How machine learning will make us smarter

Machine learning advances the tools we use every day. Its presence in the workplace and in our personal lives isn’t new, but its potential to transform the way we operate is stronger than it’s ever been. As machine learning is built into our workplace tools, we are able to work smarter and be more productive. Let’s take a look at how this is possible.

What is machine learning?

Machine learning is the science of giving computers the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed. A basic example of this is Facebook’s News Feed. It uses machine learning to learn what users “like” or read regularly. It will then suggest new information based on their habits. If you like one friend’s posts more than another, you’ll start to see more of his/her content in your feed.  

In the workplace, machine learning can suggest information that’s relevant to us. Computers can monitor data we access regularly and suggest content based on personal preferences, what our peers are looking at, or what our manager recommends.

Machine learning is changing the work we do

Let’s think back to the emergence of computers. For example, when the ATM was first introduced 45 years ago, many people feared that the role of a human bank teller would become obsolete. Instead, the number of bank tellers doubled from a quarter of a million in 1970 to half a million today.

Why is this the case?

According to a popular TED talk, while ATMs replaced a lot of common teller tasks, banks discovered they could more economically open new branches if they shifted the traditional role of the tellers. Rather than simply checking cash in and out of the bank, tellers became more like salespeople. They developed relationships with customers, solved problems, and introduced them to new products like credit cards and loans. The ATM was relegated to the more straightforward tasks like depositing checks and providing account balances, while the teller’s time was better spent interacting with people.

While the technology may be different, machine learning is providing similar benefits: it is eliminating mundane tasks and enabling people to focus on more high value work. Much like how ATMs changed the way banks operated 45 years ago, machine learning helps us simplify everyday tasks. It searches for relevant information and delivers it to us, so that we can spend our time doing more important tasks.

Machine learning makes us smarter

This is possible through intelligence augmentation – the idea that computers can empower humans with tools that make them more capable and more intelligent. For example, consider how much time employees spend each week fishing through various systems to find the information they need. Did you know that this amounts to one day per week on average? If technology was designed to truly make work easier and more productive, workers wouldn’t have to spend so much time looking for what they need to do their jobs – the information would be delivered to them. By using workplace apps that augment our intelligence, employees can be much more effective and get tasks done quicker – imagine what you could do with that whole day back!

Machine learning makes us more productive

While many aspects of future jobs will inevitably be replaced by machines – ATMs weren’t the first, nor will they be the last – they will ultimately make us more effective. 

We see changes and improvements in machine learning every day that help us become more productive. Apple and Google have implemented machine learning to try to help us find photos easier. In December, Evernote announced a program to improve its machine learning by reading its customers’ notes. A few weeks ago, Slack announced its plan to improve its software by surfacing important conversations and information to users. And now, companies like Sapho are using machine learning to find the information employees need and push it them along with suggested actions for them to take – in a single click.

As our workplace tools continue to leverage more and more machine learning to make us smarter, we’ll be able to work more effectively. We’ll be more productive, make better decisions, and become smarter than we ever thought possible.

Are you ready to take your workplace tools to the next level and help your employees thrive at the office? 

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Natalie Lambert is the Vice President of Marketing at Sapho. She joins from Citrix where she held multiple product marketing leadership positions. Before that, Natalie was a principal analyst at Forrester Research where she was the leading expert on end user computing.

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