Recently, I had an opportunity to ask a number of analytically educated professionals (engineers, software developers, mathematicians, architects, actuaries, etc.) whether they think their work can potentially be performed by Artificial Intelligence (AI).
“Absolutely not!” said some, as their work, albeit technical, involves human judgement, ingenuity, building relationships, dealing with challenges never seen before, having a vision and establishing goals while keeping in mind abilities of each team member.
Others replied along the lines of: “Maybe some aspects of my work could potentially be performed faster and better by AI.” The rest of their work still involves making judgments in grey areas, as well as building relationships, such as establishing a network of peers for information exchange, creating psychological safety in a team, etc. It did not seem clear how this could be outsourced to AI, and according to the people I interviewed, it probably can’t.
Then, there were a couple of interviewees who said: “Oh, yes, no doubt about it. When AI gets to be sophisticated enough, it will be able to do my job.” I followed up asking about the greatest value that these interviewees believe they bring at work. Guess what? They mentioned things like deep understanding of their co-workers and the company environment, flexibility in their response, compassion, creativity, and all the relationship-building mentioned by others.
If these very human aspects of someone’s work add the greatest value, how could someone think their work could be outsourced to AI?
It is possible that while interviewees in the last group understood intellectually that their greatest value to the company is in these intangibles, deep down they may be undervaluing what they bring to the table beyond the technical know-how.
These wise, soulful people whom I had a privilege to interview are reluctant to admit that the non-technical aspects of what they do mean a great deal more than it may seem.
This is true for many of us.
When neighbors plant hundreds of tulips in front of their house, it is more than just planting flowers: it adds beauty, joy and variety to the lives of everyone who walks by.
When someone dances, it is more than a combination of movements: it is an expression of something inside, it combats stress, it creates a connection with others.
When a talented musician plays, it is more than a pattern of activated frequencies: it evokes emotion, it communicates what often cannot be put into words, it changes the way we feel.
When you sit with your friend in a hospital waiting room for hours, waiting for news of their loved one, even without saying or doing anything, it is more than ‘just sitting’: your presence in itself is a comfort.
When a master chef creates whimsical dishes in a cozy restaurant, you get more than ‘just food to eat’: all of your senses are stimulated, the experience make you think up new ideas and feel things beyond ‘feeling full’.
Your actions may seem to you like a common courtesy or ‘simply doing your job’; to the rest of us, it means more.
When you do your job with mastery, whatever the job may be, the result is more than the technical steps you perform: you bring a sense of vision, build bridges, give hope, create harmony, you put at ease those who rely on you…
Your kindness, expertise, engagement, resourcefulness, willingness to listen, readiness to do whatever you can, even if it doesn’t seem like much to you, creates an experience for the rest of us beyond ‘the thing you do’.
Just thought you may want know. Be well!
While much of my work time is now dedicated to completing the PhD dissertation, I still love making time for coaching and consulting. If you would like to connect about working together, let’s do it. It may seem like ‘just talking’, but you already know it is more… We can start over virtual coffee, and see what we can make happen together for you.
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