The Journey of Digitalization
In the last six months, I have been involved in the journey of digitalization. I am very passionate about it as there is no limit to what can be achieved when a large group of professionals get together and commit themselves to do things that have not been done before in the shipping business. However, this journey also brings an opportunity to start thinking about the role of humans in this process.
Participating in brainstorming sessions where we try to come up with a system whereby we can push a button and it will take the decision for us based on past data and possible variables. After a long discussion we were hit by the undeniable truth: there is no system that can replace humans and humans cannot replace a system that can gather limitless amounts of historic data. They complement each other. Many colleagues may disagree with me since we live in a world that we prefer to pay attention to a report coming from an employee engagement survey, rather than having candid conversations with our staff to understand what is going on. Again, the report does not replace the conversations; they complement each other.
Systems and Data vs. Experience
How many times in business have we neglected the experience that older professionals bring to us by just thinking “you cannot teach an old dog new tricks”? We prefer the executives who come in with a young, fresh approach who will learn the way we work, rather than bringing in experienced professionals who can add value to our so called evolution.
I remember when my brothers and I used to spend our summers at our grandmothers. Every afternoon we sat with her to talk about everything. My Uncle Martin, the fisherman, would come and visit us once a month or so, as he was always at sea. He would sit down and tell us the most amazing stories and I remember them being an integral part of my growing process. It was the early 80’s and my uncle was like google is for so many people today. Do not get me wrong, I enjoy the luxury we have to easy access to incredible amounts of information just at the touch of a button, but I also worry because we talk less to each other everyday in a world where we check our inbox first before even saying good morning to our colleagues.
Recently I had the experience of experiencing a cyber attack that brought our system down for several weeks. Imagine yourself in an environment where you are being taught what to do and not why you do it since systems already do it for us. So, in the middle of chaos, experienced operators that were around when everything was manual, stepped up to the plate and we survived the crisis because of them. Maybe the old dogs can teach us old tricks that will help us think for a change.
Cultural amplifiers and teams
I have long conversations with my boss and teacher about how to find the right person who will fit into a team. I think about personality profiles and educational backgrounds and he always goes the pragmatic route: He will tell me “look at people in your team and see who greets everyone every morning and who asks how people are doing and the most important part, who actually stops & listens to their answers”. At the beginning I did not understand. Then I started doing it myself and noticed how much easier it was for me to work with my team and perform during tough times. This will not determine who is the best operator but will make a better teammate out of you since it feels good to work with nice people that care about you.
Sometimes it is not easy to connect with colleagues and you will need to find your own way. When you arrive very early to the office and you get to see the team arriving, you will see that everyone will have their own way of reaching out. I always enjoy it when my boss comes in, as immediately he starts talking about football and will remember everyone’s favourite team and how they did in their last game. It may sound silly but we have to remember that we work in South Africa, the country that came together as one during the 1995 Rugby World Cup despite major cultural differences inherited by apartheid. The H factor stands for HUMANS and we cannot forget this factor when going digital. Cheers!