Technology Tradeup on Quality

Joi - You point out here that conventional thinking on digital technology points toward using it as a replacement/substitute.

On a positive note, I’ve observed that digital transformation also gives us the ability to “trade up on quality” rather than “substitute for lower cost”. For example, if instead of driving to a store to select a purchase from a limited number mass produced, low cost goods, I can search a wide range of customized goods quickly, I am more likely to “spend” my time savings by finding a bespoke / customized good at the same or higher price point. In this way, technology uncovered a hidden trade-off I had accepted: lower quality for convenience.

In my work, I’ve seen a similar effect when automating tasks. While the task might be reduced/eliminated, it gives the task performer visibility into hidden quality trade-offs. The performer can instead focus creative efforts on quality improvement, rather than task performance. Is it time to start measuring not just worker productivity, but also output quality?