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coaching Corporate Culture Efficiency Eficienta Personala Team management

Is my work a tool?

Sometimes we do not realise but in our organisations we create tool-like jobs. This is a major cultural issue for the next coming period.

by Manu

Am I a tool? Is my work a tool? Have you ever thought? Maybe one day, your work will be a computer job. It happened before and it will happen again in the future. What makes your work so special? What makes you so special? And what can keep your work in your hands? What if your work is designed as a tool? To answer that you should understand first if your job si a tool. This is not an article where I am gonna say that creativity is important. We all know it is. Let’s see what is this about!

Will the robots take my job?

I had this training once at a large telecom company. It was a briliant training group, very active and very smart. We spoke about process automation. They asked plenty of questions and we had great discussions about purpose of life.

Then comes a very passionate guy who just asked me straight: “Do you think that the robots will take your job?” “Hmm,… I don’t know! Maybe one day…” I said. “Let’s check!” he said. And we opened a browser and went to https://willrobotstakemyjob.com/. Then he said: “You might be lucky. There is less than 2% chance that a robot will do your job in the next two decades”. It made think: “What makes a job “vulnerable” to computers? How can my job be automated?” Of course, I did not have the answers on the spot.

But it made me realise that once there is a process in your job that can be automated, it will be. Even if there is a difficult one. But what makes a job “automatable” ?

Fast Forward Two Years

Here comes 2020. Together with the Covid-19 pandemic. Our core business is face-to-face training, a business that at least in our case, did not show any signs to slow down before March 2020. But the lockdowns hit our business hard. We grew as a local company, focusing on Romanian language trainings with a classic business model. Out of our turnover, face-to-face training holds a 93% stake.

Then comes the lockdown. In Romania, as in many other places, lockdown forbid us to provide face-to-face training seminars. We are suddenly out of business. It takes 4 long months to adapt our business model to on-line business that allows us to make some money again. The take here is that sometimes automation might not be the issue. The issue might be a wrong business model for the business environment. Instead of being hit by the automation trends we are hit by our business model. I don’t know which one is worse. Anyways!

What about AI?

Let’s have a chat about AI. I am not an AI specialist, but I understand how AI works. And I am sure that in the next few years AI will become a big part of our life as the phones are. I don’t wanna jinx it, but AI will probably majorly affect the way we do business. But I was never afraid of AI. Maybe I am naive, but to me AI is something that can help me get rid of the boring works that sometimes I need to do.

For example reports. I don’t like reporting and writing reports. Therefore AI can do that for me one day.

Then I had a discussion with my brother. My brother is a brilliant person. He is one of the most inteligent people I know. He made a great career with his ability of writing reports and proposals. In other words, my brother has the skills and knowledge to write amazing reports. And then he is telling me about an application that allows people with almost no writing skills to write good. “Maybe one day, it will be able to write better than me”.

This discussion make me realise that my amazing brother perceives AI as a competition to his skills, in stead of a tool that allows him to spend less time in making… reports for instance. I managed to shift his paradigm and now he sees AI as a power-up .

What is that?

This is something that makes me understant, that like my brother there are many people out there that think that AI will take their job, like that guy told me few years ago. And maybe it will. But…

Another example: Before computers, in the accounting departments, there were people that use to write down the accounting postings in the ledger. That work no longer exists, because we do everything with the help of computers. Is this something bad? Maybe at that moment, some people lost their jobs, but only for few months until they learned how to use accounting software and were able to ask for better salaries. It was because their job was just a tool for the chief accountant. And a better, cheaper and faster tool came by to replace it.

Since industrial revolution, every now and then, a new technology shows up and replaces the tool-like jobs. Same happens with processes. If your job can be replaced by a process, then a “tool” will replace-it one day. If there is an algorithm, will be a replacement. We designed tools since stone age. People are tool making animals. But some jobs are not like that.

Are you a tool?

Check the jobs around you. You will notice that many jobs are designed like tools for somebody else. Take an assistant for example. An assistant is most of the cases nothing else but a tool for the person he assists. And there are many examples. Take a driver, a nurse, a delivery boy, a cashier and so on. I notice that there are plenty of jobs that are designed as tools.

We design tool-like jobs and we put people on these jobs. Sometimes we call them careers, but in fact they are designed as tools in a process. There is always a better tool waiting to be discovered. The humanity made better tools since forever.

I believe that there are tools-design jobs and human-design jobs.

Maybe is the culture?

This doesn’t happen because of the people, but because of the managers that treat people as tools. We design “perfect” processes where people do not need to use their decision making and creative abilities. Even when decisions need to be taken, we design procedures to ensure that “the right decision” will be made. Like perfectly tuned tools.

Treating people like tools it’s a cultural thing. I can see this in many companies. And of course this exposes people to a so called “better tool”. Because they perform tool-like designed jobs.

To build a “human-designed jobs company”, will be difficult because is a paradigm change and a shift in business ethics. I am sure that some companies will do it, beyond the philosophical concepts that I am talking about. How to do it? I will get back to you in a different article.

How is your business model working with your culture to embrace the AI revolution? How will you grow employees to work with the tools instead of becoming one? I dream of plenty of international companies with few hundred employees and worldwide operations. I dream of a huge diversity and fierce competition.

Wanna ask some questions? Do it here.

Cheers!

Photo by Andrea-Piacquadio