CDO Wrap: April 2018

24 April 2018

This month:

What I’m curious about: The relationship between digital confidence and business confidence.

What I’m cynical about: over-hyped narratives of all forms, in particular automation, the future of work and the lack of meaningful user response to the Facebook / Cambridge Analytica saga.

What I’m thinking about: the relationship between trust, responsibility and aspirations in the digital landscape and modern world.

There’s such a big difference between digital literacy and digital confidence. And given just how digital everywhere is now, surely digital confidence is closely related to business confidence. That’s the theory we’re evaluating in the Digital Confidence Survey work we’re conducting with the Chair in Digital Economy at QUT. The data collection phase closes in a few days – so if you haven’t had a say but would like to be part of this world-first study in digital confidence, then please, take a quick five minutes to answer some questions. Due to university ethics requirements, the first page is a little, um, academic, and the survey isn’t really mobile friendly … so be forgiving and use your larger screen and remember the world still is in transition, and digital thinking and interfaces are still not native across the board 😉

Speaking of “design interfaces” …

Musk has halted production of the Tesla 3, forcing workers to take leave, citing process and automation issues. This is not a new thing for car manufacturers. What I do find interesting though is this is a continuation of a long line of “automation” issues at the Tesla factory, with Musk saying recently that “excessive automation” had led to a “manufacturing hell” at the Tesla factory and had slowed down production of the mass-market Tesla model. Tesla is yet to reach its 5000 per week production target, currently producing only 2000 a week.

So it appears automation isn’t necessarily better than human labour? In its heyday, the Ford Model T was rolling out of the factory at a rate of 10,000 cars a day in 1925, at a price that truly was “mass market” of its time at $260. So 10,000 cars a day. In 1925. And Tesla can’t reach 2500 a week.

Now, this isn’t a conversation about cars or Tesla or the suggestion that mass-produced cars will be a thing of the past in a self-driving/ride-sharing/drone-flying world (I call BS on such a prediction btw, but that’s for another time). What this is about is that the realities of automation and the fact that maybe, just maybe, machines aren’t superior, all the time, to human beings after all when it comes to efficiency and effectiveness. And maybe, just maybe, we need to stop and rethink our processes, and rather than assume automation or digitisation will provide superior results, we actually ask ourselves: “What is the best way to get this job done?” Not: “How superior can I make my tech / factory / campus look when journalists want to report on the “the future”. Good design principles don’t just apply to the end result; they apply to the design of production systems. And I kind of wish right now I could sit down with Musk and just return to basic principles with him – how do we put together these cars and get them to customers?

I’m watching with interest the Facebook saga unfold … while we’re all outraged at the “largest privacy breach in history”, and Zuckerberg testified in the Senate hearings, Facebook’s share price went up. Facebook increased in value! What’s that about? Well, of course I know exactly what that’s about – the stock market responded to market forces. But I also note that there hasn’t been a huge decline in Facebook usage. So our outrage is met with …. same behaviour? Business as usual? Meanwhile, Facebook has announced it will roll out its new European Privacy controls, developed for the European GDPR, to all Facebook users worldwide. It’s too early to know if this is enough. But it is interesting to see Facebook voluntarily subjecting itself to “regulatory control” before jurisdictions outside of Europe demand it.

A number of these themes will no doubt come to head at the upcoming The ART of Digital event as part of Myriad. I’ll be joining QUT Chair in Digital Economy Marek Kowalkiewicz, QUT’s Michael Rosemann, Geek Girl Academy’s Sarah Morah and Spur Labs’ Will Stubbs to explore the relationship and realities of trust, responsibility and aspiration in tech. This is an area that’s close to my heart and has me on my soapbox often – if digital is an enabler, really all it will do is amplify natural human behaviour. But we keep thinking “digital” has so much promise … I mean, Facebook’s original aspiration was to connect the world, but the reality is very different. So, if you can join us for this conversation, I highly recommend it.

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