I was in a global role. 10% of the time I worked, the rest of the time I pushed paper around. Pre-alignment meetings for alignment meetings with the management team, the global team, the regional team, the local team, and then, back again. More alignment.
It was a cushy job and I needed it. I’d just lost a bunch of money in a book launch. We had a small kid and another on the way.
But I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I left after a few months to start an e-commerce business. It was a good decision even though it didn’t feel like it at that time.
Six months after I left, Accenture led a Zero-Based Budgeting project in the company that eliminated the global team. In the meanwhile, my business also capsized but I learnt so much about e-commerce and the new world in the full hands-on complexity of running it that I was able to bounce back again quickly.
There’s no “cushy” job left in the world anymore.
If you think your job is safe, Accenture will take it. Or AI will. Or perhaps, even a smarter human will. Only one decision can make your job AI-proof.
The commitment to learn, grow, and tackle greater and greater complexity every day.
If you’re doing that, you’re building on the one advantage you’ll always have over Big Data—your creativity. If not, take a chance to leave your job to write a book, start a business, make a movie, or just pick up a more demanding job. Do something you can throw yourself completely in and is arduous enough to make you think and consume your whole imagination.
That’s’ your best attack against AI.
Machines can use past data to predict the future faster and better than humans. But they struggle to solve problems for which rules don’t exist. They can crack frequent, repetitive tasks–anything that requires less than a minute of thought–but they fail in every novel situation. At-least in the media AI stuff I’ve seen.
Think, don’t do rote work. And if you’re struggling to find space for that, here are three ways to walk into your job differently tomorrow to AI-proof it:
1. Spend at-least 30% of your time in creation.
I thought I’d have more control over my calendar once I became the head of a company. Instead, I saw it quickly being filled up by CEO forums, transactional updates, media interactions, invitations to talk here and there, and such, before I ruthlessly re-prioritized it.
Your actions reflect your intentions.
If your day is filled with busy work, your life will be busy without being creative. And no matter what role you’re in today, you have to create. New models to sell to new customers, new ways to pull data, new business or product plans, new partnerships, no job description or role is sans creativity. Measure your day. Don’t let more than 70% of the day go in “transaction” activities—preparing decks for internal selling, attending global calls, sitting in pre-alignment meetings etc. Learn, think, create for the remainder of the time.
2. Reduce transaction costs.
I’m surprised by how many people walk into my room with a power-point presentation to talk to me. Why waste the time to create a slide, then format, and print it when you can just explain your main thesis in a few spoken words or maybe a couple of data charts or a video? Why are we replacing our most basic human skills with machine-like skills, the opposite of what you should be doing in an AI world?
Don’t follow the herd and become “corporate”. Eliminate the noise. No matter which level you’re at, cut transaction costs to focus on creation.
3. Lose Yourself.
I’m an old man now. I go to 20 year old high school re-unions and meet forty-year old ghosts from the past. And I’m surprised by how many of them are still treating their jobs like well…jobs. Our parents’ generation could get away with working in jobs they “kinda-sorta liked” just to keep the fire burning.
Today, if you’re not obsessed with what you’re doing, if you’re not wildly curious about knowing all the changes that are shaping your industry and the broader world, if you’re not consumed by learning and being excellent, then poof! Youth, Technology, AI, something will pull out the rug from under your feet.
It’s a great thing actually. “Coasting” is no longer an option. All you can do now is lose yourself in your work and get a glimpse of transcendence through it. Or find work that allows you to do that.
And that’s a beautiful thing.
Here’s wishing you a long, successful career, leading a million robots and more than a few, good men
P.S: I’ve seen the effects of AI, big data, and technological disruption on a couple of industries from the ringside now but I’m not a technologist by far. So if you agree or disagree, I’d love to hear and learn from you in the comments below!