It’s been a whole year, and we’re still in the throes of double disruption: global pandemic and recession. Both forces catapulting us into a brave, new automated world. And now we have the data to prove it. Millions of jobs are gone, and they’re probably not coming back, screams The Washington Post.
Anxious employees and employers alike all want to know, “What is the future of work?” The World Economic Forum and McKinsey Global Institute have studied that question extensively and published their findings, linked here. Both are well worth a look.
The future of work is not as gloom-and-doom as your disruption-weary brain is tempted to think. It’s just really, really different from what’s come before. I think the future of work is a three-legged stool. The legs of innovation, automation, and reskilling are all dependent on each other for stability. Automation’s contribution to the stool’s structural integrity is the gift of time, time for humans to learn, grow and create.
Automation seems to be getting all the attention right now, but it’s no more important than the other two legs of the work stool. At Mind Over Machines, we’ve developed a WAE of conceptualizing the interplay of innovation, automation and reskilling.
What is WAE?
Workforce Ascension & Enhancement (WAE) is a framework for lifting the global workforce to fulfill human potential. WAE has 3 components:
- A set of 10 guiding principles
- A four-phase approach to human-centered automation
- Specific exercises to guide your organization into its own future of work
You can get a crash course in WAE here and register to attend a series of workshops we are co-hosting with the Maryland Innovation Center. But right now, in this blog post, I’m going to give you a preview of the first step on your WAE.
Define Your Value
Before you can decide how the robots are going to liberate you from drudgework, freeing you to grow organizational value, you have to figure out: What is your unique value?
We call this your Core Competency. It’s the one thing your organization does better than anyone else. Your primary value to the market and the world. Your core competency should be an expression of your culture and a reflection of your values. And guess what? We have an exercise to help you define your core competency. You can download it here.
Explore with Empathy
Empathy is in our DNA and our name. For over 30 years, Mind Over Machines has been using our minds to figure out what workers want and need and how we can create/customize tech to provide it. We were doing design thinking before it was cool. This intro to design thinking has some mind-opening examples of how fundamentally changing the way you see a problem can lead to truly innovative solutions.
In both WAE and design thinking, empathetic exploration is the starting point because it’s how you understand what people need to reach their full potential. At Mind Over Machines, we use empathy maps to discover and document what users/workers are seeing, thinking, feeling, doing and saying when they run everyday business processes. Where are they frustrated by repetitive busywork? How do they want to grow the company and their own abilities?
Visualize Human + Digital Value
When you define your core competency and explore your business processes from a human perspective, a story starts to emerge. You see how every person and process contributes to the overall mission. Piecing together an organizational value chain is a concrete way for everyone to see the role they play in creating company value. It is also a helpful tool for finding places technology can automate, enhance or augment the work people are doing. Where can digital assistants collaborate with people to grow value?
In the knowledge economy, automation doesn’t replace entire jobs. It replaces tasks. In a recent personal blog entry, I drew from a well-known University of Oxford study to identify 4 types of labor: cognitive intelligence, social intelligence, perception and manipulation. To determine whether a process is a “good candidate for automation,” you have to break it down into its tasks and determine which types of labor are involved. Humans and bots can toss a job back and forth, each doing the types of labor for which they are best suited.
Get On Your WAE
The preliminary thought exercises I’ve described here are the first step on your WAE to the future of work. To lay the groundwork for leveraging automation’s workforce benefits (those other two stool legs: innovation and reskilling), identify where your unique value lies, engage in empathetic exploration, and visualize ways human-bot collaboration can grow organizational value.
WAE work isn’t difficult; it’s just different. It’s a different way of looking at why and how we do the work we do. That perspective shift is necessary to build a human-centric automation program that serves and liberates people.
If you want some help and/or company on your Workforce Ascension and Enhancement journey, register for our upcoming WAE workshops. Hurry! Registration closes March 5th.
Tim Kulp is the Chief Innovation Officer at Mind Over Machines. He’s trying to change the world. His mission: Stop the automation apocalypse by empowering humans. With years on the front lines of automation, Tim leads workers and business leaders to realize the potential of a human + machine future, instead of the human vs. machine future.