Technology, innovation and shifting cultural norms have always fuelled a turnover in workforce composition. Machines have been taking our jobs for centuries. Yet, today, we assist to a faster pace at which machines increasingly replace humans in performing tasks in and outside the workplace. Data show that 47% of the US labour force could be replaced by robots in the next 20 years. China has already overtaken Japan as the world’s biggest consumer of robots with 37,000 units sold only on the Chinese market in 2014.
Is this a threat or something to be welcomed?
It feels like experiencing a scenario from a Sci-Fi film where the march of technology and artificial intelligence becomes more powerful than humans, seeking to assert control over mankind. Today it is no longer fiction, as companies increasingly use robots on production lines or algorithms to optimize and carry out core business functions.
The reality is that the future of work replicates the evolutionary journey of the survival of the most adaptable.
There are people who argue that this is just another industrial revolution that could allow society to be more productive and give employees in the workplace the opportunity to really fulfil their potential and do more exciting, creative and satisfying work. If we look at it under these terms, we understand that above all it will be the management of the artificial intelligence that will be a key development requirement.
We tend to focus on what robots can do, more than how we will work with them. We need to prepare to work alongside robots and computers and consider them as team-mates. It requires partnership skills and joint collaboration to maximise the benefits of a highly automated enterprise; a new dynamic in the workplace. We will need to access influencing and facilitation skills in ways that are totally different from what we currently know. Tolerance, inclusion and embracing diversity will all take on fresh meaning as new policies, guidelines, values, behaviours and ways of working develop. Future work will be focused around making complex decisions – using creativity, leadership and high degrees of self management. There also needs to be a shift away from the gender stereotypes (e.g. men working and women staying at home in certain societies).
However, we shouldn't simplify it to just emotional intelligence and artificial intelligence working in tandem. We must start to value the journey of a human, the human personal struggle for achieving something great. It’s that human journey and struggle which will become important in the future more than ever.
Automation will continue to transform the global workforce, but taking an active role in this process will help us evolve as human species. The greatest challenge will be for everyone of us not only to embrace this change but lead it in the direction of progress for all humankind.
I will leave you with a simple and provoking question: “Is the AI revolution the era of humanised business?”
If you would like an advice on managing change differently and to create a culture of innovation contact us.