You know that feeling you get when you’re about to score the winning goal? That surge of excitement, the thrill of creative expression and the spirit of competition?

We all like to play and win and our work lives are no different. But quite often, it’s the repetitive tasks like copying and pasting information from one place to another that fill our workdays. They keep us from engaging with the people around us and exploring more creative ideas. We all wish we had more time to do what makes us happy, so what if we embraced automation, so that we could spend more time doing more human, more creative work?

Automation: Look back to reevaluate your biases

If you think about it, we started to automate thousands of years ago, we just didn’t call it automation back then. Even a water wheel that dates back to 4000 B.C. can be considered one type of automation. Or if you think about horse-drawn carriages or, later, the invention of cars, basically this is all an automation of our mobility.

Ancient stone circle artefact against a blue sky background, USA, New York City, ancient, stone, circle
Automation isn’t new. We’ve been doing it for thousands of years to make our lives easier. ©Tetra Images

The benefits of automation are often overlooked and there is a fear that task automation will overtake us. That it will take our jobs and increase redundancies. The simple fact of the matter is that we’ll always need a human side to business operations, and by automating repetitive tasks, we buy back time to focus on the more creative aspects of our respective roles. It’s a win-win situation.

Gamifying the journey to automation

Embracing this positive mindset, my team and I decided to embrace gamification to create a global challenge that would allow anyone at adidas – from all functions, locations and teams – to join and learn how to automate the more repetitive aspects of their jobs (in this context, we define automation as any procedure done by a machine with minimum manual effort).

With our ‘008-License to Automate – Automation Enablement Program’, we aimed to create a space for people who don’t naturally think about repetitive task automation. We wanted them to shift their mindset and start questioning their manual efforts and processes.

Game on! With our competition to earn a ‘license to automate’, we transferred the excitement and adrenaline you feel in sports to the world of automation and robots. More than 370 employees enrolled in the program and attended our upskilling sessions to learn automation from scratch. In small teams (with each having at least one member outside of IT) they created an automated solution for themselves, using a business-friendly and low-code toolbox.

Two partnerships developing programming and coding technologies working on laptop and analyzing together, laptop, desktop, computer, Mac, working, home office, work
Let technology take those laborious and repetitive tasks off your shoulders. ©Wutthichai Luemuang

How automation adds value

Spirits were high, competition was fierce, and in the end, the teams delivered task automation use cases that addressed business needs and that would ultimately allow them to invest more of their time in the things they love.

We used happiness as a measure of success, amongst other criteria such as manual effort reduction, process improvement or simplification, error reduction, and the financial benefits that the automation might bring. The higher they scored, the closer it brought them to winning the game.

At the end of the program, three teams were awarded with a license to automate and given a toolkit to further develop their task automation skills. By taking on a mindset of looking for opportunities to automate, they lifted their work experience to a completely new level: They are happier, more relaxed, and engaging more and more in creative activities.

Digital transformation: a matter of mindset

We are now launching a long-term strategy to establish what we call the ‘automation mindset’ at adidas: a problem-solving, human-focused, employee-driven, and technology-enabled mindset that is embracing change.

Throughout this journey of enabling employees to automate, we’ve learned that once we have an open mindset for automation, there will be no fear of machines. With the right mindset, we can create a culture that is embracing change. And this is giving us more time to do what’s making us happy.

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by Servet Efe 26.11.2020
Great article Moh!
I think humanity has made good strides to win against neophobia in relation to people from other countries / cultures. We now have to go through the same process with robots and digital. Neophobia is beatable if we spend time with the new and learn that its not an enemy.
by Moh Ghadban Servet Efe 27.11.2020
Thank you so much for your input Servet . I do also think that learning is a key for creating a world full of opportunities.
by KEDAR 27.11.2020
Great write up Moh, happy to have seen this journey closely and looking forward to extending this over the next few months!!
by Thomas 08.03.2021
Hi Moh, i was impressed about your article. I am fully agree with your mindset of automation and "Throughout this journey of enabling employees to automate...." is the key of agile, modern and future readiness IT-Process Automation.
br - Thomas
by faraz ahmad 17.04.2021
I just read this article and found it really helpful for me.