Here I am human, here I may be curious!

Digi­tal­iza­tion is dri­ving human labor out of the val­ue chain. It only con­tin­ues what robots and automa­tion have begun long before. You can feel threat­ened by this, but you can also see it as an oppor­tu­ni­ty. Dig­i­tal­iza­tion is bring­ing unique human abil­i­ties and thus the human fac­tor beyond mere labor back into the spot­light. In this sense: stay curious!

We were all curi­ous once. We were born that way. My chil­dren con­stant­ly ask why and ques­tion every­thing and every­one. And that’s a good thing. It would be even bet­ter if we did­n’t lose this curios­i­ty in the course of time or through edu­ca­tion: Don’t always ask so much!

The impor­tant thing is not to stop ques­tion­ing. Curios­i­ty has its own rea­son for existence. 

Albert Ein­stein

School rein­forces this ten­den­cy. Instead of using and fos­ter­ing innate curios­i­ty, it is usu­al­ly a mat­ter of first impart­ing fac­tu­al knowl­edge and skills and then test­ing them. If the school were geared towards curios­i­ty, the pupils would ask the ques­tions and work out the answers togeth­er with the teach­ers. In most cas­es, how­ev­er, it is the oth­er way round: the teach­ers ask ques­tions and the pupils give the answers on the basis of the knowl­edge they have learnt.

The mind is not a ves­sel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.

Plutarch

The school sys­tem, how­ev­er, only fol­lows the prin­ci­ple of sup­ply and demand. For many decades the econ­o­my need­ed and demand­ed stan­dard­ized work­ers accord­ing to job descrip­tions and “ask­ing stu­pid ques­tions” was not part of it. On the con­trary, open-mind­ed thinkers only dis­turb the process. Even if for­tu­nate­ly not so dras­ti­cal­ly phrased in many places the “sim­ple” work­ers were basi­cal­ly sub­ject to Vilos Cohaa­gen’s state­ment in the film Total Recall: “Who told you to THINK? I don’t give you enough infor­ma­tion to THINK! You do as you’re told, THAT’S WHAT YOU DO!” 

In the beginner’s mind there are many pos­si­bil­i­ties, but in the expert’s there are few.

Shun­ryu Suzuki

Thus social­ized and edu­cat­ed, the fear of automa­tion, dig­i­ti­za­tion and arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence is imme­di­ate­ly explained. Of course, peo­ple who have been reduced to a gear in an orga­ni­za­tion designed as machine are now quite right­ly afraid that an algo­rithm will take over this func­tion. But this is also the chance that the human being will be able to unfold more humane in the com­pa­ny instead of just being employed as a stan­dard­ized work­er: Here I am human, here I may be curious!

Study hard what inter­ests you the most in the most undis­ci­plined, irrev­er­ent and orig­i­nal man­ner possible.

Richard Feyn­mann

Per­haps machines and com­put­ers will even­tu­al­ly be able to find bet­ter answers and solve prob­lems bet­ter than humans, but with their innate curios­i­ty only humans can ask the right ques­tions. It is pre­cise­ly this con­stant ques­tion­ing that is the deci­sive human core com­pe­tence in a world that is chang­ing ever faster. We now “only” have to restruc­ture and lead orga­ni­za­tions in such a way that this curios­i­ty can devel­op sufficiently.

Some­thing is wrong if work­ers do not look around each day, find things that are tedious or bor­ing, and then rewrite the pro­ce­dures. Even last month’s man­u­al should be out of date.

Tai­ichi Ōno

Exact­ly this empow­er­ment of the “sim­ple” work­ers to curi­ous ques­tion­ing was and is an essen­tial pil­lar of the Toy­ota Pro­duc­tion Sys­tem, which was sub­stan­tial­ly shaped and devel­oped by Tai­ichi Ohno. Toy­ota thus suc­ceed­ed in sig­nif­i­cant­ly increas­ing pro­duc­tiv­i­ty and was not only able to catch up with the Amer­i­can com­pe­ti­tion from Detroit, but to out­per­form it. At that time, using the curios­i­ty of the peo­ple in the orga­ni­za­tion was a deci­sive com­pet­i­tive advan­tage and will be even more so in the course of dig­i­tal­iza­tion. Stay curious!

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