Why you should promote AI, as a youngster

Promote AI as a youngster

By Arbresh Useini, 14. January 2019

A few months ago, I attended a mini conference about robots in the workplace. I was the youngest at my table. Next to me sat a bunch of people almost twice my age, all of them holding a position with different level of employee responsibility – employees at all ages – and all of them skeptical about whether robots could ever be a part of our jobs or even take over our jobs. As they said: “Many jobs need critical thinking and creativity. It’s only a part of our tasks that are routine.”

I tried to convince them that robots weren’t coming, but that they already have arrived. It didn’t go well with the convincing at first, so I mentioned one of my colleague’s quotes: I asked them how they had found their way out here and what they used to navigate traffic. They replied (as I expected) that they had used their phones. I then asked, if they had been critical or blindly trusted the robot?

Before we had time to continue the debate, the next speaker went on stage and started the presentation:

The fear of being replaced by robots is big, but we cannot put the world on a pause. Robots are not on the way. They’re already here.

My point exactly!

How adaptable are you?

It’s estimated that 1.8 million jobs will disappear in 2020 because of AI, but that AI also will create 2.3 million new jobs. Are we ready for this? My guess is no. Is it a problem that jobs disappear? Again, I must say no. As history tells us, radical technology changes aren’t new. Throughout decades we’ve witness jobs disappearing and even more jobs being created. A study from 2015 by Deloitte says that during a 144 years period, technology created more jobs in England than it destroyed.  It’s crucial to turn our attention to AI because it might be the only way for your company to survive. Fewer than 12% of the Fortune 500 companies from 1955 still exists today, and by 2051 all of today’s Fortune 500 would be replaced. It’s no surprise that the ones surviving was, and will be, the most adaptable companies.

Bosch are investing 220 million Euros in AI and Google has been investing the total sum of $3.9 billion in AI start-ups. AI has become the hottest topic these years, even World Economic Forum says so.

But for digital natives, this isn’t the latest fashion – it’s more like the little black dress; an essential in the wardrobe. So, as a digital native myself, I allow myself to claim that if you want to learn about embracing digital tools and AI, ask the digital natives.

You might ask: Why should a young generation of people with limited work experience teach me about AI? For several reasons. First, because digital natives, also known sometimes as Generation Z, will represent 20 percent of the total workforce by 2020 (same year 1.8 million jobs will disappear). Second, Generation Z will have jobs that doesn’t exist yet. 17 percent want to be entrepreneurs, they want to change the world, and with an extremely entrepreneurial spirit, they’ll probably invent jobs we can’t even imagine.Third, we have seen the world change so radically in recent decades that unlike before, AI is already a natural part of our work life.  And who knows how to navigate with technology better than the generation that have never lived without it?

Don’t change your job – change your mindset

Why did those people sitting next to me at the mini conference find it unlikely that robots might just take our jobs? I think, it might have something to do with the fear of losing our jobs. To prevent that from happening, we will need to change our mindset. McKinsey suggests that by 2030, 75 million to 375 million workers (3 to 14 percent of the global workforce) will need to switch occupational categories. A very important sentence: switch occupational categories.

We shouldn’t talk about losing jobs. Instead, we should start talking about adaptability towards changing job functions. The most exposed group would be the mid-career employee. Leaders must begin to figure out how to ensure that our mid-career employees can meet the future that is coming for us. A change of mindset that will challenge current educational and workforce training models as well as business approaches to skill-building.

It needs a shift in the mindset

In a recent podcast episode about Intergenerational Leadership, we talked about how the main difference between digital natives and digital foreigners appears:

The digital natives are used to have everything available anywhere and at any time. Sales, information and communication must be found on the smartphone, and so must your leadership. At work, this means that inspiration is gathered everywhere all the time. If the youngsters in your organization are present on social media during working hours, it doesn’t mean they aren’t working. Digital natives can find potential, tasks, customers, and ideas everywhere.

For you as a leader, communicating through social media seems as the best option as a leader. Going from a work-life balance, we might need to talk about a work-life blend with work and life going hand in hand 24-7. Søren Schultz Hansen calls this time-present leadership. The new generations are done with 9-to-5 jobs, and organizations need to adapt these lifestyle changes. The new generations are driven by opportunities over money. They want purpose – high pay checks are just bonuses.

How to adapt the mindset of youngsters in your leadership style

If the next speaker hadn’t gone on stage, interrupting our group discussion, I probably would’ve given these three advices to the people at my table from a youngster’s point of view:

  • Adapt, adapt, adapt

As a digital native, I might have a slightly different view of opportunities than the digital foreigners who sat around the table at the mini conference. Growing up with a smartphone in hand in a rapidly changing world means that I’m used to adapting without even thinking about it. You should adapt too. Use technology as a way of adapting.

  • Collaborate with the robot

You probably don’t think about it, but it takes collaboration between human skills and artificial intelligence for your smartphone to find the right location using GPS. Use this mindset in your job. Combine the complex thinking you, as a human, can do with the fast data generating quality a machine can do. Even if only a part of your job is routine based, my advice is: You should do the critical and creative thinking and let the robots do the routine work, and more importantly, you should get used to making this a natural thing. It will help you do your job better – not losing it.

  • Embrace technology as an extension of yourself

The last time you asked a youngster a question, I bet they turned their head to their phone to Google the answer. When I went in primary school and had trouble with equations, my teacher said it was a necessity to learn, because I wouldn’t walk around my entire life with a calculator in my pocket – guess the joke is on her. It’s as simple as that: Today, we see technology as an extension of ourselves. Do that, too, in every aspect possible.

Therefore, use the technology as a tool to empower yourself instead of fearing losing your job to it. And even though I never got them to agree with me,I’m happy I sat at that table. Age differences are always a way to make us reflect and a crucial factor for every healthy organization.

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