We have all heard the hype – a robot might take our job someday. Should we be worried?
Recent research reported in California Management Review* gives us hope! It encourages us to beef up our feeling skills.
That’s right: “All the feels” may soon pay off at work.
The Feeling Economy is on the horizon. The new research explains that as computational power and artificial intelligence (AI) implementation across all fields increases, we are entering a new economy “in which the feeling tasks of jobs, such as communicating / coordinating with others and establishing / maintaining interpersonal relationships, are becoming more important for human workers than the thinking tasks of jobs.”*
Using a US Department of Labor database, the authors examined 41 tasks that have been used by economists to track the nature of work for several decades. This research categorized each task as either a mechanical, thinking or feeling task and then looked at how the importance of those tasks to the various jobs had changed from 2006 to 2016.
What they found was that (not surprisingly) the importance of mechanical tasks decreased over that time and the importance of thinking tasks had increased a little. But the surprise to many of us is that the importance of feeling tasks grew substantially. Specifically, as firms turn over more and more of the thinking tasks to AI systems, the need for humans to do the feeling tasks is increased.
What’s a feeling task? Here’s an example of a few:
- Developing and building teams
- Guiding, directing, and motivating subordinates.
- Establishing and maintaining interpersonal relationships.
- Assisting and caring for others.
These are tasks that will take decades to train machines to do. So for now, firms are relying more heavily on humans to do these things, and leaving the thinking to the bots.
What are the implications for you, as a human (we’re assuming), an employee, and a manager?
- Your next co-worker may be a computer – embrace that and learn to work with it as you would any teammate. Help it do the right thinking while you focus on posing the right questions and communicating the outcomes to others in your organization.
- Look for ways to optimize job and task allocation across people and your firm’s artificial intelligence capabilities, based on what they’re each good at: Feeling and thinking, respectively.
- As your organization’s AI capabilities scale up, be sure you’re hiring for people skills (feeling) more and thinking (or at least, hard quant skills) less.
- Emotions have been a key element of strong brands for some time; this will continue to grow as the thinking aspect of value creation becomes more commoditized. Revisit your brand strategy to make sure you’re creating and appealing to the feelings that customers will increasingly value.
Want to increase your Feeling Economy readiness? Consider exploring some of Daniel Goleman’s work on Emotional Intelligence. Or to develop higher-level interpersonal and leadership skills, enroll in a course on Leadership & Influence. Here’s one developed by faculty at the Robert H. Smith School of Business. Leverage your natural, human, feeling talents!
*Huang, M., Rust, R., and Maksimovic, V. “The Feeling Economy: Managing in the Next Generation of Artificial Intelligence,” California Management Review, August 2019, pp. 43-65.