Conventional Wisdom in the Era of Automation


30 May
30May

Over the last 12 months, there have been increasing reports about a number of jobs being at the risk of getting redundant across industries due to the rise of machine learning/artificial intelligence based automation. Mark Zuckerberg in yesterday’s address at Harvard university clearly called out that automation will take more and more jobs. Closer home, a number of IT companies have started handing out pink slips at the mid-senior management levels which could be stressful albeit I would argue that not completely unexpected. The world is changing so fast that increasingly professionals especially at managerial levels who have not been investing in learning new skills and not being agile enough would increasingly be at risk of being redundant.

Reading some of the management classics which were written years and years ago such as Effective Executive by Peter Drucker and High Output Management by Andrew Grove (Former Chairman and CEO of Intel), I am stuck at the lessons from the conventional wisdom which have held the test of time and are so relevant in the today’s uncertain business environment.

While the organizations have their role in not holding the middle management layers accountable and honest about their value in the ecosystem by giving them early people management responsibility and administrative tasks which moved them further and further away from the value generation activities, the harsh truth is nobody owes you a career.

Some of the lessons from the management classics and my observations which I think are relevant and would continue to be relevant for both junior as well as middle management layers are:

  • Focus on adding real and measurable value not by merely passing information across the value-chain. This means one should be knowing their stuff deep and continuously looking for ways to make things truly better all the time.
  • Exhibit complete ownership for your area. Organizational bureaucracy, structure, incompetent team members etc. are all excuses – get shit done!
  • Being completely plugged in on what is happening around you both in your company as well as industry
  • Learning and pushing your teams to apply new ideas, new techniques, and new technologies. If you don’t re engineer your work-place, someone else will and you will be out soon
  • It is better to be fairly good at 5-6 complementary skills rather than being really great at one. The world is changing really fast for one to live off one key specialization.
  • It is easy to be busy through the day checking emails and attending meetings but don’t lose out on the fact that the real work happens closer to the activities which generate value for customers.

As Charles Darwin said “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change”.

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