Flexibility for Fixed-Location Workers Employing Human-Centric Innovation

September 23, 2022



Flexibility for Fixed-Location Workers Employing Human-Centric Innovation

Flexibility for Fixed-Location Workers Employing Human-Centric Innovation

Trond Undheim, futurist, speaker, entrepreneur, venture partner, and author of a new book “Augmented Lean”. Trond draws on his technology-focused background across public, academic, and private sectors to discuss the need and solutions for workplace flexibility for frontline manufacturing workers. Acknowledging the paradigm shift to employ a human-centric approach, integrating employees’ inputs, Trond highlights sophisticated new software which improve frontline experiences and overall results. These solutions optimize processes and augment workers rather than emphasize machine automation.


[03:19] Trond’s path starts in a random manner when he notices a poster!

[04:55] How Trond canceled Christmas to write his Ph.D. proposal in two weeks.

[06:02] Norway’s phone company is exploring the nomadic workplace in 1998.

[07:44] Trond does fieldwork in Silicon Valley that is selling “placelessness”.

[09:18] Trond becomes sought after for technology policy decision-making, government thinktanks, energy policy, and eventually economics at the E.U..

[12:19] Standardization: Trond explains how fascinating and essential it is—eg the Apple charger.

[14:54] How interoperability and openness have been important new developments.

[16:19] Trond equates learning standards and standardization like foreign languages.

[19:22] Trond’s work at MIT on no-code language and the impact it can have on the workplace.

[20:42] Advanced efforts to transform the factory floor with productivity tools for frontline workers.

[22:08] The tech user interface is finally simple enough to get out of the way.

[22:49] Was the emphasis on automation was the wrong path to take—being technology deterministic?

[23:00] When it comes to manufacturing, why has the focus historically been on automation and efficiency?

[24:49] The question is NOT “Are the robots going to take over?” That has been a distraction.

[26:10] How can we think about the “how” of work differently to get on the right track? Trond offers a fundamental to ask question first.

[27:20] The role of business schools in producing leaders who think they know best!

[28:20] Changing the paradigm from a quest for lifelong specialization in one domain to multiple specializations over time with general systems knowledge.

[31:40] How a human-centric manufacturing approach gathers and benefits from front-line workers’ and middle managers’ years of expertise.

[34:17] Why “cobots” are an important reframing of machines as “robots” are defined as “dangerous”.

[36:52] Bridging the digital/physical divide through augmentation to transform frontline workers toward knowledge work—Trond explains why this is a good thing.

[40:45] How greater advances now can be made augmenting how frontline workers work rather than automating machines.

[42:30] The potential for renewed glory in manufacturing by augmenting the entire workforce. Tune in for Part 2 – the practical “how” to make it happen.


“It sounds extremely dry, but standardization is super interesting. It’s the driver of the economy: it builds markets.”

“Markets are built: they are very purposely constructed architectures of rules, regulations, and standards.”

“Multiple specialities consecutively throughout your career has to be the target.”

“In a true human centric vision of manufacturing, the humans are always at the center---the whole idea is manufacturing has always been about innovation.”

“The overall perspective that ‘management knows best’ is detrimental to a true understanding of human work.”

“To make progress, the smart thing is to augment your workforce more than you automate your machines.”