No, technology won’t transform your business

Technology cannot empathise with customers, innovate for new ones, or dream on its own accord, argues James Legge of customer experience agency GHO Sydney.

In January 2019, rock icon Nick Cave was asked if artificial intelligence could ever write a good song. “AI could write a good song, but not a great one,” he replied. “It lacks the nerve.”

A few months earlier, Harvard Business Review found that while digital transformation was still the number one concern of CEOs and senior execs in 2018, some US$900bn had been wasted.

Organisations are clearly scrambling to innovate, but instead of investing in people, they’re investing in technology. The problem? Technology can’t empathise with people or create new ideas. That’s the human task.

Technology isn’t a strategy

And a strategy isn’t a strategy if it doesn’t give you a competitive edge. Clients often profess a desire to pursue ‘digital transformation’ in order to beat their competitors, but they usually want to follow the exact same path as everyone else.

Digital technology has never been more accessible to businesses, and that’s great, but simply investing in the same tech as your competitor and hoping for the best is not going to cut it. To quote Syndrome (the eponymous villain from Pixar’s The Incredibles): “When everyone is super, no one will be.”

Technology can’t be creative

There is no doubting technology is important to business. But technology alone can’t make you stand out from the crowd. On its own, technology has no value or ideas; it’s what people do with it that gives it value.

To initiate creative thinking, it’s important to step away from technology and focus on the ideas themselves, ideas that can generate value for people and the business. Most importantly, any ideas need to be prototyped and validated with people, before technology enables you to scale them.

Contemporary methods for creative thinking like ‘frame innovation’, ‘design sprints’ and ‘lean startup’ enable organisations to be both creative and agile, and to rapidly turn uncertainty into opportunity.

Technology cannot empathise

To be relevant means to matter to someone or something, to understand the experiences, emotions, feelings and dreams that make up our lives.

That’s why it’s always best to conduct in-depth interviews rather than focus groups, and choose empathy-mapping over demographic studies. By giving a diverse set of voices a seat at the table, we can find the human solutions which can then be scaled by tech.

Technology won’t transform your business

Global investment in digital transformation will reach US$2tn by 2022. Those who are investing in it must know exactly why they’re using technology, and where the human element fits into the puzzle.

Technology has a role to play, but ultimately, it’s people who will make you great.

James Legge is executive strategy director at GHO Sydney


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