Take a step back from your job. Remove yourself from the day-to-day repetition of bureaucracy, update meetings, HR, finance or procurement protocols and ask, “how much time do I actually get to spend doing my work?”
For many, this seemingly simple question sheds light on a clear and profound conclusion: we spend a significant portion of our day distracted from the core human, creative components of our work that we find the most compelling. Those tasks in which we uniquely are able to add value through innovation and complex cross-functional reasoning. We are distracted, not even by social media or the latest sensationalist headline, but the reality that many of the tasks which make up our jobs are — indeed — not particularly relevant to what we are being paid to do.
This is where Artificial Intelligence can come to our rescue. IPsoft recently commissioned the FuturaCorp report, which analyzes the future relationship between humans and machines in an AI-transformed organization. The scientists conducting this comprehensive study looked at literature and industry studies, followed this up with ethnographic experiments and co-creation workshops, which yielded deep insights on the past and present of the nexus of work, productivity and technology.
The core output of the report is FuturaCorp, an idealized human and machine organization that illustrates how AI will change organizations and, by extension, our world.
The research indicates that – in the not so distant future – more than 80% of the deterministic, repetitive tasks making up much of our daily work will be done by machines. The probabilistic, efficiency management and simple problem solving tasks will be done by approximately 50% human and 50% machine, while humans will continue to do more than 80% of the mainly human domain of cross-functional reasoning.
In FuturaCorp, machines intelligently manage repetition, protocol and data analysis on a scale impossible for the organic mind, affording humans time to focus on those areas of work where we can add the greatest value.
For the customer service representative, it means less time dealing with mundane requests, and more time helping customers through meaningful, complex issues. For the doctor, automation can reduce hours spent paging through complex medical histories and cross checking medical journals, leaving more time to engage with patients. For the procurement officer, time spent in data entry and rote analysis can be replaced with more sophisticated qualitative analysis, insight and negotiation, leading to significantly enhanced value for the organization.
Ultimately, task transitions will lead to an evolution in roles, as automation enables people to migrate to higher level job functions. Deterministic human roles — which today are common — become rare, focusing more on maintenance and management of machines. Probabilistic roles see humans working in close concert with machines, dealing with awkward and variable information to produce relevant and productive outputs. Cross-functional roles see investment in our most human talents, innovation, creativity and complex problem solving.
Accordingly, the skillsets that are required to succeed will soon change dramatically. A recent report by the Word Economic Forum (from 2015) indicates that “five years from now, over one-third of skills (35%) that are considered important in today’s workforce will have changed.”
Our unique ability to collaborate, manage complex tasks, problem solve across disciplines and — ultimately — drive competitive innovation will become core to our professional value. This is an opportunity, but also a responsibility. Each person will need to become a more active leader, regardless of their area of expertise, leaning more on their unique probabilistic and cross-functional capabilities to build true career longevity.
For corporate and educational institutions that have spent their histories preparing people to work in highly-specialized roles, facilitating this talent transition must be an active strategic effort.
For companies, in-house training focused on equipping talent to thrive in the new AI-enabled workplace will need to develop hand-in-hand with more sophisticated, technology-integrated internship opportunities. Educational institutions also have a significant way to go in facilitating this transition. While people mostly associate ‘AI’ with the future of work, FuturaCorp research indicates universities and training institutions are not yet proactively preparing talent.
In order to build momentum for the coming transition, we need to tackle people’s anxieties and offer education as well as pragmatic advice for how to prepare. The social conversation continues to be led by fear mongering: out of 233.8k mentions of AI across social platforms, only 13% were positive about their opportunities.
People always need encouragement to change. We need to take positive steps in order to reassure people in the face of their initially cautious emotional reactions and ensure they are aware of the core human opportunities that result from AI integration. As institutions prepare for the coming AI economy, there is a critical need to re-frame this evolution around the positive, human-oriented changes it will generate. A discussion about the types of skills that are required to succeed in an AI-driven economy — those specifically human skills of teamwork, leadership, creativity and innovation.
We must fundamentally realize: the path towards AI integration is not about replacing people, but empowering all of us to focus on skills closest to our ultimate professional self-actualization.