Innovative cognitive workplaces are experimental, not risk averse

By: Babette Ten Haken


Creating innovative cognitive workplaces are an inevitable outcome of the digital transformation of how we work.

Currently, CIOs in enlightened organizations leverage a new functional concept for IT: IT-as-a-Service. As machine learning and artificial intelligence are embedded within business and manufacturing operations environments, a hybridized cognitive workplace begins to take shape.

Within the innovative cognitive workplace, there are three types of coworkers: knowledge workers, manual workers and artificially intelligent interfaces and systems.

What happens to the cognitive workplace as these three types of coworkers learn to co-exist? Can humans learn to trust the self-learning, decision-making algorithms of software interfaces and connected equipment, including robotics? Can intelligent software and connected equipment trust non-coded, unprogrammed human judgment?

Can an organization develop an innovation culture?

What’s interesting about the evolving cognitive workplace is that cognitive software and connected hardware move an organizational culture away from the status quo. Instead of focusing on What an organization sells to customers, employees become more engaged, as co-creators, in How and Why these products and services are created.

In selecting robust, nimble and flexible IT Platform as a Service offerings, such as IBM Services Platform with Watson, employees become more engaged in developing new products and services based on employee and end user experiences. This subtle shift in the focus of workplace output pivots a cognitive organization into the direction of innovation, rather than remaining in order-taking mode.

Innovative cognitive workplaces become experimental and translational.

Organizations that are cognitive innovators experience a change in corporate personality. They become proactive and anticipatory of novel new technologies which can help them be three moves ahead of industry trends. When that change occurs, the organization elects to take risks to be more competitive and potentially productive and profitable.

The CIO, working with the COO and line of business unit leadership, develops testbeds to assess the translational validity and viability of new ideas for target markets. Not only that. The innovative cognitive workplace becomes cross-pollinated with external, as well as internal, collaborators.

Concurrently, leadership and employees develop startup mindset and become comfortable with failing fast and often.

As both leadership and HR become more comfortable being “uncomfortable” with innovation and experimentation, they move away from a risk-averse, protective mindset.

Consequently, human capital strategy is re-assessed. Employees are hired and trained for critical thinking skills, regardless of whether they are initially hired as knowledge workers or manual workers.

As cognitive business models evolve, the workplace is flattened and increasingly collaborative and cross-functional. Consequently, there is no safe harbor for risk-aversion within innovative cognitive workplaces. Are you ready to not only work and co-create in, but also lead such a workplace ecosystem?

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About The Author

Babette Ten Haken

Founder & President, Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC

Babette Ten Haken is a catalyst, corporate strategist and facilitator. She writes, speaks, consults and coaches about how cross-functional team collaboration revolutionizes the industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) value chain for customer loyalty, customer success and customer retention. Her One Millimeter Mindset™ programs draw from her background as a scientist, sales professional, enterprise-level facilitator, Six... Read more