Machines can learn a lot about our businesses and industries, and at some point soon, they will likely have more knowledge than even the most tenured and experienced human employees. But will they understand what humans find compelling and valuable? Will they be able to zero in on a small nuance that, at first, might not appear to be important for the business?
Let’s look at four of the uniquely human skills that will be essential in a business climate dominated by human/machine collaboration and touch upon how leaders can develop them in their team members.
For the foreseeable future, machines will depend on humans to feed them rules and guidance before undertaking creative endeavors. They will also need humans to recognize whether the work completed by artificially intelligent algorithms is any good or whether the intention just doesn’t translate, because machines don’t know the difference.
Some humans are naturally more creative than others, but the good news for human team leaders is that creativity is a skill that can be practiced and honed like any other. Build a team that excels in this powerful human advantage by encouraging employees to commit a short block of time (perhaps once or twice a week) in a quiet environment to clear their heads and let their minds go blank. They should make a conscious effort to stop thinking about everyday concerns – like the project they have due next week – and then engage in a creative activity like drawing a picture or working on a puzzle.
In their paper “Judgment Calls,” Accenture researchers Ryan Shanks, Sunit Sinha and Robert Thomas comment that judgment is human work that involves applying intellectual curiosity, experience and expertise to critical business decisions and practices when the information available is insufficient to suggest a successful course of action.
Today’s business world is all about speed and agility, and as such, the ability to make rapid and accurate judgments will become an increasingly valuable competitive differentiator for human professionals. To enable effective judgement to flourish on your team, encourage constant application. Rather than protecting your team members from making mistakes, prompt them to make solo decisions that require them to hone their judgment skills. This skill development can only be done through experience. Then, facilitate work with other groups so that the practice of good judgment is collective and multi-dimensional in service of the business.
Intuition is the ability to understand and decide on a path forward based on instinctive feeling rather than conscious reasoning. Our intuition helps us assess which type of decision-making will be the most effective in a given situation, and smart machines are simply not there yet.
You can hone this critical skill first by reassuring team members about the importance of gut reactions. The human digestive system and its neurotransmitters have a tight relationship with the human brain. Encourage employees never to discount immediate, visceral reactions and to pay attention to the physical sensations that accompany work situations. For instance, if a teammate feels on edge as she’s about to sign with a new business partner, it’s worth taking a step back and evaluating whether the deal is truly right for the organization.
The job of nanny or children’s caregiver may be the very last one that can be taken over by robots. Robots may be able to physically watch a human child so that he or she doesn’t get hit by a car or fall in the washing machine, but it will be a long time before they are equipped to raise a child the way adults have been rearing offspring for millennia: with a focus on love, affection and bonding.
Of course, not all humans have the strongest interpersonal sensitivity, either. However, you can engender traits like empathy by encouraging your team members to examine situations from different perspectives. Regularly prompt them to listen to dissenting points of view, validate those who disagree with them, and seek input and feedback to get to the heart of an issue.
It’s critical to recognize that machines simply don’t have the emotional capabilities to replace humans anytime soon. By guiding our people on where to focus their energies, we ensure they will have a fulfilling and productive future.