Home Thinking Aloud More Automation Is Coming! Bulletproof Your Career!

More Automation Is Coming! Bulletproof Your Career!


by Edward D. Hess, author of “Hyper-Learning: How to Adapt to the Speed of Change

Everyone knows that jobs have been automated over the last 20 years. But the number of those automated jobs will be a small number compared to what is coming over the next 10 years. The continuing advancement and convergence of artificial intelligence, bio-technology, nanotechnology, virtual and augmented reality, quantum computing, and Big Data will automate millions of jobs in the United States. Not just manufacturing jobs but also service jobs, knowledge-worker jobs and professionals.

McKinsey predicts that by 2030, over 25 million jobs in the United States will be automated. Research from Oxford University predicted that within 15 years there is a high probability that 47% of U.S. jobs including professional jobs will be automated. How will you stay relevant in the workplace? What can you do to become bulletproof?

I believe we humans will need to excel at doing something valuable that the technology itself will not be able to do well. There are four uniquely human skills that currently meet that criteria:

1. Emotional Excellence.

Being able to emotionally connect, relate, and collaborate with others in positive ways that can result in caring-trusting relationships that enable you to have high-quality making meaning conversations with others that create or deliver value will be a key human differentiator. Being able to manage one’s emotions; generate positive emotions; and be highly sensitive to the emotional state of others will be important human skills.

2. Thinking Excellence.

Being adept at being able to think differently than the technology with the agility to move back and forth between those different ways of thinking: exploring the unknown and seeking novelty by being creative, imaginative, and innovative; engaging in higher-level critical thinking; making decisions in environments with lots of uncertainty and little data; and excelling at sense-making and emergent thinking.

3. Exploration Excellence.

Excelling at having the courage to go into new areas – the unknown – and to explore and discover the new and the different by using low-risk iterative learning processes is the third key human skill. It requires overcoming the fear of making mistakes and in most cases effective collaboration with others and overcoming our reflexive habitual ways of thinking.

The science of adult learning shows that our brains and minds are generally wired to be efficient. We reflexively seek confirmation of what we expect to see, feel, or think; to protect our egos; and to strive for cohesiveness of our personal stories of how our world works. We are creatures of habit and operate much of the time on autopilot. All of that inhibits Exploration Excellence.

To stay relevant in the workplace we will need to “rewire” our brains in order to:

  • Seek out novelty not primarily confirmation, affirmation, and cohesiveness:
  • Actively seek out disconfirming information that challenges our beliefs;
  • Ask questions that lead to exploration and discovery (e.g., Why? What if? Why not?);
  • Defer judgments in order to further explore and discover;
  • Embrace differences and to make meaning of differences;
  • Embrace ambiguity by not rushing to the safety of making comfortable, speedy decisions; and
  • Excel at “not knowing” and Hyper-Learning: continuous learning, unlearning and relearning.

Those three skills are all enabled by the fourth skill:

4. Self Excellence.

Excelling at managing how you think, how you listen, how you handle emotional stress and the challenge of needing to continuously adapt at the pace of change requires managing your ego, your mind and your emotions. The desired result is “Inner Peace”approaching others and the world with an internal quietness or stillness, which I define as being fully present in the moment with an open and non-judgmental mind and a lack of self-absorption with limited stress and fear.

That helps you remove internal noise and distraction and helps you align your inner world — your mind, body, brain, and heart — so you can better engage with the outer world in the pursuit of excelling at the above three skills. That state of being enables Emotional Excellence, Thinking Excellence and Exploration Excellence.

We human beings will be in a continuous race in the workplace to stay ahead of the advancing technology.

Are you “Bulletproof?”


Edward D. Hess is a professor of business administration and Batten Executive-in-Residence at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business and the author of 11 books, including “The Physics of Business Growth: Mindsets, System, and Processes“ and “Learn or Die: Using Science to Build a Leading-Edge Learning Organization“. His new book is “Hyper-Learning: How to Adapt to the Speed of Change“, which will be published by Berrett-Koehler in August, 2020.


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