Bridging the Gap Between People and Machines
Anna Osgoodby Life + Design :: Bridging the Gap Between People and Machines

Who wants to be able to perform tasks at their job faster and more efficiently? I’m going to go on a limb and say most people. After all, for those of us working freelance or on a project basis, more time often means more availabilities to take on new projects. So what is the magic formula to making this a reality? AI! If you caught my last two blog posts, Making Every Place the Work Place and What Do Smarter Teams Look Like, you already got a glimpse at some of the ways technology is advancing the way we work. Today, I’m going to expand upon those ideas and talk about how we will bridge the gap between people and machines as we continue to integrate AI into our lives.

Building Complimentary Relationships between AI and Humans

As mentioned in my previous post, the idea that AI will replace humans makes for catchy headlines, but the truth is, we’re not going anywhere. Instead, we will use technology to develop AI that can focus on specialized tasks to streamline our processes and allow us more time for our expertise. Sandy Pentland, Toshiba Professor of Media Arts and Sciences, MIT Media Lab explains the process well in an interview with Jim Guszcza, Chief Data Scientist, Deloitte Consulting, “The human does the strategy, the machine does the tactics, and when you put them together you get a world-beater.”

Humans are really great at reading people and understanding social context, something that machines are not as great at. While machines can keep track of data, analyze information and process research much faster than humans. As a team, humans can program AI to do specific tasks and we are able to piggyback off of the strengths and weaknesses of each – an ideal partnership. The concept may seem new since these partnerships are with machines, but the idea isn’t new. In fact, it’s what we already do when working in teams. For example, my business partner and I work great together for the very reason that we are able to identify our strengths and divide tasks accordingly. This allows us to get more done in a shorter amount of time than if we were both focused on one task together. In the future, we will not only be able to do this with our human counterparts but we will also be able to add AI into the mix to further increase productivity. Doing so will not only expedite many of our processes, but it will allow us to focus more on our human strengths of interpersonal connections while machines can focus on other aspects.

Teams Making Better Decisions

Something that will be very beneficial to my work as a designer is the ability to use AI to assist teams with making better decisions. As humans, something we all possess is a lot of opinions! Which is great, it’s what makes our personalities unique and gives us different perspectives. What isn’t great about that is often when you’re working on project with a team, there are a variety of different opinions on how things should be done and it’s not always easy to find a clear compromise. Insert AI. By integrating AI into collaborative software, teams will be able to brainstorm all of their ideas, input the data and then allow AI to take an analytical approach to help find an ideal solution.

This integration can also help with equalizing the playfield for team members who are collaborating. While working in a team atmosphere is a great system for brainstorming and developing new ideas and innovations, there are some common struggles many face as well. Often there is an inequality of value in ideas due to the internal hierarchy of positions in organizations. It is common for management figures to have more say in the end result of decisions and by integrating AI in the decision process, it may help give more attention to ideas from other members of the team.

As a designer, the integration of AI in collaborative projects could be a game changer for the work I do. As I mentioned, as humans we have a lot of opinions and this carries over to the client feedback part of my process. Often when I’m working on projects I’m juggling the opinions of many team members and trying to find a solution that will not only keep my clients happy but also accomplish the end goal they are looking for. With AI, my clients will be able to brainstorm their opinions and compile a summary of their ideas and how they’d like to move forward. Not only will this improve productivity of client relations but it will also be able to streamline and speed up the process of my work. 

The way I see it, remote work will only benefit from embracing technology and the use of AI. Not only will it free up availability from time-consuming tasks, but it will also help us make better decisions when it comes to the end goal and bottom line. Smarter and more effective teams, more collaborative teams and better decisions? I’m not sure there is a downside.


**This post is brought to you by Cisco and IDG. The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Cisco.

AI and the Future of Collaboration
Bold & Pop : AI and the Future of Collaboration

As the trend of working remotely evolves, so too will the technology we use. The truth is, the way we’re working today is very different from five years ago and with that, adaptive technology is being created to fill our needs. So what does that mean in a collaborative team setting?

Smarter Tools that Work Together

In my post “What Do Smarter Teams Look Like?” I touched on the fact that as we move forward, our tech will continue to get smarter. Today I’m going to take that one step further. While having technology that is intuitive and takes over mundane tasks like setting up conference calls is nice, it’s even better when that technology integrates automatically across several tools we use.

What do I mean by that? Well, technology has advanced and made it much easier to collaborate regardless of our location or even device, but sometimes that doesn’t correlate between programs. Collaborative technology is great, only it’s not so great when every client you work with uses something different. As we move into the future, our collaborative programs will need to work on integrating new features internally or improving API functionality so that they can interact seamlessly with third-party programs.

This will benefit remote working in many ways. Just as Google and Microsoft began integrating chat and file-sharing applications into their programs in the early 2000s, collaborative software will continue to expand its offerings and capabilities. No longer will you need to toggle between different programs for signing agreements, invoicing, submitting project feedback, setting up conference calls, and scheduling. Instead, our tools will evolve and be focused more on compatibility and working together.

In an opinion piece for CIO.com, “The growing impact of artificial intelligence on workplace collaboration” Dave Smith observes, “The emerging focus on AI is really about making decision support systems more efficient across a multitude of applications, processes and business domains. I believe AI will bring intelligent collaboration capabilities to the emerging Conversational Workspace platforms.” The technology that will stand the test of time will be able to streamline workflows and find solutions for our needs.

Another benefit of adapting AI and other technology advances is localizing business data. In an age of systems being hacked and private data being exposed, this will allow businesses to keep better track of their information.

Making Remote Work Friendlier

As I touched on in my earlier post, AI enables teams to cut back on mundane tasks such as testing technology or setting up conference calls. Another element of this is having technology perform actions automatically based on strategies developed by humans. So you could have AI tackle some of the following tasks:

  • Transcribe conference calls and send recap emails to participants
  • Listen in for meeting details and create reminders to do specific tasks
  • Suggest relevant documents to share with team members
  • Add deadlines to your calendar or project management tools
  • Book co-working spaces or provide suggestions for in-person meetings

These are just a few examples of how AI can intuitively help with our processes. Although that’s great for freeing up some of our time, AI will also provide some much-needed support to those working independently. While there are many benefits to working remotely, it can be a transition for those who are used to working in an office setting. Integrating AI provides support for day-to-day tasks that can help make the experience a little friendlier.

Having an AI Assistant in Your Back Pocket

Beyond eliminating mundane tasks, AI has the opportunity to dramatically improve our workflow with specialized AI assistants. As a designer, I use the Adobe Suite for my graphic design work and Squarespace for all of my website design projects. In my line of work one part of my job is listening to the type of design my client is looking for and the other is figuring out how to actually make that a reality.

While I have quite a bit of experience in both fields, there are many times that I have to research techniques or instructions on how to accomplish said goals. By having AI technology specific to each of these programs, it would be able to provide intuitive suggestions or shortcuts based on my activity to help me achieve the effect I’m looking for. This would allow me to focus more time on bringing my clients’ visions to life and less time reading through research or watching tutorials. Something that would benefit all parties involved.

In closing: Technology and AI have the power to revolutionize how we work remotely, but it is up to us to identify our needs for the technology. When we take full advantage of it, AI will enable us to build stronger partnerships, maximize remote working opportunities, and perform our tasks in a super human way that wasn’t possible previously.


**This post is brought to you by Cisco and IDG. The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Cisco.

Sit Next to Me :: What Do Smarter Teams Look Like?
Anna Osgoodby Life + Design :: Sit Next to Me :: What Do Smarter Teams Look Like?

As the way we look at the workplace evolves, so too will the way we work together as teams. Whether you’re an entrepreneur like myself, or working in a corporation, spending more time out of the office is going to have a profound effect on that work. So how can teams become smarter and work more intuitively? Here are some thoughts.

Getting Smarter Tech

As we rely more heavily on video conferencing and conference calls, we also find ourselves becoming more demanding. We’ve all been on a conference call waiting for everyone to dial in, only to get an email from someone whose phone number or passcode isn’t working, necessitating another dial-in. Or you’re on a video conference, and the software isn’t working properly. In both cases, it could be 15-20 minutes before you even begin to address the purpose of the call. Tech is great when it works, but in many ways the technology we’re using still lags behind. According to a Wainhouse Research study, “despite ongoing increases in demand, utilization and usability, the process and workflow for organizing, participating in and closing-out a conference call has changed little over time. Many longstanding meeting-related issues remain.”

So in the future, we may be able to say goodbye to mundane tasks like setting up conference calls, emailing participants, keeping track of dial-in numbers and passcodes, testing sound and presentation quality, and taking notes. Instead, AI will be able to help streamline the process so that the only thing attendees need to worry about is having a productive conversation. Not only will this make the process easier for all parties involved, but employees will be able to get right down to the business at hand. It’s all about creating smarter tech that streamlines current processes and allows those involved to focus on higher-level work.

Adding a Human Touch to Working Remotely

Here’s another question: How can AI and machines help make working remotely more of a human experience? That may sound counterintuitive at first, but let me explain. When you’re meeting in person or working together in an office, it’s pretty easy to judge someone’s tone of voice or to pick up on nonverbal cues. When you’re working together from different ends of the country, though, that process is anything but easy. Working in the design world, connecting with my clients is everything. It’s my job to bring brands to life or to capture a specific feeling, and sometimes explaining something via email isn’t the most effective method. Video chat and phone calls can certainly be more helpful in these situations, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement. Plus, in my field, hopping on a call or scheduling a video conference for every set of edits just isn’t realistic.

Technology that Cisco is working on to help communicate the context of words and ideas will be a game changer for the industry. Using these new tools, we can communicate with high emotional fidelity, capturing almost all of those nonverbal cues that make up the majority of human communication. Tech can also keep us in tight personal connection during the times we’re not meeting, through emerging platforms like work chat, where informal and persistent connection builds team trust and productivity.

Yes, all of this will help streamline my current edit process, but more importantly, it will eliminate the need for unnecessary calls or meetings or misunderstandings caused by ineffective communication. Again, it’s all about creating smarter tools, and we can expect the integration of AI to increasingly bridge the gap between tech and humans.

Keeping Distributed Teams Connected

A final thought about smarter teams: With technology creating “virtual office spaces,” knowledge workers can also begin to take advantage of some of the benefits normally associated with an office setting, such as the ability to brainstorm ideas. Cisco has shown one way of doing this with TeamTV, its always-on television channel that brings remote teammates into the office. The idea is that workers on distributed teams can sometimes feel disconnected from their teammates. TeamTV is being used to build personal relationships and promote on-the-fly brainstorm sessions. While the idea of a webcam constantly filming the team took some getting used to, the Cisco Emerge team soon found it became as natural as working in an office with an open plan.

When you’re an entrepreneur, the administrative tasks you need to manage can eat up a lot of your time. And time is money. By having access to software that can learn repetitive tasks such as invoicing and scheduling weekly calls, creatives like myself are able to free up time to spend on projects that highlight our talents. That in itself is a huge component to building smarter teams.


**This post is brought to you by Cisco and IDG. The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Cisco.