Entering the Age of Augmented Effort

Just as I predicted in 2010 that we were entering a decade that would be marked as ‘the age of the personal broadcast,’ I’m bullish the 2020’s will be pegged as ‘the age of augmented effort.’

Augmented effort is the idea that every worker will have assistance to make their effort more efficient. For teams, augmented effort will make their collaboration more effective. So what augments their effort? And what kinds of effort gets augmented?

To start, the things performing the augmenting will be virtual colleagues — think AI packaged in what initially feels like the bots with whom you’re probably already communicating. Because AI so often sounds like snake oil, let me clarify that when I write AI, I mean to convey something that’s learning from within the context of its service how to better perform that service. Virtual colleagues, like the best colleagues, will be active learners who are really good at listening. They’ll adapt to better serve you and your team while always being at your side.

A good metaphor for virtual colleagues might be to think of the assistant coaches sitting on the bench next to the head coach.

Assistant coaches for the Golden State Warriors (2013)

These assistant coaches are there to augment the head coach’s activities: observe, instruct, recruit, document, research, strategize… the list goes on. An assistant coach doesn’t replace the head coach, rather, he or she helps the coach be a more effective coach by providing expertise and performing as an extension of the head coach.

If you think about the history of how we perform, whether our work is a personal hobby or we’re the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, the universal truth is there are only so many hours in the day to accomplish what needs to get done. What separates the great performers from the others is the ability to work most efficiently (Morton Hansen wrote a fantastic book on just this called Great At Work). As we enter the next decade in 2020, a new performance improvement strategy is suddenly emerging that gives us more time to do the most important work — by having those assistant coaches (the virtual colleagues) taking on the brunt of the effort.

In time, these virtual colleagues will not feel or look like chat bots. They will feel like normal, remote colleagues who message and email you. Who ask questions. Who are there to answer your questions. Who are there to take on actions and perform your requests. And the best upside is these virtual colleagues won’t just save us time, they’ll provide significant value in their efforts while enabling us humans to apply our cognitive load toward critical problems a human solves best (if you’re curious to read more on this thread, check out ‘Compound Cognition and the Future of Work’).

At Unitonomy.com, we’re building the virtual colleague that augments communication across an organization, to ensure communication runs efficiently and transfers the important stuff. Like making sure the right people know about a decision, or a new hire understands how the company’s values are embodied. We are at the forefront of the nascent virtual colleague market and we invite you to give our system a try (it’s free to start). We’re sure once you have our virtual colleague on your bench, you’ll never want to work without it.