Principles of Collaborative Automation

Principles of Collaborative Automation

How can we make our tools work with our team? Like a good team member, great tools keep us informed, implement our decisions, and help us understand errors.
Drawing from aviation, medicine, and software, here are strategies for choosing and building tools that enhance us and do not frustrate us.


Great automation doesn’t replace humans; it enhances us. The tools we choose or build for our team need to play like team members: keep us informed, do the consistent boring work, and pass the hard decisions to the humans along with the information we need to make them.

Based on research in human-centered design, this talk enumerates principles and challenges of collaboration for programs. It lists strategies for moving past “human error” and reducing human frustration. Our tools should make us smarter, not hide knowledge from us. In aviation and medicine, this is a million-dollar investment–but when we construct our own tools, collaborative automation is within our reach.


This is based on research by Don Norman, Gary Klein, David Woods and others from the resilience engineering and human-centered design communities.
It will list several challenges and principles of automation, with examples from aviation, software, and medicine. Some of the hardest challenges are surmountable when we are building tools for ourselves and our team (or our organization) and not the whole world. For instance, we can craft responsive error handling to the particular errors that do occur.
The talk will include methods for figuring out what is going well and what is going poorly, so we can target our efforts where they matter to our team.

in blog post form

Principles of Collaborative Automation – Jessitron