In The Dread Of Obsolescence

No, this isn’t about your new iPhone being made obsolete. This post is about the looming feeling of dread being experienced by managers who see themselves being automated out of a job in the years ahead. How to turn this feeling into an opportunity for change?

The cherished jobs of managerial types may soon be handed over to machines. A survey of a wide group of managers, conducted by the consulting firm Accenture, recently revealed their attitudes on cognitive computing and the future of the workforce. The CNBC article on the study summarizes the finding:

The study — conducted in August and September of this year across 17 different industries — surveyed more than 1,700 managers and found that while many managers believe intelligent machines will make them more effective, some are concerned these machines may threaten their jobs in the future.

Apparently the reason for the manager’s concern is that they spend most of their time on tasks that they feel could be automated in the future. What is that feeling exactly? Let’s call this somewhat humbling, potentially humiliating feeling, “the dread of obsolescence.”

As you know, the term obsolescence is usually ascribed to an “object, service, or practice” (via Wikipedia) that is no longer wanted despite being in good working order. Combine this with feeling of dread and you get the fearful anticipation that the work you do will soon be done by the next best  (inhuman) thing.

Many of the working people I know enjoy their workday moments of monotony — especially if a number of their other work duties are sporadic and stressful.  Predictable patterns give time and space to do the ‘simple stuff’. Quite simply, these are their everyday duties and routines. Routines have been called the “life blood” of organizations, but steadily the pulsating flow of life is robotic.

Humble yourself or be made obsolete

Let’s step back from the situation to look at humility for a moment. Consider, “being humbled” as a reasonable response to the dread. The argument I’m making is that managers should accept the fear of being made obsolete with humility. The low cost of automation, along with higher quality algorithmic outputs will surely make the executive decision easier. Once managers accept this likely reality, new strategies can be learned by to retain relevancy.

There is an interesting article in Forbes by Ed Hess, Professor of Business Administration and Batten Executive-in-Residence at UVA’s Darden School of Business, about the value of humility. In his analysis, humility is the core skill for retaining your job in “The Smart Machine Age.”

Machines, Hess explains, will displace many workers in many industries who engage in repetitive, linear processes, while those workers who are needed for jobs involving “complex critical thinking, creativity, innovative thinking, high emotional engagement or perceptual problem solving” will be safe.

Unfreezing to learn from social complexity

Unsurprisingly, Hess anticipates that there will be an increase in training programs to help professionals survive by developing “critical thinking, innovative thinking and high emotional and social intelligence capabilities.” At the heart of developing these capabilities is humility and learning processes that help people manage their egos, along with their thinking and emotions.

The dread of obsolescence can be said to function as a “humility-inducing” experience, which challenges the managerial ego to detach from controllable routines, then nudged toward managing complexity with humility. In the context of organizational change, this is akin to Kurt Lewin’s model of “Unfreezing,” or creating a controllable crisis that triggers the motivation for the managers to seek out a new equilibrium by changing.

It is uncertain to me how much of humility is a matter of fixed personality and how much can be learned. Managers that recognize the threat of automation, however, would likely see the benefits of humility as described by Ed Hess below, and want improve their character as such:

Humility enables more open-mindedness, better reflective listening and more effective collaboration—all of which are necessary for high-quality critical and innovative thinking and high emotional engagement with others.

Bottom line for managers: When your mechanical job tasks are to be replaced by something inhuman, learn to be more than your average managerial-type human by cultivating humility.

In The Dread Of Obsolescence

Pattern Based Innovative Management

Over the past few weeks I’ve been conversing online with Dibyendu De, a reliability management consultant in Kolkatta, India.  For 23 years of his career he has applied his extensive background as a mechanical design engineer toward helping 50 organizations achieve sustainable growth.  Our conversation utilized social media channels like Twitter, Google+, and blog posts, written in response to some of the questions I raised for my assignment in “Management Issues for Information Professionals”, a class I’m taking at QUT.  Eventually we caught up for a brief Hangout using Google+, where we discussed his views on management, strategy, and innovation.

Continue reading “Pattern Based Innovative Management”

Pattern Based Innovative Management

Networked Creativity : Madness and Mindfulness

brains!
brains! (Photo credit: cloois)

Creativity resists the control of conventional thinking.  At times it may appear as madness.  Places where conformity is the norm cause us to lose touch with the creative impulses within our brains, and subsequently innovation is lost.  Networked creativity frees us from the constraints of such places, unleashing the potential of our group brain.

These days creativity is thought to be a competitive asset, helping us to adapt and thrive.  To nurture creativity, we must kick aside those mental blocks that keep us comfortably numb and entice our brains to explore new territories.  We must open our minds to the vastness of social networks where anything is possible.

Continue reading “Networked Creativity : Madness and Mindfulness”

Networked Creativity : Madness and Mindfulness

Games for Global Innovation and Intelligence

It was around this time two years ago that I had begun wondering about a collaborative learning game that might involve role-playing and task completion.  I suggested that the game shouldn’t preach, correct, or in any way disrespect the player’s intelligence, but rather amplify it through teaching the art of content analysis as a form of “participatory entertainment”.   I was learning content analysis at the time with Open Intelligence, but lacked the tools that would accelerate the process.  I was longing for something that didn’t exist and was wishing for a form of education that could provide the kind of collective intelligence I saw attainable when collaborative groups began practicing content analysis and synthesis together.

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Games for Global Innovation and Intelligence

Cracking the Future of Education Code (w/ KnowledgeWorks)

A report from 2009, from KnowledgeWorks called 2020 Forecast: Creating the Future of Learning caught my attention.  It identifies six major drivers of change that might unleash a wild  world of learning quite unlike any system of schooling we’ve ever experienced.  What I’m finding is that it’s increasingly a story-driven game that places students at the center of their learning experience, much like an MMORPG.  In any case, the singularity is one narrative I imagine will drastically alter what it means to be a student interfacing with a world undergoing ecological and economic shifts.

In the section called Altered Bodies we’re reminded that neuroscientists  have begun to design neuro-enhancements that might soon provide “customized learning experiences” that push the boundaries of ethics and cognitive rights.  Learners are forecast to have “more and more options for modifying their minds and bodies in support of peak performance even as they navigate increasing levels of bio-distress.”  I’m reminded of what H.G. Wells would say is urgently needed to prevent our own extinction, “the evolution of a new more powerful type of man.”

Continue reading “Cracking the Future of Education Code (w/ KnowledgeWorks)”

Cracking the Future of Education Code (w/ KnowledgeWorks)

Does your Structure help or hinder Innovation?

Paul Sloane suggests we “destroy the hierarchy altogether” because people at the lower levels fear their great ideas will disrespect or challenge others up the command chain.  As opposed to hierarchy, he advocates fluid, adaptable networks in which people coalesce into teams to play their roles and accomplish certain tasks.

Source : bqf.org.uk

Does your Structure help or hinder Innovation?

Jason Silva’s experimental essay on “Intertwingularity”

Jason Silva’s essay on Intertwingularity“, begins with a quote from  Ted Nelson about the term he coined to express the complexity of interrelations in human knowledge.

“EVERYTHING IS DEEPLY INTERTWINGLED. In an important sense there are no “subjects” at all; there is only all knowledge, since the cross-connections among the myriad topics of this world simply cannot be divided up neatly…”

Silva draws a connection between Nelson’s notion of “all knowledge” to Teilhard De Chardin’s “noosphere”.  He’s reminded of a presentation from Chris Anderson, curator of The TED Conference, who refers to the power of imagination and he world of ideas as a kind of “life form” which has “made possible the human progress of the last 50,000 years.”  Anderson is enthusiastic about imagination as key to every evolutionary step forward through countless dead ends.  Anderson looks to our brains as ecosystems for “a new kind of life”.

Silva stresses the importance of our species with a quote from futurist Ray Kurzweil who said:

“…It turns out that we are central, after all.  Our ability to create models–virtual realities–in our brains, combined with our modest-looking thumbs, has been sufficient to usher in another form of evolution: technology.  That development enabled the persistence of the accelerating pace that started with biological evolution. It will continue until the entire universe is at our fingertips.”

Silva’s essay fuses quotes about technology as an extension of evolution, so that we might be encouraged to “step out of the familiar.”  For what he sees possible is   a humanity becoming immortal as we are “amplified by our technologically-extended minds.

Jason Silva’s experimental essay on “Intertwingularity”