up has never been more important.  Keep up!
#5 – You will adjust. Relax — a little.

Do I recommend this book?  Absolutely.  If for no other reason than this:  we are all being impacted by artificial intelligence, in ways we don’t yet grasp. And, the arrival of AI has barely begun. There is so much, much more to come. This book will help you think about it, recognize it, look forward to it, plan for it, and even welcome it.

But, as for all those new jobs with humans working with and alongside the machines.  I hope they are right.  I’m still not so sure.


My synopsis of Human + Machine, with the audio recording of my presentation, and the comprehensive, multi-page handout, will be available soon at the buy synopses tab at the top of this web page.  Here is the link to our newest additions for our available synopses.

One thought on “Human + Machine by Daugherty and Wilson – My Five Lessons and Takeaways

  1. charles

    once businesses and companies started using excel, murmurs about the actuarial and accounting profession started coming out. People thought that the computer would just replace actuaries and accountants and they’d be out of a job. However, now we know that they simply use excel to make their lives easier and quality of work better. The same will happen with AI and machine learning. The profession will adapt, rather than be eradicated, to the emergence of new tech.


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