THE BLOG
19/09/2017 03:57 SAST | Updated 19/09/2017 03:57 SAST

Here Is How Humans Can Still Beat Robots In The Workplace

Manual and repetitive tasks are being automated and outsourced to robots, therefore, where does that put human labour and expertise?

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Historically, the favoured means of work was the Henry Ford inspired 'assembly line' method. This focuses on operational efficiency, clock in-clock out, repetitive; produce, produce and produce some more, #WorkWorkWork model.

In recent times manual and repetitive tasks are being automated and outsourced to robots, therefore, where does that put human labour and expertise? Humans inevitably have to leverage off of some sort of advantage that they have over robots which is the ability to conceptualise, strategise, be creative and create solutions amongst other skills. However unlike repetitive tasks which happen more frequently, when do these 'moments of brilliance' occur?

The conceptual, strategising model contrary to the assembly line model [where there is consistent activity] is more like nothing, nothing, nothing, flashes of brilliance, nothing, nothing, nothing. So the question becomes: how do we optimise the use of time in between the moments of brilliance?

The answer is SERENDIPITY!

But if those moments of brilliance occur exclusively in serendipitous occasions then the question becomes: how we increase moments of serendipity? Yes, by that I mean create formulae that increase fortuity, chance and fate.

In his book 'Where great ideas come from' author, Steven Johnson states that "Chance favours the connected mind" meaning that collaboration helps the formation of good ideas. Gary Kirsten famously said that "the harder I work, the luckier I get." For the purposes of this article I wish to add one word to that statement to make it 'the harder I NETwork the luckier I get.' It is no coincidence that the more people you know, the more opportunities are made available to you. Collaboration and cooperation are key drivers of innovation, innovation increases with ideation and there is no 'I' in ideation.

Strong social ties occur in the environment that you are most frequently in.

I attended a Personal Knowledge Mastery workshop held by Harold Jarche on the 29 August 2017. He argues that there are three groupings in which networks take place.

  • In strong social ties which require regular interaction;
  • In intermediate social ties which require less regular interaction and
  • In weak social ties which still operate in irregular interactions.

Strong social ties occur in the environment that you are most frequently in. [What are you doing from nine to five from Monday to Friday?] These tend to operate in a 'team' environment be it in your place of work, school etc. They occur when the interaction and activities are repetitive and detailed which assumingly builds trust. In these ties, we are collaborating and co-creating for a common purpose.

Intermediate social ties occur in an environment with less regular interactions. These occur outside your 'nine to five'. [What group activities do you engage in willingly once a week or once a month?] These ties could involve professional groupings, workshops, forums, social activities, clubs etc. These are also known as communities of practice and provide a trusted space to share and validate new ideas through debates and discussion.

Weak social ties occur in environments with irregular interactions. [What social network platforms are you on?] These platforms usually share information and ideas with no expectation of receiving anything. On these platforms, there is a diversity of opinions and ideas. It is on these platforms crowdsourcing ideas are generated.

Relationships are a vital part of networking because you are dealing with people.

Ensuring that you are plugged into networks will increase the chances of serendipity. This is because you expose yourself to more potential opportunity. Remember, the law of averages applies and therefore the more the output the merrier the input.

Personal Knowledge Mastery is not a tool that can be implemented into an existing structure [perhaps it can be], it is more of a personal management framework and assists people in their approach to situations being that firstly, the more networks you are in, the luckier you will be and secondly, that different networks will provide different inputs into your life. How do you leverage off of your networks if their objectives differ from network to network? For context, let us define a 'network'.

IBM defines a network as a 'means to satisfy an objective or need'. And Harvard Business Review, on the other hand, defines networking as 'relationship building'. So if we merge these two definitions for the purposes of this article networking is defined as 'building relationships to satisfy a need or an objective'. Relationships are a vital part of networking because you are dealing with people.

And to nurture a network you must nurture the relationship. Nurturing a relationship also requires sharing of information and ideas which is probably the primary benefit of a network. Furthermore, you owe it to yourself to keep your network educated and in the 'know' as this enhances the quality of your network.

Networks, in general, are not homogenous in nature and they exist to fulfil different objectives. The structure, environment and undercurrents of your immediate [work] network are different to that of your community network which is different to the social network.

In order to increase the chances of serendipity plug yourself into different networks that fulfil varying objectives.

The immediate work network is hierarchical, structured and rigid in nature and the social network is informal, networked and agile. The beauty of networks is that they fulfil different objectives within a relationship dynamic. So in order to increase the chances of serendipity plug yourself into different networks that fulfil varying objectives.

Should you be looking for immediate solutions make use of the immediate network, this is a group of like-minded individuals that might close a gap in something that you may have missed. Remember this network is hierarchical and rigid and because decision-making is left to those higher up in the organisation, a tried and tested method will be employed. Furthermore, because the thinking is entrenched to that of legacy, there is very little room for innovation to happen here.

For example, engineers working together to solve a problem. Should you be looking for incremental innovation make use of your community network which is a group of people who are not necessarily in your work domain but are certainly within your area of interest. For example, individuals that are interested in Science, skateboarding or healthy eating. There is room for debate as the thinking is not as focused and centralised as the work network. There is an introduction to fresh thinking.

The beauty of this group as well as the immediate groups is that they can be used to share ideas on the social networks but also validate and test those ideas. Should you be looking for disruptive innovation you tap into your social network were not only thinking is different but philosophies and frameworks differ from person to person. This stimulates ideation and challenges the status quo as a result of different ways of thinking. This environment encourages disruptive innovation.

Personally, I have leveraged off of the various networks throughout my journeys. I have tapped into various networks in entrepreneurship, whilst looking for a job, whilst looking for recommendations and I have found that not only has it increased my chances for serendipity but the further out of my network I cast out a problem statement the more disruptive the response.

Try it!