“Everything we teach should be different from machines. If we do not change the way we teach, 30 years from now we will be in trouble.” — Jack Ma
Jack Ma, the co-founder of The Alibaba Group, was referring to education in the broadest sense but his point is spot on. Trying to imitate or duplicate machine learning is a losing battle. For many of my friends and clients this poses an existential problem. The solution is embedded in Ma’s observation: An individual, company, or team must master the skills and attitudes that machines can’t: Building and nurturing human connections, loving the process of innovation, learning to use our imaginations, and appreciating the power of inclusion and cooperation.
While the paramount objective of a machine is to complete a task, the paramount objective of a business is to enhance human well-being in economically efficient ways. The richness of the customer experience is the most constructive way to out maneuver artificial incursions. This experience thrives within the firm, with people who earnestly enjoy serving other people. The ways in which they learn and creatively customize their products and services, the ways that they invite participation in an interactive process. Most important to long term sustainability, the ways in which they send the right message: “Welcome to our family, and we’re grateful that you’re here.” Business’ should optimize for customer loyalty instead of customer transactions.
Let’s continue to rethink attitudes about how we treat people. Business labels tell us that people are human resources first, and humans second. Serving customers isn’t a race to an undetermined finished line, another call in the queue, another lead on another dashboard (doesn’t the name itself imply ‘Go fast’?), another inspiration-murdering KPI completed. Instead, help them learn to listen to customers deeply in order to understand and appreciate them. Empathy cannot be mechanized. Machines will never replace a warm hand shake or an incandescent smile or a joyful laugh. In other words, customers cannot be seen simply as end-users. In other words:
A business that fails to make people, communities, and society durably better also fails to create meaningful payoffs that matter in human terms, not just financial ones.