The past 30 years have been spent replacing people with technology in the quest for higher efficiency; however, it's time to bring people back into the equation, recognising that without them, innovation isn't possible, according to Microsoft Australia CTO Greg Stone.
Stone raised his concerns at the second instalment of Committee for Economic Development of Australia's (CEDA) "Reinventing the State of NSW" event, which examines what practices and reforms are needed to see NSW thrive in the future. He said that NSW was about to move into the "knowledge age", where people would make the greatest difference, rather than technology.
He said that companies currently view people as a component of its profit and loss sheet, rather than as an asset.
"We've spent about the last 30-plus years getting rid of people — automating processes, automating things in order to remove people because we thought of them as labour. They're moving back into the centre now, not as labour, but as knowledge capital — knowledge producers [and] knowledge innovators."
If companies want to be successful, they need to change their focus from being highly efficient and downsizing to becoming highly innovative through their people.
"There's an old saying: 'You can't shrink yourself to greatness'. I think that's more true today than it ever was before," he said.
"We need to move away from this industrial-age obsession with processes ... to move far more towards this notion of augmenting human interaction — augmenting the way that humans interact with each other, interact with their environment and interact with information."
Stone said that the future would involve more virtualised environments where people interact through things like seamless video conferencing, and technology can be used to leverage the individual's knowledge.
Stone also touched on the National Broadband Network (NBN), saying that rather than viewing it as a big pipe of data, he views it as an opportunity for greater data and knowledge distribution.
"One of the things we should do as a city is really focus on promoting the NBN to everybody in forms that are most digestible — wireless, near-field communications, etcetera," he said. "I don't think it's big, I don't think it's expensive. I think it looks like a lot of collaboration and I think it looks like people going outside their normal boundaries of their thinking."