How to stay relevant in the future world of work?

Photo credit: Toa Heftiba via

Photo credit: Toa Heftiba via

Scientists and researchers predict that the automation of service sectors and professional jobs in the US will be more than ten times as large as the number of manufacturing jobs already automated. The competition for jobs will not only be between candidates, but artificial intelligence as well. How do you stay relevant in the future workplace? 

Artificial intelligence – a formidable competitor?
How do we compete with robots, computers and other technologies? We compete by not competing. We focus on and hone the skills and things that artificial intelligence (AI) cannot do. Ed Hess suggests that means developing our cognitive and emotional skills to a much higher level.

Hess proposes:

humans will still be needed for jobs [requiring] higher-order critical, creative and innovative thinking … and high emotional engagement to meet the needs of other humans” (2017).

How do you learn those things if you are not predisposed that way? The hard message is, we are going to have to “work smarter”. Develop the skills that will lead us into the thinking processes that will facilitate those skills to a higher level. Develop our reasoning and relating skills to a higher level ie our thinking, listening, relating and collaborating skills.

Redefining “smarter”
The traditional perspective is shaped by grades and results. AI brings these results, at a faster rate and with fewer errors. Hess proposes that we have to redefine smart. 

His proposition is that it is characterised by higher levels of human thinking and emotional engagement. It is characterised by the quality of processing, not quantity. It will mean learning to be open-minded, and update ideas and beliefs in response to new data. It also means more investment in emotional intelligence skills.

Fear is the greatest challenge to being smart
It is suggested that the greatest inhibitor to critical thinking and collaboration is fear. Fear impacts how we perceive the importance of things, and restricts our scope to take on new ideas. To embrace higher level skills means embracing humility. Being prepared to make mistakes, and find solutions in unlikely places will be important as well as working together with others to co-create solutions.

The future is social
The future of work skills hinge on sociability. This not only means being able to work well with others, but also being comfortable with our managing our vulnerability with the changes that accompany future requirements. These social aspects and how well we learn to manage them, is where we have the edge over AI.

What do you think about this? Are there ways that we can “teach” these skills? Share your views below.

Hess, Ed. 2017. In the AI Age “Being Smart” Will Mean Something Completely Different. Harvard Business Review. 19 June 2017.

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