Are we making ourselves redundant?
The debate about the future of work that suggests we will see the loss of 47 per cent of jobs, as we know them, according to the findings of Frey and Osborne1, has led to an undercurrent of fear and uncertainty. If true, this would amount to around 5 million Australian jobs over the next 10-15 years according to the 2015 Australian Future Workforce².
McKinsey’s³ more optimistic outlook suggests how the automation of repetitive and less cognitively demanding work will free up more thinking time for greater innovation and creativity, lead to improved productivity and performance and potentially the saving of around $12 trillion globally from reduced wages and redeployment expenditure.
The future of work will look different and the disruption to the status quo is uncomfortable, but this is an opportunity to ask what do we want and need from our work for society, and ourselves and how we can use our human talents to our continuing advantage. While ATM machines, airport check-in kiosks and self-serve checkouts at the supermarket are part of everyday life, what these automated tasks cannot provide is the human experience.
The implication is that human input will always be required. What makes us unique includes:
The ability to think deeply
A survey⁴ of 400 senior HR managers named critical thinking and problem solving as the most valuable skill set required for future business success over the next few years.
Critical thinking provides a pathway to better analytical thinking, better judgement and better decision-making. Asking better questions, seeking to validate and verify what we are told, helps us to be more effective when attempting to resolve conflict and solve problems more quickly.
When under time pressure or provided with limited data, the risk is that we jump to conclusions or make assumptions that may be completely wrong. Applying critical thought reduces that risk by noticing when an assumption may be present, by asking others for their view on the subject and seeking to broaden our perspective. Taking the time to evaluate all information objectively leads to more considered and deliberate conclusions.
Self-care and self-compassion enables us to think more clearly, stay focused and minimises the impact of stress on our cognition. This can be developed through greater self-acceptance and maintaining an open mindset.
Cognitive bias can have a significant impact on our decisions. While bias cannot be eliminated from our subconscious, having greater awareness of its presence can assist in mitigating its effect on existing thinking patterns.
Regulating emotion requires the conscious awareness of how our thoughts and feelings affect our behaviour and impact others. Choosing a considered response rather than a knee jerk reaction is easier when we are not tired, frustrated or feeling stressed.
Social Intelligence and human connection
Getting on well with others requires us to recognise what may be going on in someone else’s head. We pick up cues from non-verbal language, facial expressions and tonality of voice. When we unplug from our focused thought, our default network of thinking switches on automatically, helping us to make better sense of our world by thinking about others as well as ourselves.
While we have the choice of multiple communication channels today, it is our face-to-face interactions that work best to create the trust and rapport needed for strong, and more meaningful relationships. This is especially important when we seek to persuade, influence, hold others accountable or find consensus.
As social beings we crave human connection. Being acknowledged for who we are and feeling cared about as an individual, boosts mood, lowers stress and shortens recovery time from illness. It keeps us in a ‘towards’ state where we are more open to other ideas, possibility thinking and willing to step up to a new challenge.
The notion of having a left-sided or rightsided brain is a brain myth. We are whole brain thinkers. The creative process is now recognised as being highly complex, involving many different conscious and subconscious cognitive processes and our emotions that come together in large-scale networks.
Thinking outside the box, staying curious, and exploring new mediums leads to the development of those novel ideas that lead to greater creativity and adaptability. We appreciate the art and artistry of those who dance, paint, sculpt, and write, broadening our experience and improving cross-cultural competencies.
A creative environment is one that we find stimulating and inspiring. A bit of background noise such as working in a café can help as can being away from work; which is why being in a green space, exercising or having a shower is often the time we experience our greatest insights.
We are being increasingly impacted by our technology and we are clearly moving to an integrated digitalised world. Rather than seeing this as something to be fearful of, it’s an opportunity to review how we can use technology for our benefit by staying in the driver’s seat.
Meanwhile, staying human; being curious, adaptive and looking out for each other are fundamental traits unlikely to be replaced by our technology and are what make us so unique and successful as a species.
Dr. Jenny Brockis is the Brain Fitness Doctor specialising in high-performance thinking and cognitive health and author of the best selling Future Brain: the 12 Keys to Create Your High Performance Brain (Wiley).