During a time when robots are granted citizenship and starting families, tech giants like Google, Spotify and Microsoft are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on acquiring artificial intelligence platforms, and technology is being used to overcome human flaws and diagnose diseases, the importance of human skill can come into question. Where do humans fit into a workforce that is strategically crafted to prioritize automation, efficiency and speed, beyond human capability? A recent study by McKinsey Global Institute warns that 375 million jobs might be automated by 2030; what does this prediction mean for career development?
Many experts believe that the continued rise of automation and use of artificial intelligence (AI) will make emotional intelligence a prized skill. With AI simplifying the complexity of problems, tackling data and processing information at a rapid pace, there’s a need for softer skills to balance out the equation. Empathy, self-reflection and social awareness will be in demand, with growth in learning and development, coaching, and communications roles.
Emotional intelligence (EQ) tops the list of in-demand skills in an AI world. When Daniel Goleman released his book “Emotional Intelligence” in 2006, it was met with stellar reviews. Addressing the interplay between cognitive and emotional development, Goleman introduced the world to a revolutionary leadership concept, “a set of skills, including control of one’s impulses, self-motivation, empathy and social competence in interpersonal relationships”: emotional intelligence.
Over the past decade, organizations such as Google, Facebook and Zappos have heavily invested in EQ training programs to promote employee engagement. Ivy League universities have developed research centers, such as the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, to study how to leverage EQ to create more compassionate societies. Top MBA programs like those at Harvard and Stanford have incorporated interpersonal dynamics courses into their curricula to develop the next generation of leaders.
With EQ successfully integrated into mainstream corporate culture and people development, driving the focus on interpersonal relations and intrapersonal awareness, what’s next? Is emotional intelligence sufficient to help leaders keep up with the pace of rapidly changing organizations? The answer is, “No.”
For humans to be on an even playing field with AI, leaders must be capable of making decisions, taking risks and constantly moving the business forward, sometimes without all the necessary information. Leaders need to work with speed, and in order to do so, they need to rely on their intuition and be adept at understanding and acting on their gut feelings.
But is it really about those intangible feelings? Actually, according to William Duggan, author of “Strategic Intuition: The Creative Spark in Human Achievement,” there are three levels of intuition: basic, expert and strategic. Basic intuition is the commonly-known “gut instinct.” Expert intuition is a snap judgment, similar to what happens when you recognize something you’re familiar with. Strategic intuition is a clear thought.
For leaders to excel, they not only need solid emotional intelligence, but they also need to listen and respond to the messages they receive from within. How much stronger would leaders’ decisions be if they actually heard those gut feelings, expert judgements and feelings of clarity instead of only relying on the data and looking for emotional cues? What impact would that intuition have in the way they managed their team and business?
Just as artificial intelligence is evolving the business landscape, so too, must the approach of learning and development practitioners. It’s not enough for employees to reflect upon their emotions and social interactions, as they’ve been taught in EQ courses over the last decade. Help employees build tuition through self-reflection exercises, group and one-on-one coaching sessions, and mindfulness practices. To balance the power and speed of the machine, we must grow to understand and trust our own internal knowing.