A new paradigm: focusing on Work to be Done

Much of what we read about with artificial intelligence, deep learning and robots can present a fear that our jobs are simply going, vanishing fairly soon. Technology, machines and information solutions will take over in this new world of accelerating technology with the concern of “so then, what do we do?

Well, I believe we have a real chance to, at last, celebrate. Yes celebrate, we can finally be liberated! Ever since the industrial revolution, we have been caught up in the productivity and efficiency trap, in the monotony of repeating work.

Today we are on the cusp of changing that.  Can you imagine all those boring, repetitive jobs we are faced with today can be simply handed over to machine intelligence, just happy to do the task at hand? Surely, if we manage this correctly it can release us up, it can enable our ingenuity to thrive.

Scary, yes, if you fear using your creative mind and actually enjoy repetitive work, where you switch off and become the robot equivalent, leaving decisions to others, just getting on with the work in hand. The productivity perspective of having robots and artificial intelligence constantly repeating, improving and doing the work to be done is liberating, isn’t it surely if we manage it properly?

Back in 1776 Adam Smith wrote a famous book “the Wealth of the Nations” and discussed the “work to be done“. This caught my interest, we all get so caught up in the repeating stuff we find little time for the “work to be done“. It is this that generates the new, pushes the boundaries beyond the existing, it gives us the chance to explore new possibilities. It allows us to apply our human brains to more creative work.

Let us designate the constant repeating “work done” to our new friends the robots and machines. Let’s find the time to learn new things, develop a new level of dexterity, adaptiveness and ‘hone’ our senses to actively go out and seek. I made this “work to be done” shift as part of my advisory business some years back and it is even more relevant today, more than ever, focus forward not constantly tracking back.

Work to be done” is searching for our future growth through human ingenuity. It is working through the data, collected intelligence can provide to connect the dots, see different possibilities, use our creativity, our originality, our inventiveness, our adaptable skills to do new work. That is the power of “work to be done“, the place we humans do need to find as much time as we can to explore the needs to be resolved, unraveled and find solutions to increasingly complex challenges to be worked upon and eventually resolved.

As we are fed increasing knowledge at a faster rate, we need to learn to absorb more. The more active we become engaged in knowledge sharing, in building outcomes from the networking between machines and humans, the more potential we can to release new insights, if, again if, we are released from the constant work done world.

The more we shift from physical ‘work done’ to more intellectual ‘work to be done‘ we can grow our future in the best ways, the future does come into our hands. It is searching for the necessary ‘work to be done‘ that is so important for innovation insights, and today much of that remains hidden, waiting to be discovered. Yet we so often never find the time as we are so caught up in the repeat in our lives of the ‘work done’, that constant drumbeat of repeating tasks as part of our job. What if we designed our future that released the human from this repetitive work?

Can you imagine secretaries, administration assistants, operations, many managers positions, first-line supervisors, cashiers, industrial engineers, customer service representatives, lawyers, helpers, laborers and material movers, positions that can can all be automated and then “released” to become far more wealth creating, not value defending, as their new role?

As we gain more understanding of what automation and information technology can give us we can channel that “data-driven innovation” (DDI) in different, new ways. If we spend time on innovation that creates real new business value by structuring different technologies to “define and capture” to a more specific context we can accelerate outputs and outcomes. We can enhance research and development, focus on searching for products that meet “need” better than existing ones. We can find more time to optimize processes and our production processes, from what WE learn from placing our robots and intelligence gathering at Our disposal, by using what they gain in intelligence and work productivity to put to our good use to constantly innovate.

We might be in the position of putting the human race into being finally released for real economic and social growth as their job, the “work to be done“. We form around new rules and work and we actually expect from our new assistants our measurement of technologies, social and economic success, for us to make new advances we know we all need in this world.

For instance, the OECD highlights the value of data is needing to be context dependent. Read my view of Innovation discovery as context dependent. The OECD suggests there are seven dimensions of data quality, well how about these become “OUR” demands or output expectancies from our new robot friends on all that “raw” intelligence, as a new world order of what we expect from “them”. Let me put my expected rules I want from becoming more data dependent based on the OECD seven they suggest.

  • Relevance of the data provided to address a purpose that allows me to advance my “work to be done
  • Accuracy to describe the characteristics we require to advance on what we have
  • Credibility to give us confidence that what we are getting to know, is really going to help us in what we do need to know not what is simply data, for data sake.
  • Timeliness not based on the availability of the data (today’s fixation) but permits the information to be of value and can be acted upon when it works for us. It does not necessarily have to be ‘real-time’ but timely to our need for the “work to be done
  • Accessibility by knowing where to look so it can be accessed when we need it, not ‘pushed at us (today) but ‘pulled out’ when we need it
  • Interpretability is the ease of our understanding this gets replaced by us exploring its value in the context of what we have set up to build our understanding of the “work to be done” by spending more time in testing, validating, experimenting and seeing the connections to turn it (all) into new value
  • Coherence is the logical path and where we want ‘work done’ to be consistent to our needs so we can spot variance, seek out new logic and make it reconcilable to what we are wanting to do.

I wrote an article “Work to be done is innovation’s invisible hand” back in 2013. It is an earlier “take” on the value of “work to be done”. Let’s build from this, can you imagine our new extra pair of hands, unbelievable computing intelligence and technology potential all focusing on what needs to be done and feeding us what we require, to build something different, to advance on what we have, to crack more complex problems. If we can now harness much of the data and repetitive work to release us from that world of “productivity and effectiveness” into one of “creativity and ingenuity” it might be a more stimulating and satisfying world where our contributions are actually making a difference.

The choice is ours on how we deploy what is around us.

The end outcome should be one where we all can be redeployed into the “work to be done” where new growth can be explored with a freer mind and an array of new assistants releasing us to undertake this new work. Now that is a revolution I feel is worth wanting.

The only fear you might have is knowing you are going to spend more time on exploring the unknowns and leave the knowns to others to deal with, as long as we still have human oversight managing this. Let’s look to “work to be done” as a wonderful chance of finally being liberated, to be more innovative and creative, adaptive and something we are actually designed to do. Remember intuition and foresight, our ability to connect random thinking should play to our strengths.


One thought on “A new paradigm: focusing on Work to be Done

  1. We can define the total work as the sum of what we do “to deliver a solution” – Work to be done (A) – the busy work we do through processing information (B) and all the running around we do (Physical work (C).
    Then the efficiency at work of every professional:
    PE SCORE = A / (A+B+C)
    In our informal surveys we find the PE Score to be around 15 to 20%
    Most “successful” professionals have a PE Score of around 35%
    For more details: https://stimsinstitute.com/2013/12/03/what-is-your-professional-effectiveness-pe-score/


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