Using Technology to Make Humans Feel More Human

A conversation with David Daglio

Jack Seitz
Feb 2, 20245 min read
Using Technology to Make Humans Feel More Human

I recently had the opportunity to speak with FIGUR8 investor, David Daglio. As the former Chief Investment Officer at Mellon, David helped design, launch and manage a unique equity investing approach that drove industry-leading performance and won numerous awards. My question for David was this: how can you introduce a new technology without making the people who can benefit the most from this new data feel as though they’re being replaced?

David began investing in companies 22 years ago. He was basically attempting to forecast which company would be successful, simply by reviewing their financial statements. Back then, analysts like David would receive a fax from the company and highlight what the executives had said and compare that with what they had said in previous quarters.

As data on companies became easier to collect, measure and score, David began a transition that started slowly at first, but began to gather momentum as his model was proving to be successful. He was taking a process that had traditionally been very human-driven and was trying to augment it with data. However, his biggest obstacle was not learning to use this new tool, but rather convincing the team around him to adopt this new data-driven approach.

“The battle is that, as humans, we want to believe our judgement is perfect. Whatever the field someone has chosen, they chose that because they felt they had good judgement when it came to that field. And the longer they have been doing it, the higher the value they place on their own judgement. When you introduce a new technology, whose judgement is more repeatable than yours, you’re often quick to dismiss it.”

It wasn’t until David really tried to understand the problem of “why are they fighting this?” that he realized his colleagues’ response was deeply human – it wasn’t about the computer at all, it was really more reflective about how they viewed themselves and their value. His colleagues were dismissive because they wanted to believe they were truly great at what they did. No one wants to be replaced or feel the time they’ve invested in gaining experience and judgement could quickly be replicated by a computer.

So how do you show someone that the tool they’re using is as good as they are? David found that it has to be in a non-confrontational way. “You need to work with the data and really adopt a growth mindset – you must be willing to learn something new.”

David’s approach was to pique his colleagues’ curiosity enough to get them to play with the tool and test it for themselves. They would begin to work with the tool and begin to get an understanding of how it worked, gradually becoming more comfortable with its ability to help them be better at what they did. Once they did, they begin to trust it more and more until they internally adopted it themselves. It happens over time, not overnight. The bottle neck in implementing new technology is often adoption, not innovation.

As an advisor, David often challenges those responsible for running large facilities or organizations by asking “how much can you make repeatable so that humans can focus on the tasks they’re really good at?”

This is at the cornerstone of the debate: as you begin dehumanizing the world by replacing work historically done by humans with machines, how do you make humans feel more valuable?

“Our brains are like thoroughbreds,” says David. “They want to be running really, really hard. They want to be challenged to figure out answers to ‘why?’ When we shackle our brains with mundane things over and over again, we get tired and feel unfulfilled. For me, the value in FIGUR8 is it creates a much more fulfilling experience because it allows us to offload those menial, repetitive tasks to the system and engage in the type of thinking that makes us feel more valuable. More human.”

Pain Management

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