Can Leadership Be Automated?: Episode #183 The Cutting Edge Japan Business Show

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Basically your job is toast. There is a machine or there will soon be a machine that can do it faster, better and cheaper than you. Our skill set didn...

Дата загрузки:2021-05-03T09:35:06+0000


Basically your job is toast. There is a machine or there will soon be a machine that can do it faster, better and cheaper than you. Our skill set didn’t change much from the start of agriculture 12,000 years ago until the industrial revolution in the mid-18th century. This last 150 years has been busy. We have created a weapon that can destroy our race. Who thought we would be that stupid? Fifty years ago we didn’t believe machine translation of our complex language skills would get very far. Certainly it was expected that there would never be non-human intervention simultaneous translation. Also, fortunately, machines can’t pivot or anticipate (well except for IBM’s Deep Blue against Garry Kasparov in 1997).

Driving cars and trucks requires us, because it is such a delicate, detailed and difficult set of tasks. What a ridiculous idea to imagine replacing those cantankerous, aging Japanese taxi drivers and punch perm truckers here in Tokyo with a self-driving, self-navigating vehicles. Internet of Things Komatsu tractors ploughing rice fields by themselves, nah, never happen. Apocalypse Now style “death from the air” requires top gun pilots and gum chewing gunners, doesn’t it. Killing each other can’t be delegated to drones. Robot vacuum cleaners, programmable pets, hotty droid receptionists, nimble stair climbing machines, adult men (many with passports) waving light sticks at holograph vocalists (Hatsune Miku) – not possible right?

So what do you tell your kid to do about a career? Where will they still be needed and not ditched by some circuit board on wheels? Actually, we are not so keen about handing over accountability to machines. Moral and ethical judgments, “the buck stops here” business decisions, hiring and firing employment protocols, creative brainstorming – there is a long list of actions which will always require people to be involved.

Today, we don’t follow people we don’t respect, regardless of where they sit on the organizational chart. We may genuflect in their general direction, because they have a pompous title, but we don’t commit our brain and blood to them. Machines are not going to get that leadership gig unless they are leading other machines - uh oh!. We need the human interaction, to hear stories, to share experiences, to be motivated, to aspire together against the rival firm, to set and follow our organisation’s Vision and Mission. We want empathy, collaboration, a sense of ownership, relationships.

Geoff Colvin in his book “Humans Are Underrated” references a recent Oxford Economics study asking employers which staff skills they will need the most over the next five to ten years. The answers were not a reading from the left brain hymn book of P&L and balance sheet analyses, portfolio planning, strategic assumptions, run rate calculations, etc. The top priorities were all right brain - relationship building, teaming, co-creativity, brainstorming, cultural sensitivity and the ability to manage diverse employees.

So if you are a whiz on the macros on spreadsheets, doing numeric based research – anything machine like, then start worrying. Henry Ford complained that every time he wanted a pair of human hands on his assembly line, he got “a brain attached”. Today, we want that brain that can feel as well as think. Being more machine like than machines is on a hiding to nothing.

We have to be good at being human and good in our interactions with other humans. Colvin noted, “being a great performer is becoming less about what you know and more about what you’re like”. Interestingly between 1990 and 2009 empathy scores for US college students have declined by nearly 15%. From the trend of these scores we seem to be educating people toward the wrong direction.

Here is the challenge for typical males CEO driver types, who are assertive and task, not people, oriented: how to lead organisations where technical skill is being outsourced to bots and the value of human interaction has become more critical to the success of the organisation?. Do you ignore it or do you decide to change? How do you change?
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