Tag Archives: robots



by Howard Tullman

Don’t fear the bots. They’ll free your company from unprofitable and tedious work. Yes, some jobs are going to be displaced. But the ones that are left and the new ones the bots will create will be more productive and way more interesting.

I realize that it’s a little frightening for many of us when we hear some of the intimidating statistics about headcount reductions in more and more industries that are being driven by the growing deployment of what we’re generically calling “bots.” But I don’t think bots are so bad for business. I realize that, while the major shifts are just beginning, we’re already talking about the displacement of thousands of analysts and adjusters in the insurance and finance industries as well as hundreds of highly-paid attorneys in sectors of the banking business. The sooner you figure out how to incorporate and deploy these little time- and money-savers, the better off you and your business will be. And that goes for businesses of all sizes.

Excepting some of the folks who will be replaced by these efficient and energetic little wonders, it will be a break for the better. Honest. No one in their right mind will miss any of the boring, repetitive and utterly useless tasks that are a painful part of too many of our jobs. If your tasks can be reduced to a set of instructions and rules that need to be repeatedly and flawlessly executed, we’ll soon enough find a program or a machine to do that work better, quicker and more accurately than you– and to do it 24/7 as well. No one argues with that part of the equation. We’d all love to be freed up from our chores and be doing exciting, creative and constructive work.

The rub comes in the rest of the story – the ratio and the scale of the jobs being eliminated as compared with the new jobs available to replace them. To quote Bruce Springsteen, in My Hometown, “Foreman says these jobs are going boys and they ain’t coming back.” Take a look at the hospitality business as a simple example. Airbnb is closing in on Marriott’s $42.7 billion market cap (it’s already worth about $10 billion more than Hilton), but the employee headcounts of these companies are in different universes. Marriott employs more than 225,000 people, Airbnb about 3,500– yes 3,500 employees. And I’m not just picking on Marriott. Hilton has about 170,000 team members. You can argue that some of those people are doing different and allegedly irreplaceable functions. But in the end, the real question is whether the customer/guest’s needs are being more than met. None of Marriott’s guests really cares about whatever it is that fills the day for those extra 400,000 workers. I’m not even sure that most of their managers know what makes up their day.

When you couple the substantial reductions in the workforce with the readily-demonstrated and clearly impressive gains in productivity and lower operating costs that we’re also seeing, it’s clear that there are major bumps in the road ahead and significant disruptions in the ways business has traditionally been done. This is especially true because the vast majority of these changes are neither complicated in regard to the technologies nor costly in terms of the required capital. Low-hanging fruit abounds. JP Morgan Chase reports eliminating more than 350,000 hours of legal document review time per year by employing bots and smart contracts.

When I use the term “bots,” I’m not talking about anything as challenging as truly intelligent agents or even anything autonomous. I’m talking about simple lines of code– and not that many– that can successfully execute instructions and directives or commands that are well-established and documented by humans. I hate to call any of this stuff artificial intelligence. At best it’s augmented and extended intelligence. The intelligence being extended is ours; the folks being augmented are us. We’re talking about systems and tools that will help us perform routine tasks with minimal supervision or ongoing direction, and essentially automatically, upon request. Every business still has some of these pockets of obvious inefficiency and it’s mainly ignorance of better options and inertia that keeps them from realizing immediate improvements and significant cost savings. Your business does too, and the sooner you do your own audit and analysis, the better off and more competitive you’ll be. (See Use a Mirror to Mind Your Own Business First)

There are opportunities everywhere, but the sweetest spots for almost any business seem to fall into four recurring buckets. Forget about chatbots and retweeters. Focus internally first where you can get the biggest bang for your buck and where you can ride on existing rails. The people providing support and resources in this emerging space are few and far between right now, but they tend to target these critical areas: HR, Finance, Operations and Sales. I know, you’re already saying, “well duh, that’s just about the whole business”, so trim it down to HR and Finance and start there. Eat the elephant one bite at a time.

One of the best providers is an 1871 alumni organization called Catalytic/www.catalytic.com/> whose tagline says it all: “Do more of what you love, and less of what you don’t.” They are smart enough to understand that they are in a “rinse and repeat” business so that each time they build a new process bot they create the ability to provide a version of that same solution to thousands of other businesses more efficiently, more rapidly, and less expensively. They talk about concrete client results delivered in days, not months or years.

And, to be successful, you need a plan that’s ongoing and iterative and that’s always targeting and attacking the dumbest things you are doing. In many cases, it’s an approach that follows the same basic steps: digitize and dump the paper; speed up the flow and the inter- and intra-departmental handoffs; automate as many steps in the process as possible; measure the results; and do it again. It needs to become a habit and a mantra of your business—always moving to raise the bottom and improve the average.

It’s interesting to watch the adoption cycle as well. It’s both competitive and contagious. The more you do; the more your people will want to do and, interestingly enough, you’ll have them bringing suggestions and ideas to you for next steps–forward integrations into other programs like Word and Excel, for example—instead of sitting on their hands and bitching about the bots.

The dashboards and the flow charts that you now have access to provide levels of actionable information and data that were never available before. Frankly, these are the exact tools that you need to move your business forward. Managing by exception rather than brute force is the only way to spread your scarce and costly resources around.



Howard Tullman is the father of Chicago’s 1871 incubator.

Read his bio on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_A._Tullman

Check out his websites at http://tullman.com/  and http://tullman.blogspot.com/

Or just type his name into your favorite search engine.


This article previously appeared in Inc.

Image Credits – Getty Images, MS Office

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. Please perform your own due diligence. It’s not our fault if you lose money.
.Copyright © 2017 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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Mark T Wayne Techweek – Part 2

Mark T Wayne – Special Correspondent

as told to John Jonelis

Permit me to proclaim that, next year, children—yes I say children, should organize Techweek. The event will gain from it. I have good evidence for such speculation, as you will see.

The first truths I learn are these: The map I brought is wrong. As I register, a polite lady kindly provides me with a new map in a slick brochure. It also is wrong. The events are scrambled and nobody knows with any certainty what happens when. They provide a mobile app to keep us all up to date. It doesn’t work. Few can even access the internet within these concrete walls. Meanwhile, the uproar is more than a man’s ears can stand. I must shout to make myself heard! This is mass confusion. Execrable, I say! Execrable!

I throw my program to the floor in disgust and stomp on it several times. My heel grinds it to pulp on the concrete floor. Then I plunge headlong into the crowd, bent on finding something of value. I paid dearly for this ticket—$30—and I will not squander my funds!THE WRONG MAP

The Expedition

My foray into the teaming multitudes does not immediately bear fruit. The clamor of a thousand voices assails me as I squeeze down isle after isle of swarming humanity. With amazing alacrity and skill, and with great speed, I get lost and disoriented in the bazaar of booths staffed by business people and hired models, all hawking their wares. THE MERCHANDISE MART

This is the Chicago Merchandise Mart—a building with more floor space than almost any other in the world. Techweek occupies an entire floor—has its own special elevator!



I am a lost soul, until—is this providence or accident? While wandering through this wasteland of corporate exhibits and almost calling it a day, I stumble upon a rare treat—an oasis—a flower growing in a junkyard.


The Champion Robopop Team

I am at the booth of ROBOPOP, an amazing exhibit of mechanical automation designed and built by schoolchildren. Children I say! Not typical squirming urchins with faces smeared with peanut butter and dirt, but intelligent young people who dare to compete against the whole world. This little group of scoundrels has won award after award—four years straight! Here they are:


  • 2010—Rookie Team Award
  • 2011—Robot Design Award
  • 2012—Champion’s Award
  • 2012—#1 in Robot Performance
  • 2013—Champions of the North American Open in California

And this is not a science class project. No sir! They do this on their own time, apparently for sheer enjoyment.


The Robot’s Challenge Course

When I was a boy, we played ball, planned pirate capers, convinced our loved ones of our physical demise, and then attended our own funerals! A couple of us escaped down river for weeks in a homemade raft. No end of mischief! And perhaps these children find time for such pursuits—I cannot honestly credit it otherwise. But the contraption I see before me appears significant enough to take all of a child’s free time, and it is constructed entirely of Leggos.


Zach Hogan

I ask Zach Hogan, age 12, how he got involved in such an ambitious venture. 

“I really like Leggos” he says, “And when I heard that our school was doing a Leggo group, I said sure. I didn’t even know we were going to be doing programming.”

A precocious young lady, age 14, is a retiring veteran of this diminutive team.

“At the beginning of the year,” she says, “We’re given lots of Leggo pieces and told, okay build your robot. We have to build one that interacts with every mission (that the committee assigns). For example, take that pill bottle and bring it back to base—that’s one of the missions…The robot must act entirely independently.”

And she demonstrates this thingamajig for me. This machine performs one task after another flawlessly, automatically, with superb precision! I tell you, this is astounding!


The Robot Runs Flawlessly

These marvelous children hail from Prince of Peace School in Lake Villa, IL. Just to put this in its true perspective, I’m talking about an elementary school for children from 1st through 8th grade. They are not old enough to vote, drink, drive, or escape the clutches of their parents. But here they are at Techweek among the most brilliant inventors, striving entrepreneurs, prestigious corporations, and sneaky politicians in the world. And they’ve shown ‘em all up!  Yes sir, they’ve pulled it off in a big way!

I tell you sir, this exhibit is the best thing I’ve seen the whole day!

Lest you think these children confine themselves to Leggo construction, permit me to set that straight.


Lucy Tarcha

Lucy Tarcha, age 12, displays an entirely homemade automated machine that dispenses patent medicine—I believe they refer to it as prescription medicine these days—at just the right dose and at just the right time.

Here is the Robopop championship team: Samantha Case, Madelyn Case, Zachary Hogan, Natalie Koenig, Colin McElduff, Angela Rauch, Margaret Rauch, Michael Rauch and Lucy Tarcha. Brian Case and Sam Rouch serve as adult coaches.







Prince of Peace School website.

Techweek Chicago


Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link . This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2013 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved



Filed under App, big money, Characters, Education, Events, Innovation, Innovation and Culture, Internet, Invention, Mark T Wayne, Software, Techweek