Handling Technology with Humility

Handling Technology with Humility

Wise managers understand that technology is not magic and a panacea in all environments

The digital world has to come to make undeniable appeal for everyone, at every age, in every type of business. Technology has gifted us with being able to complete thousands of mundane and tedious tasks more quickly and easily. Technology has also pushed business firms into a sort of addictive need for more and better tools in the name of finding and keeping customers and delivering great service to them. Many firms rationalise spending on technology, saying that this would free managers to become 'more productive, more intuitive and more focused' in servicing customers.

The reality may, however, be mixed. There are several instances where technology compels businesses to act in ways that are not in the best interests of customers, and even for the firms themselves in the long run. There is a growing awareness that technology applications have made employees less authentic, as they show less empathy and they suffer from more isolation.

For example, in the banking business, many veterans would remember how in the days of no or low technology tools, managers and frontend employees would instantly recognise customers as they walked in, would greet them with a smile and start the interactions.

In these days of total automation, customers have just become identifiable numbers, with frontline staff paying scant recognition when customers physically visit a bank branch.

A business guru once remarked that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency, while automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency. 

The point, therefore, is to be efficient in the first instance at the personal level, so that in the collective organisational setting, technology tools would improve the overall efficiency.


No technology can function optimally without relying on innately human attributes such as human intuition. When there is a growing reliance on artificial intelligence and smart machines capable of performing a wide range of tasks, it is wise to remember that the technology requires sharp human intelligence and cognition so as to derive the best benefits. 

What makes human intelligence unique is due to its capability to think, learn from different experiences, understand complex concepts, and apply logic and reason. Our intelligence, is backed by abstract emotions like self awareness , passion, and motivation that enable us to accomplish complex cognitive tasks. These can never be replicated by any man-made machine. Srimad Ramayana describes how human intelligence plays a crucial role in critical situations. The scene in Aranya Kanda is when the asura Mareecha transformed himself into a wonderful deer, sporting different hues and exquisite beauty in the animal's body.

As the deer charmed like a rainbow and wandered in a gracious style, it attracted the attention of Sita who was gathering flowers. Spellbound by its wondrous beauty, she called out Rama and Lakshmana to look at the stag, and fetch it live, or dead.

The first reaction of Lakshmana was, however, that it was no ordinary deer, but something in disguise. In response to repeated pleas by Sita to possess the animal, Lakshmana made a startling observation that when he looked at the eyes of the deer, it reminded him of the eyes of Mareecha. Years before, Rama and Lakshmana had fought the demoness Tataka and her son Mareecha at the behest of sage Visvamitra as their young proteges. While Rama's arrow had killed Tataka, it had spared the life of Mareecha, and Lakshmana vividly remembered the great pain in the eyes of Mareecha that he had witnessed.

With such a flash in the mind, Lakshmana offered a sane advice to Sita to ignore the animal.

Incidentally, this description in Ramayana may indeed be the forerunner to the modern technology of retina scan, now applied as a biometric step for the issue of identity or Aadhar cards. Ramayana in fact provides more such clues based on human intuition and intelligence, which could become fodder to develop artificial intelligence tools.

For example, there is a description of Samudrika lakshana of Rama and the 64 kalas or arts in which he was proficient, such as his ability to draw a person's image based on his or her strand of hair or nails. 

This is already becoming a technology tool in forensic analysis of hair in crime scenes.

Discretion as Dharma

Wise managers would tend to rely on technology only when it could yield unquestionable benefits, and cause least harm in an overall assessment. For example, they would approach the option of replacing human interactions with digital ones, such as a chatbot, with circumspection. While robotic voices are becoming ubiquitous in greeting customers nowadays, many customers have expressed how they miss human interactions as the most impactful part of their interaction. This is especially relevant in business firms that cater largely to older age customers, such as banks and insurance companies with substantial senior citizens as client base, or in other special areas of business. Digital transformation should never under-estimate the power of human touch. It is also the managerial dharma to be conscious of the widespread fear of loss of jobs due to 'technological unemployment'. A recent study shows that 69 per cent of jobs in India are under threat from automation while we have a relatively young workforce. While artificial intelligence takes over many human jobs, managers need to find measures to complement and augment human  capabilities, instead of just replacing them. For example, many algorithm-based decisions in banking or insurance may be opaque, such as levy of penalty charges or denial / under-approval of loss claims. Firms need to re-engineer the skills of employees to take on the role of 'explainers' for such machine moves, so as to retain and enhance the goodwill of customers. In the final analysis, while technological innovations would continue to be mesmerising, wise managers would not be over-awed by them.

They would realise that whatever they see as beautiful, glorious or powerful, springs from divine splendour. Bhagavad Gita spells out this important message in Vibhuti Yoga (10-41), that begins as 'Yad yad vibhutimat sattvam Srimad urjitam eva va', and asks us to remain balanced in our attitudes, and realise that whatever catches our imagination or sends us in raptures, is but a spark of the glory of God. Such a sense of humility in the face of technological advances would spur dharmic responses, and not self-centred or short-term ones.


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