Where will future jobs come from? What will we do when robots take over more of our current tasks? How can active learning help us make the transition to what Darden business professor Edward Hess sees as the “new smart”?
It’s likely we’ll be liberated to do the things we do best. Making things is human. Conversations are human. Helping people is human. Being creative is human. The human touch is hard to fake. Jobs of the future will stem from natural interests and capabilities. Robots will give us the freedom to pursue human-centric work.
Dehumanizing work became standard during the industrial era. Until recently, people who excelled at compliance, control and solving routine problems were among the big winners.
Industrial era workers learned to repress their human side. The ideal employee behaved more like a machine. In a word, this situation was unnatural. Stress, anxiety and overwork proliferated when workers believed they really didn’t have much choice. Meanwhile, some people who lost their jobs due to automation, became angry voters.
But future winners will be the most human of humans. They will apply their humanity (and humility) to a higher purpose and values. Everyone can participate in hands on work. Barriers will fall. Robots will ultimately lead humans to more natural work in a more inclusive world.
Machines got us into this predicament. Now (after 100 years) machines will help get us out.
LIBERATION IS UNAVOIDABLE
The AI revolution is removing the option to continue mind-numbing, heartless, soulless, clueless activities. To survive we have no choice but to give up our draining duties. In short, we’re going to be forced into humanized work.
Rewards and possibilities are growing for people who love what they do, can relate to others, make things, sort through complex client and customer concerns, and co-create better ways forward. The highest value work today involves seeing opportunities, rather that solving defined problems. Heads up rather than heads down workers are in growing demand.
People skills involving judgment and empathy—the basis for intense collaboration, complex consultation, problem prevention and creative thinking—are enduring differentiators. These capabilities are valuable because they improve business relationships, attract clients and can lead to innovation. They are also prized because they’re difficult to teach effectively to humans—and perhaps impossible for robots to learn.
MAKING THE TRANSITION
How can we support today’s workforce in making this transition? How can we change longstanding machine-like managing habits? How will we tap into our power to survive by being more human?
A good place to start is my group coaching method, known as active learning, which is aimed at learning from everyday human interactions. Anyone can learn to extract more know-how from every kind of situation—both positive and negative. To keep up with the demand for new capabilities and get ahead by spotting fresh opportunities, we need to learn how to learn on our feet. Active (vs. passive) learning involves knowing where and how to look for day-to-day lessons learned. As well the method helps us overcome common barriers to learning from experience: defensiveness, blame, fear and a know-it-all attitude.
Each day is packed with learning opportunities that can enhance communication, collaboration and leadership skills. You might be surprised by the nuggets of insight to be mined from the most mundane encounter.
Photo#1: Nao the French programmable humanoid robot in front of Toronto City Hall. Photo #2: “City People,” by Catherine Widgery, one of 18 painted aluminum cutouts at the Royal Bank Plaza.