Disintermediation: Applying science to art

To some extent, this is a blog post about a blog post. But it’s also about a larger concept that has relevance to both communicators and other professionals who are experts in fields that rely upon being highly skilled in human interaction.

The blog post is a very short one, written by Ari Meisel on his ‘Less Doing, More Living’ blog. It outlines a very simple process by which he, a small business owner, has created a mostly-automated, high-quality way to screen and hire applicants for roles at his company. Take a few minutes to read the blog post now.

The greater concept Ari is leveraging here beyond simple automation of some tasks, which he is insanely good at doing, is called disintermediation (link goes to the Wikipedia definition). Whether you realize it or not, your job has been in danger of disappearing due to disintermediation since the dawn of the information age. For a long time, marketers, HR professionals, and communicators have told themselves that the ‘art’ portion of their profession would insulate them from automation, optimization, outsourcing, and other corporate cost-cutting solutions that rely on technology.

If you still think that way, it’s time to get acquainted with disintermediation. In non-economic terms, think of it as cutting out the middle-person. Oh, and by the way, that middle person is probably you.

I can already hear you protesting:

  • You can’t outsource or automate communication strategy!
  • Human judgement in candidate selection and resume selection can’t be replaced by a script!
  • Public and media relations thrives on relationships between people!

All of those are true statements. But these statements are also true:

  • I recently completed a consulting contract where I helped script a chatbot for a health services organization’s HR department to field basic benefits inquiries like “How much time off do I have” or “What are the deductible limits in my health care plan?” My client company estimates that will save at least 6 hours a week for their HR manager and allow them to avoid hiring on an intern to help them with open enrollment as they have done in previous years.
  • Meisel demonstrates in his post that is possible to remove several layers of HR professionals from the recruiting process at a very small company thanks to some automation. Talent essentially screens itself out, and only the very best candidates are advanced for review by the hiring manager. Imagine if Ford, Microsoft or your company decided to apply similar technologies to their hiring process and the corresponding impact on their HR hiring needs…
  • Journalists continue to be frustrated with the state of online press resources made available by companies, which quite frankly is the reason why they try to reach a human in the first place. With better online pressroom technologies such as chatbot-assisted search, better SEO, and automated media monitoring tools, the number of public relations professionals required to field media inquiries is already dropping.
  • Companies like Narrative Science are making real advances in writing clear, understandable stories about data, all without input from humans. If you are a corporate communications or investor relations professional, you should be watching what they do very closely and thinking about the ways you can add value beyond storytelling.

Disintermediation. I hope you can see the pattern here. Your career depends on it.

Part of the goal of my blog is to expose both the art and science necessary to deliver exceptional business communications. But another significant part is to alert my readers to the very real steps they need to take in their careers to re-skill and stay ahead of the evolving technologies that impact our jobs.

As we are freed from more and more repetitive tasks by science, it’s up to us to envision the new art necessary to take what we do to the next level. Or risk joining buggy-whip manufacturers and interview schedulers in the unemployment lines.

Thanks to the Less Doing team for their inspiration to finally write this post, which has been rattling around my brain for a while. If you'd like to learn more about me and the services that I offer, visit the About page. I'm working on a chatbot to answer questions about my background, but it's still a work in progress.