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Computers Make Staff More Creative – Economist

Max 'Beast from the East' Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope. If you find him looking lost on the streets of London, feed him coffee and sugar.

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Research suggests technological advances have a positive effect on creativity in the workplace

Far from fearing the impact of technology on the morale of their staff, businesses actually welcome advanced technology in the workplace, according to a report by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), published as part of the ongoing Technology Frontiers conference.

Recent advances in Big Data analytics, machine-to-machine communication and robotics are not perceived as a threat, and have actually increased our levels of creativity, rather than hampered them claims the report.

Send in the robots

The notion that one day the robots will “take over” has long become a part of the popular culture. From the imaginary examples of the Terminator and the Matrix to the very real IBM Watson winning Jeopardy and Google testing driverless cars across Nevada, the rise of the machines seems to be upon us.

Art Robot © Kjpargeter Shutterstock 2012However, according to the report entitled “The Role Of People In Technology-Driven Organisations” (sponsored by Ricoh), almost three quarters of respondents thought technological advances had no negative impact on the creativity in business environment, and 58 percent actually thought the impact was positive.

At the same time, 45 percent of respondents in Europe were worried that not being able to keep up with the pace of technological change could ruin their competitive edge. On average, Europeans were more sceptical about the impact of technology than anyone else.

The report points at out-of-date processes and flawed connections between systems as the main reasons for technology-related problems, with just 12 percent of respondents blaming the technology itself for business failures.

The EIU also uncovered a few less obvious technological threats: for example 82 percent of respondents said that the time they spent on emails has increased in the past three years, with over a half calling the increase “substantial” – “a worrying trend if one accepts the premise that email is a creativity-sapping activity,” commented a spokeswoman for EIU.

Business leaders ranked data privacy as the biggest issue in the future of human-technology interaction, followed by personal privacy and the concerns about effective communication with computers.

“The study exposes the need for European organisations to review the way they work and prepare to transform their traditional way of doing things. Through better integration of their systems and more streamlined business processes that connect their people and their technology they can improve employee knowledge sharing, be more responsive to client needs and ensure an agile business infrastructure that is ready to meet the needs of the future,” said Carsten Bruhn, executive vice president at Ricoh Europe.

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