Stay relevant in the AI age. Here’s how.

With the big boom in Artificial Intelligence, workplaces today seem to be turning into the Kingdom of Oz, where the wizard ran the entire realm with complex machinery. Other beings had little influence. Like the wizard, many executives are turning to new age technology, for more productivity and lesser labor costs.

Reports predict the loss of between 5 and 10 million jobs by 2020. These jobs will get automated. Tesla CEO Elon Musk calls this humanity’s “biggest existential threat.” People across industries like automotive, finance, and manufacturing are fearful. But it’s possible to tackle this change in a productive way:

  • Build resilience. CEO of Fetch Robotics, Melonee Wise, says, “For every robot we put in the world, you have to have someone maintaining it or servicing it or taking care of it.” Machines can’t be independent of humans. Thus, instead of worrying about human jobs getting ‘replaced’, build resiliency to manage change and embrace a new paradigm. 

Develop a growth mindset, where you can beat your self-doubt and learn. An analogy capturing this is how we view half a glass of water – half full or half empty? We want to view it as the latter, by acknowledging that we have a choice to grow here. Researcher Angela Duckworth calls this ‘grit’ – the tendency to not abandon work in the face of obstacles.

  • Tap into soft skills.McKinsey has been studying the trend of automation and has found that the more technical the work, the more technology can accomplish it. Think data collation or predictable physical labor like packaging and labelling. The report says, “The hardest activities to automate involves managing and developing people, or decision making, planning, and creative work.”

The question for you: what ‘soft’ skills can you sharpen, to complement your technical skills? Think problem-solving, cross-cultural communication, and even emotional intelligence.

  • Rethink roles. The McKinsey study found a silver lining in the automation of bank tellers’ work in Australia: “While ATMs took over a lot of the tasks these tellers were doing, it gave existing workers the opportunity to upskill and sell a wider range of financial services.” For the rest of us, it means that we can change our skillset. It might not be easy, but this mindset will prevent insecurity. Ask yourself – how can your current skills become a stepping stone to solve a larger organizational problem?

Prof. Joseph Pistrui of IE Business School, Madrid, says that, “Such new thinking will emphasize those innate human capacities that provide a renewed strategy for success that is both technological and human.”

Keeping this in mind, as a leader, when you choose technology, ask yourself, “How can we use this to augment our team’s capabilities?” It is an opportunity to build a highly skilled, humane workforce that is relevant in the age of automation.

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