Work Futures Daily | Yesterday’s Path

| Mind Changing | Decontracting | Bosslessness | John Burroughs | Antwork |

source: Caleb Jones

AI Beacon NY | 2019–09–22 | I’ve been sick as a dog for the past few days. Missed a great deal, and behind in everything.


Research: Changing Your Mind Makes You Seem Intelligent | Martha Jeong, Leslie K. John, Francesca Gino, and Laura Huang summarize research on changing your mind, publicly:

First, we examined the implications of refusing to change your mind in a real-word context with important outcomes — an entrepreneurial pitch competition. Consistent with prior research, we found that entrepreneurs had a general tendency to dig their heels in: 76% of entrepreneurs refused to change their minds when faced with contradictory evidence. Unfortunately, this tendency turned out to be counterproductive to their interests. Specifically, entrepreneurs who changed their minds during the pitch were almost six times more likely to advance to the final round of the competition.

Next, we took our findings from the pitch competition into the laboratory to find out more about what was driving these outcomes. Participants played the role of investors evaluating entrepreneurs, where half of the entrepreneurs were described as changing their minds while the other half were described as holding their ground on an initial stance in the face of valid contradictory evidence. Similar to what we observed in the actual competition, participants believed that entrepreneurs who changed their minds should advance in the competition, compared to those who dug their heels in. We also found that participants perceived those who changed their minds as lacking confidence, but demonstrating intelligence — the results suggest that in an entrepreneurial context at least, showcasing intelligence is ultimately paramount.

However, further research suggests that there are contexts in which stubbornness isn’t penalized. For example, in another study where participants were evaluating job candidates, participants were more likely to agree that a candidate who changed their mind should be hired if the job was one where intelligence was valued (such as engineering). However, the preference was muted in jobs where confidence was valued (such as public speaking). We believe these results shed some light on why we sometimes hold inconsistent opinions of those who change their minds — at times disparaging them for their equivocation and at times applauding them for their thoughtfulness. Context is everything.

Who can argue with that? But the first finding is the important one: on a day to day basis, those that demonstrate they can learn from feedback are considered more highly than those who don’t.


What happens when delivery startups use employees instead of contractors | Alison Griswald looks into a small set of delivery companies who are using full-time employees instead of contractors, apropos of the recent AB5 law passed in California. Is it the end of the gig economy? The jury is still out.

Companies that rely on contractors have different concerns from those that rely on employees. In the contractor model, the main concern is the supply of workers. Companies need a big labor pool to draw from because, as contractors, workers are free to turn down jobs. Contractors get paid per delivery, which gives them an incentive to get more done (provided it’s ultimately worth their time). With employees, efficiency is the most important metric, because they earn an hourly rate regardless of how many deliveries they do. It’s up to the company to make sure employees are productive enough to make the hourly wage it pays them worth it.

“The overhead is not so much in these benefits and other things that people think of,” [Adam] Price [founder of Homer Logistics, now CEO of Waitr, which acquired Homer earlier this year] says. “The cost is in the management overhead and the employee engagement to get people to work when they’re getting paid a flat rate.”

In a tight labor market, churn will eat more profits that that overhead, I bet.


Gartner: Get ready for more AI in the workplace | Matthew Finnegan reports from a recent London event where they make the fairly timid projection that AI will be commonplace in business by 2025.

Gartner also expects AI tools to help support managers in making better decisions. “Robo-bosses [will] become common in 2025. We are not necessarily saying that everyone is going to be reporting to an algorithm, so you can breathe a little bit easier,” said Cain.

Instead, AI will help out with the more mundane tasks managers already do.

“Let’s think about what managers do every day: they set schedules, assign work, do performance reviews, offer career guidance, help you access training, they do approvals, they cascade information and they enforce directives,” [Matthew] Cai [vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner] said. “We can have AI doing a lot of that.

“Your manager won’t be replaced by an algorithm, but your manager will be using a lot of AI constructs to help improve and to make more efficient a lot of the routine work that they do. We think that that is going to be the combination.”

I strongly disagree.

If businesses can automate — and improve — the job of first-line managers, they will. That role is responsible for a great deal of employee discontent and turnover. So, a great many people will be ‘reporting to an algorithm’ but it won’t feel like that. It will be tools sending nudges to help avoid errors and adopt more productive paths to get things done, like Humu is working on. It will be AI-mediated routing of work opportunities, like participation on a new project, based on skills, interests, and training goals. People don’t like ‘reporting to’ someone, but they will like the availability of deep resources for instruction and advice from Alexa-like bots on demand. And they won’t miss their old boss, either.

Basically, AI will be one of the key elements of a shift toward bosslessness, where everyone is part of the management team (see It’s Bosses, All The Way Down).

As usual, Gartner is too timid.

Quote of the Day

To learn something new take the path that you took yesterday.

| John Burroughs


The Chinese startup that wants to replace human couriers with drones | Wei Sheng reports on Antwork, a Chinese company that has gotten governmental approval to develop a low-altitude logistics network for China’s multi-billion dollar food delivery market: food delivery drones.

Antwork is the first Chinese company to pass the Specific Operations Risk Assessment (SORA), the Civil Aviation Administration of China’s multi-stage process of risk evaluation for certain unmanned aircraft operations. The certification means that Antwork can conduct urban parcel delivery using drones, co-founder and chief operating officer Zhao told TechNode.

The temporary approval issued by regulators in July allows Antwork’s drone delivery networks to operate in Hangzhou for one year. After that, the company could obtain formal approvals, which would allow it to expand services to other cities, said Zhao.

The cost of delivering packages through Antwork’s drone logistics network is RMB 2 [$0.28] per kilometer at the moment, according to Zhao. He added that the cost could fall as the technology develops and the scale of its network expands.

Maybe I could finally get Pho in Beacon.

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