Robots are coming for your job. Here’s why that’s good news [Podcast]

by Katy Beloof

Driven by artificial intelligence and automation, the future of work might have you fearing that robots will take your job, or at least mess with it. Headlines that espouse “The robots are coming for your job, too” and warn of “The coming IT job apocalypse: Rise of the machines” can make it sound like humans will be obsolete in workplaces of the future.

But the rise of the machine may not be the worst thing. In fact, the secret to success in the workplace of the future is you. Our recent podcast in partnership with OZY on the Future of Creativity: How A.I. Will Free Our Minds, explores what the future of the workplace might look like as AI, automation, and robotics continue to proliferate — and how human connection and creativity will become even more critical.

Human and robot fist bump

“In the future that lies ahead, machines are going to be much better at being machines, so we’ll be set free to be very good at being human beings again,” says Liselotte Lyngsø, founding partner of Future Navigator, a consultancy based in Copenhagen which spots trends in technology. And what makes us “good at being human beings again” might include soft skills such as leadership, team building, and emotional intelligence, they also include human traits such as irritability and laziness.

And believe it or not, these seemingly negative traits can lead to creativity and ingenuity, says Lyngsø. Laziness and frustration can push us to find better ways of doing things. “Machines won’t be lazy,” says Lyngsø. “They go 24/7, but it’s an inherent human ability to say, ‘Hey, we could do this in a smarter way.’”

Creativity needs oxygen and time, says Smartsheet CEO Mark Mader. And automation can free up that headspace for humans by taking on boring, mundane tasks. 

“AI and automation will provide people with an opportunity to reduce — not eliminate, but reduce the things that most folks would consider to be less meaningful work [...] it’s the things that we’re asked to do that we have to do that keep the trains running but don’t really meaningfully change someone’s experience. If we can provide relief in areas where people are really acting as robots, that’s a wonderful win.”

Mark Mader

CEO, Smartsheet 

AI will free us up to do the relevant, important stuff in our lives. We’ll have more time to work on high-level tasks and more interesting things. So what would a “more meaningful job upgrade look like?” 

Creativity is critical for success in the workplace of the future. A Harvard Business Review article on How to Unlock Your Team’s Creativity noted that “the complexities of today’s marketplace require innovative solutions, which at times call for disruptive ways of problem-solving that may challenge the status quo.” In short, organizations need everyone to be more creative than ever.

But many people think that creativity is relegated to the few — that it “requires deep expertise or that you have to hire the ‘right’ people,” according to Nilofer Merchant in another Harvard Business Review article, Your Employees Have All the Creativity You Need. Let Them Prove It

Not so, says Mader. “Creativity really applies to all people regardless of job function. ‘Creative’ isn’t just a marketing and a design challenge. Every employee in every job function in every business should be creative.”

To find out more about the future of work — and how best to prepare for it —  listen and subscribe to the OZY podcast series The Future of X: The Workplace