What is your Human Intelligence Task Ratio?

by Lars on January 15, 2016

Humans and Robots

Some time ago I went to a local sandwich shop. I frequently order just simple bread with vegetables. So I did the same thing on that day:

“Just a bread roll with salad please.”

The answer: “This is not possible.”

Me: “Why?”

The answer: “There is no number for that.”

Me: “But I can see the bread there and the salad there, can’t you just put the two together? Just charge me the price of a regular sandwich.”

The answer again: “Sorry, there is no number for that.”

I did not make the purchase. Not that the sandwich shop will go broke because of that, but the answer actually was very telling and revealing about the state of this particular business. I see two possibilities here:

  1. The business was designed indeed like this and/or the manager gave that order to only sell where there is a number: If so, it was probably easy to scale, but it looses out on potential human engagement. Maybe good investment but certainly not the best in terms of customer engagement.
  2. The business/managers did not design it like this: Then the person was responsible for this. With the answer “There is no number for that”, the individual actually confined herself to mediocrity.

And frankly, I see that answer 2) quite often: People hiding behind their forms, behind the apparent easiness of structures.

The problem is, in a time where software is eating the world this approach like can make work very fast turned into an algorithm and thus not so relevant any more.

What can be done instead? Define and assess your true H.I.T.s. or Human Intelligence Tasks, tasks that a computer/algorithm cannot do (yet).

The term HIT was coined by Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, a crowd-sourcing platform for HITs.

While on Mechanical Turk you can source currently rather straightforward tasks (like tagging pictures, creating lists etc.), the broader question of the HIT is:

How does your work look like? How much during your average day are you involved in Non-HIT activities like filling forms and just following a simple process?

And how many true HIT activities are you involved in? These are activities similar to the big four 21st century skills as identified by the American Management Association: Creativity, Communication, Critical Thinking and Collaboration.

My suggestion: Regularly assess your personal HIT ratio (HIT vs. Non-HIT tasks during an average week). And then try to increase the true human intelligence task part of it.

The complex, the engaging, the interacting work. Work that matters. This is what it’s worth investing your time in.

Lars Sudmann is an expert on high-performance leadership in global corporations. You can contact Lars to work with you as change consultant or keynote speaker & workshop facilitator for your next event. This article also appeared on his blog: www.lars-sudmann.com, where you can also watch his TEDx talks. You can also follow Lars here and on Twitter

Images credit: Shutterstock.com

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