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How far should automation go?

"Weak human + machine + better process was superior to a strong computer alone and, more remarkably, superior to a strong human + machine + inferior process."

I had to read this statement 3 times before it hit me: What's true in chess is also often true in business. A little background:

I recently wrote a forecasting system for a company that processes 7 million orders per year. Worse, this company was the merger of two other companies, each of which did forecasting differently. One had a very expensive Oracle based "strong computer" that calculated almost everything and told the planners exactly what to do. The other just dumped data into Excel files and teams of "strong humans" manipulated them until they intuitively worked out the best plan. Neither team could believe the way the other team worked.

The system I wrote using guidance from both teams turned out to be "weak human + machine + better process" which leveraged the strengths and minimized the weaknesses of the two extremes.

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