Source: Harvard Business Review (www.hbr.org)
Today, many people’s jobs will be taken over by machines and many of the jobs of the future haven’t been invented yet. That inspires fear in some, excitement in others, but everybody will need to plan for a future that we can barely comprehend today.
In this new era of automation, leaders will need to identify new sources of value creation.
1. Identify Value At A Higher Level
It’s fun to make lists of things we thought machines could never do. It was said that only humans could recognize faces, play chess or drive a car. Yet while machines have taken over tasks, they haven’t actually replaced humans.
Once a task becomes automated, it also becomes largely commoditized. Value is then created on a higher level than when people were busy doing more basic things. The value of bank branches, for example, is no longer to manually process deposits, but to solve more complex customer problems like providing mortgages.
So how can we use technology to extend the skills of humans in ways that aren’t immediately clear, but will seem obvious a decade from now?
2. Innovate Business Models
Amazon may be the most successfully automated company in the world. Its dominance online, lately, it achieved a whopping 36.9% market share in online sales for Christmas.
So a lot of people were surprised when it launched a brick and mortar book store, but as Apple has shown with its highly successful retail operation, there’s a big advantage to having stores staffed with well trained people. They can answer questions, give advice, and interact with customers in ways that a machine never could.
Notice as well that the Apple and Amazon stores are not your typical mom-and-pop shops, but are largely automated themselves, with industrial age conventions like cash registers and shopping aisles disappearing altogether.
3. Humanity Is Becoming The Scarce Resource
Before the industrial revolution, most people earned their living through physical labor. Much like today, many tradesman saw mechanization as a threat — and indeed it was. There’s not much work for blacksmiths or loom weavers these days. What wasn’t clear at the time was that industrialization would create a knowledge economy and demand for higher paid cognitive work.
Today we’re seeing a similar shift from cognitive skills to social skills. Being able to retain information or manipulate numbers are in less demand, while the ability to collaborate, with humans and machines, are rising to the force.
There are some things machines will never do. They will never strike out in Little League, get their heart broken, or worry about how their kids are doing in school. These limitations mean that they will never be able to share human experiences or show genuine empathy.
So the key to winning in the era of automation, where robots do jobs formerly performed by humans, is not simply more efficiency, but to explore and identify how greater efficiency creates demand for new jobs to be done.