I get scared when I think about the future of work.
It’s not because our AI overlords will create a dystopian future. It’s not because most of us will be living on the streets and the disparity gap will only grow deeper (though both of those are possible).
As automation continues to advance and more tasks are handled by systems and machines, humans will move from doing all the work to doing just a certain part of it.
But this shouldn’t scare us–humans have a lot to offer a world where machines handle computations, monotonous work, and programmable tasks. Humans can be insightful, finding ideas in the smallest of patterns. We can be bold, taking risks even when the odds are against us. We can be compassionate, looking out for others and seeing ourselves in them. We can be artistic, creating something that impacts others on a very deep level.
The reason I’m scared about the future is that very little about the current state of work is preparing us to fill those roles.
The nature of work we’ve inherited teaches us to stick to the playbook, play it safe, crunch the numbers, and keep to what’s worked in the past. In a word–be robotic. Our current system of management sees people largely as dumb and stupid; people need to be programmed, overseen, monitored, scaled up, etc. How can we get more out of these people? We’ve been taught to treat people like machines and it hasn’t gone well. Now that we actually have machines to work with, how will we change our ways?
When systems quickly become better than us at these tasks, what are we going to offer? What will we do if we haven’t prepared ourselves to be great humans?
WorkMinus is a place where we take a hard look at the business world and pick out the things that aren’t helping us anymore. Attitudes, mindsets, and artifacts from the past that aren’t going to get to a future where we need to be more human.
It’s not easy to make these changes. It requires people who have authority in the world of work to make bold, progressive moves. We need to experiment with new ideas and share the results with others.
We’ve identified six core areas we’ll be focusing on:
Leadership isn’t telling someone what to do. Robots can do that.
Less than 4 out of 10 people who are promoted to the position of manager actually have the skill set needed to manage other people well. And being good at your last job isn’t enough. Enough ink has been spilled on being a leader, but we still mostly interpret leadership as a power trip. Humans who lead other humans must have high levels of empathy, understanding, accountability, and more to motivate and encourage those they are leading.
Productivity isn’t getting lots of tasks done. Robots can do that.
It’s a trap to believe that the secret to doing great work is to get more stuff done. We stress about finding new ways to write one more social media post or turn out one more widget. But robots are going to be us at that game every time. Instead, we need to get better at prioritizing the work we have and focusing on the tasks like building systems that scale our productivity. We also need to redefine productivity to include highly human tasks like spending time with children.
Diversity and Inclusion
Diversity isn’t about filling quotas. Robots can do that.
Part of being very human at work is being aware of our personal flaws and the mistakes our parents and grandparents have made in how we treat one another. We are living in an age when many marginalized groups have been kept out of the spoils of capitalism for so long that it won’t correct itself unless we make big changes. This is about recognizing the different narratives we live in, and also meeting universal needs for acceptance and dignity.
Remote work isn’t about working from anywhere. Robots can do that.
Building a better workspace is about redefining what it means to be at work and at home. How can the places we work fit us better and make us healthier rather than drain our energy? How do build community across generations? How do we respect the environment and reduce travel while still have more face-to-face interactions?
AI and Automation
AI isn’t about using the latest technology. Robots can do that.
Questions about AI and advanced automation will fundamentally change the entire scope of the workforce. It is already happening slowly all around us. Questions around how to use this powerful technology need to be answered quickly. The ethics of a few people may be frozen into algorithms very soon. Are we morally at the place we want to be for that?
Culture isn’t about printing clever t-shirts. Robots can do that.
Office culture includes all the politics, attitude, communication style, decision-making, and relationships. Most office cultures are toxic to the point where people feel horrible for a large chunk of the day. How can we improve our interactions, trust each other more, and build office cultures that are positive and encouraging toward others?
Can we get there?
We’ve got a lot of baggage. If we don’t unlearn a lot of stuff fast, we’ve got bigger problems than we will be able to handle.
Join us as we try to pinpoint the worst parts of work and refocus our efforts on building up those skills that will help work more like humans.
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