Research shows that problem-solving activities tend to depress people. So why not let those eager robots do that for us?
It’s time for us humans to move on to what we do best: being human.
Dehumanizing work became normal during industrial era. Until recently, people who excelled at compliance, control and routine problem-solving were among the big winners. To survive, corporate conformists, lawyers, accountants and high finance types 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 became the norm as these winners felt they really didn’t have much choice. Many who felt left out became angry voters.
But future winners will be the most human of humans. They will apply their humanity to a higher purpose and values. Everyone can participate. 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 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 being 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 well-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 as everyone makes 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 a group coaching method, known as active learning, aimed at learning from everyday human interactions. Anyone can learn to extract more know-how from every messy, complicated 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 as how to overcome common barriers to learning from experience.
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.