Creating synergies between human and digital potential
From a critical perspective, Industry 4.0 is at risk of being no more than the latest in the long line of technological predictions based on exaggerated claims. It runs the risk of drawing corporate decision-makers into patterns of investment that ultimately fail because they ignore the importance of synergy between the design and implementation of technologies on the one hand, and human and organisational factors on the other. There is a need to articulate the choices and alternative narratives surrounding Industry 4.0.
Yet the technological advances represented by Industry 4.0 potentially offer real economic and also social benefits. At the same time, realising this potential and avoiding the mistakes of the past means recognising the importance of a new and more inclusive paradigm of innovation. The challenge is that of reconciling the ordered, rational organisation of work offered by emergent technologies with the creative, dialogical, serendipitous and even chaotic human interactions that can stimulate innovation.
When the initial, still undiminished euphoria surrounding Industry 4.0 dies down, the choices and dilemmas which surround it will become much more evident. Indeed, economic and workplace futures in democratic societies will continue to be shaped by choices and decisions made by diverse stakeholders including politicians, scientists, thinkers and individuals rather than being pre-determined.
This optional module explores some of those corporate choices and opportunities. It has been adapted from a book chapter and follows a slightly different format than those elsewhere in the Workplace Innovation Practitioner Programme. We will continue to develop its content further in the coming weeks and months.
We gratefully acknowledge the considerable assistance provided by Booth Welsh, an integrated engineering services company based in Irvine, Scotland. Our collaboration with the Booth Welsh team has greatly enhanced our understanding of the potential for synergies between human and digital potential.