Can humanity beat automation? Don’t panic, EVOLVE!

Robots—real and virtual—are taking our jobs.

This trend has not yet mushroomed into the horrific, humanity-crushing Skynet scenario envisioned in “The Terminator,” despite Boston Dynamics unveiling a robot this week that takes several AI-controlled leaps in that direction.

As surely as voice-controlled receptionists, automated stevedores and robotic truck-builders have already begun to erode working class jobs, workplace automation (and how we respond to it) will keep shaping the labor landscape.

However, to quote a more-hopeful science-fiction trope, “DON’T PANIC.”

An even more powerful trend is at work, and Veebit is helping to drive it:

terminator2As the workforce evolves from tool-users into tool-makers (and perhaps tool-servants), companies are waking up to the value of their most important and least-automatable asset: the human mind.

Yours is already full of valuable “human” traits and skills that no robot can ever replace. Better still, your mind can be trained to make the most of those traits.

Your ability to assess, collaborate, communicate and innovate will prove as uniquely human (and valuable to companies who understand it) as the job history and technical abilities listed on your resumé.

Does automation devalue skills in manual labor, simple customer-service and basic decision-making?

Certainly, but a new trend is developing: Companies are starting to focus on evaluating, training and generating revenue from the human interactions and performance driven by so-called “soft skills”—the ineffable blend of beliefs, instincts and behaviors that govern how well we work together in teams and on our own.

As Forbes reported last year, HR giants like ADP, SAP and PeopleSoft have invested heavily in adding “talent management” technology for e-learning, wellness monitoring and performance management to their traditional offerings. It’s more job-killing technology in its own right, yes, but it clearly signals that there’s something about the human workforce worth investing in.

While far-sighted business leaders are beginning to recognize the value of “the human factor”—the untouchable stuff that makes us tick on our own and click together—our precise understanding of that factor and how it works remains elusive.

Neither those companies (nor nimbler workplace-revolutionizing startups such as Trello and Slack) have yet created solutions for growing and capitalizing on the deeply human skills and traits at the heart of great performance and human success.

we-live-in-a-vuca-world-2-638Nonetheless, that recognition of value is real (as we at Veebit have noted before) in a work environment increasingly dominated by VUCA – volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.

If you write or read job listings these days, then you know: Smarter companies in the booming “gig economy” now screen for employees who can think, learn, interpret, communicate and problem-solve, both independently and collaboratively, while handling their daily job duties.

Savvy consultants are capitalizing on that need, pointing out that team efficiency—sometimes above and beyond individual skills—often drives workplace success.

In an interview with corporate strategy consultant Angie Morgan (a former Marine and co-author of the New York Times bestseller “Spark: How to Lead Yourself and Others to Great Success”) journalist Anita Bruzzese points out:

[C]ompanies can’t reserve leadership training just for the management ranks or try to provide the right kind of project management skills in a two-day training session. Those are “events – not processes” and won’t help individuals learn and apply the behaviors that develop their influence, inspire others or drive results, [Morgan] says.
“What gets lost in this approach is the opportunity to create organizational agility. Long gone are the days when one leader – or a few select leaders – called all the shots,” she says. “As businesses become more global and matrices change reporting relationships, organizations need to decentralize decision-making and depend on individual contributors to get the job done.”

Psychometric testing reveals how we as individuals think and collaborate. Applied intelligently, psychometrics can connect us to employers and co-workers with whom we’ll click and succeed on that critical yet elusive human level.

Some employers already use basic psychological tests as (somewhat crude) checks for compatibility.

Veebit takes testing several leaps beyond: We are building human-centered analytics tools around proven, intensive psychometric testing methodologies to develop a customizable, broadly-adaptable platform for understanding, tuning and maximizing these human skills.

Our testing delivers data identifying deep-seated personality traits and trainable human skills that guide people’s interaction, evaluation and decision-making.

The technology we are developing will correlate this data with an organization’s own datasets and benchmarks for success, to deliver insights into how people can succeed—together and in teams.

Opening the black box of the human mind reveals these Success Traits, helping employers and team leaders of every kind to discover, train and match their employees’ psychological makeup and abilities to the challenges they face in a VUCA-fied world.

Success will come from understanding, shaping and steering what’s inside that box, whether success means nailing KPIs, streamlining team dynamics or solving deeply complex and uniquely human problems that automation simply can’t touch: Ignorance. Incompatibility. Disenfranchisement. Apathy. Conflict.

dont-panic-quote-1We envision a workplace future where the more we understand and capitalize on our uniquely human skills, the better we can work together to shape a brighter outcome for everyone.

So don’t panic. Don’t stand back. Let’s lean in, learn what it is to be human, and work better together.

Let’s evolve.

(Curious? Contact us to learn more.)

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Mack Reed is Veebit’s Head of Product and oversees the information architecture, use case strategy and user-experience design for the company’s products.

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