It’s likely that Artificial Intelligence will displace many human jobs, if not in entirely, at least in part. In fact, 45 per cent of daily work activities could be automated using already demonstrated technology (2). Are we heading for a conflict between man and machine; between artificial and emotional intelligence?
Perhaps not. What if, rather than pushing humans out of the workplace, this development ushers in fresh opportunities to redesign working life? What if the ubiquity of AI offers the chance to express more of our unique human potential; the characteristics that can help us become happier, healthier and more resilient, more creative and effective? What if treating humans like humans, not robots, offers the most powerful competitive advantage of the next decade.
Will AI steal your job?
A robot or, more specifically, Artificial Intelligence, is an attractive option for an employer. AI promises the potential for a tireless, reliable, less error-prone worker. And AI doesn’t need to exercise. AI rarely gets sick. AI doesn’t need to sleep.
And where humans rely heavily on bias-prone heuristics – cognitive short-cuts and rules of thumb – it’s possible to create a digital architecture which takes into account a constellation of variables, within a logic which makes these systems less prone to the errors of judgement which can hijack human performance.
A group of Oxford scientists evaluated the likelihood of various professions being displaced by automation in entirety. Jobs related to economics and accountancy were deemed to be most at risk (1). But even if our entire role cannot be replaced, much of it probably can. For example, studies suggest that up to 20% of senior executive’s roles could be replaced by automation. (2)
Humans become the principal differentiator
If two companies have equally capable robots and automated systems, perhaps even purchased from the same vendor, where do they find their competitive advantage? Sustainable human high-performance, with an emphasis on the characteristics that are more difficult to emulate artificially, becomes the principle differentiator. Attracting, retaining and developing the best human workers becomes even more important.
A recent survey explored the question of which skills will be most valuable to commercial institutions in light of increasing automation. Over 50% of the respondents suggested that an increased focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) skills are the highest priority. However, ‘soft skills’, those associated with a person’s Emotional Intelligence, were considered to be the second most important (3).
Additionally, consider that ‘service orientation: actively looking for ways to help people and ‘originality’: creative problem solving and the capacity to generate unusual ideas, are two of four skills identified as least ‘automatable’ (3).
So how do we maintain competitive advantage, employability and achieve a state of sustainable human high-performance? By treating humans like humans, not robots.
Become more human
Our society often idolises the high-performers who appear to behave like machines:
- The solitary hero.
- The politician who only sleeps 4 hours per night.
- The athlete who pushes through training even though they are injured.
But maybe they succeed despite, not because of their mechanistic approach to performance.
Take our sleep habits as an illustration. Depriving ourselves of sleep may feel efficient: we work for a long time and we may even wear our sleep deprived lifestyle as a badge of honour and sign of commitment, but are we effective: how much meaningful work do we do in this time?
Sleeping 6 hours per night, for 2 weeks, leads to similar declines in reaction time and alertness as staying awake for 24 hours straight. Perhaps worse is that we don’t even realise that our performance is impaired (4).
Are you working at 70%?
What if a mechanistic and fool-hardy approach to performance means that we are only experiencing 70% of our what we are truly capable of?
We can not unlock our full potential and maximise the performance of ourselves and our teams by trying to behave like robots.
- Our sleep is essential.
- Our intelligence is too easily compromised.
- Our relationships are fundamental.
Robots work very well when they are fixed in the same place around the clock and are left completely alone, but self-focus makes humans weaker and less resilient. Brain activity associated with thoughts about ourselves is strongly correlated with rates of anxiety and depression (5, 6).
A growing body of evidence demonstrates that our Emotional Intelligence, our wellbeing and positive relationships, are the foundations and precursors for improved human health and performance.
Applying our Emotional Intelligence through caring for colleagues, emphasizing the meaning in work and inspiring each other can result in significantly improved health and performance. In an article published in the Journal of Applied Behavioural Science, of people who display these practises, Kim Cameron says: “They achieve significantly higher levels of organizational effectiveness-including financial performance, customer satisfaction, and employee engagement.”(7)
Unlock your potential
Emotional intelligence inspires, casts vision and emphasises meaning. A study published last year suggests that one inspired employee can generate the same output as 2.25 satisfied employees. (8) Emotional intelligence helps us to create happy, healthy, high-performing teams.
In 2009 a group of researchers led by Professor Andrew Oswald published a paper in which they concluded that: “different forms of evidence, with complementary strengths and weaknesses, are consistent with the existence of a causal link between
human well-being and human performance.” (9)
Oswald’s colleague, Dr Sgroi, noted that: “The driving force seems to be that happier workers use the time they have more effectively, increasing the pace at which they can work without sacrificing quality.” (10)
The evidence demonstrates that applying and developing our Emotional Intelligence, discovering meaning and purpose, prioritizing our health and wellbeing, improving our ways of working and social interactions, enhance and multiply our performance in four ways:
- Physically: We increase strength and cardiovascular health, reduce inflammation, reduce stress markers and boost our immune system.
- Psychologically: We improve emotional balance and resilience, regardless of circumstances.
- Socially: We strengthen existing relationships, build higher quality relationships, boost co-worker’s productivity, improve workplace commitment, increase engagement and provide superior customer service.
- Intellectually: We learn faster, think more creatively and can better resolve challenging situations. (11-28)
Perhaps it’s time to leave efficiency to AI and use our emotional intelligence and human characteristics to become truly effective, unleash our originality and actively search for ways to serve each other, multiplying and amplifying our performance through our unique human contribution.
1) Frey, C.B. & Osborne, M.A. (Retrieved 16/05/2016) The future of employment: How susceptible are jobs to computerisation?; https://www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk/downloads/academic/The_Future_of_Employment.pdf
2) Chui, M., Manyika, J., Miremadi, M. (Retrieved 16/05/2016) Four fundamentals of workplace automation; https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/business-technology/our-insights/four-fundamentals-of-workplace-automation
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