Ever since Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson wrote Race Against the Machine the discussion around robots taking jobs away from humans has intensified. In fact, the authors just recently released their new book, The Second Machine Age where they greatly expand on this topic. However, I’d like to propose that many jobs which the robots are projected to take away from humans were designed for robots to begin with!
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Most organizations and educational institutions are modeled after the military which means everyone dresses the same, acts the same, gets access only to relevant information to get their jobs done, works a set schedule, doesn’t ask any questions or share ideas, and basically works like a “drone.” Sounds like a perfect job for a robot doesn’t it? However, years ago we didn’t have the drones and robots to do these jobs so we hired people. Organizations taught people to work like robots and the common phrase of “I don’t pay you to think,” was well echoed. Much of this mentality has carried over into present day working environments which explains why so many people are disengaged at work and don’t like their jobs. Technology has finally caught up to the point where robots, drones, and automation can finally do the jobs and perform the tasks that our organizations have been assigning to humans this whole time.
It’s no wonder that synonyms for “work” include: drudgery, daily grind, and struggle and synonyms for “employee” include: slave, cog, and servant. Think about it for a minute. The typical set up for a company used to be that an employee comes to work and puts in as many hours as possible and asks as few questions as possible. Employees weren’t asked or expected to contribute ideas or suggestions and managers didn’t care about employee engagement and creativity.
So that brings us to where we are today and the amazing evolution that we are seeing around work. We are now seeing a massive shift in how we work, how we lead, and how we structure our organizations. This is being driven by the emergence of collaborative technologies, new employee behaviors, globalization, and other trends shaping the workplace. For the first time we are now starting to think about and create organizations that are designed for humans.
Today, employees leverage flexible work environments, share ideas, collaborate and communicate openly, and can become leaders. Today, managers believe in collective intelligence, earning leadership, serving employees, embracing vulnerability, and challenging convention. Today, organizations are becoming flatter, connected, more open, distributed, and focused on creating an environment where employees actually want to work there. These things might not all be considered “the standard” today, but they will be soon. This is what the future of work is all about.
These are the types of companies and jobs that are designed for humans, not for robots. The challenge many companies face now is how to adapt to the changes in behavior and technology that are transforming the world of work. The question you should be asking is, “what is your organization doing to adapt to the future of work?”