Talents for the robotic age

3 Minute Read

It’s been said that people born today will have completely different workplaces than we do now. Some jobs will be invented, some will disappear. What are the skills and talents we need to be relevant and thrive in a changing world?

“A.I. will likely replace tasks rather than jobs in the near-term, and will also create new kinds of jobs. But the new jobs that will emerge are harder to imagine in advance than the existing jobs that will likely be lost.” - Stanford University

Part 1: What skills should we cultivate to be competitive in the age of automation?

Unorthodox problem solving

According to a study by Deloitte problem solving, creativity, socials skills and emotional intelligence will be the most sought after skills in the future. To position yourself favourably for future success you need to become someone who can problem solve in unorthodox ways and see the world from different angles to find workable solutions. Resilience and willingness to reinvent will be essential skills. Resilient people demonstrate more flexibility, more stability in demanding situations and less aversion to change than their counterparts.

Embrace deep work

Understanding the risks and benefits of automation is vital, as is reducing digital distractions and finding the quiet spaces where you can be more thoughtful and productive. Computer scientist Cal Newport in his book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, writes that doing ‘deep work is like a superpower in our increasingly competitive 21st-century economy. And yet most people have lost the ability to go deep, spending their days instead, in a frantic blur of email and social media’.

Become a knowledge asset

As work patterns break down, think of yourself as a knowledge asset rather than an employee. Embracing knowledge sharing and avoiding information hoarding is seen by business as valuable skills as they add collective expertise and experience to the organisation. Knowledge may be an organisation’s only sustainable competitive advantage in the future. So make like an entrepreneur and champion better ways of doing things within your organisation.

Be known for integrity, resilience and disobedience

An open mind, integrity and resilience are some of the most important talents to possess. Operating outside of your comfort zone to achieve win-win outcomes are skills needed to work alongside the machines, augmenting their intelligence and capabilities so that they can achieve more. It’s important to remix your current skills with a unique blend of specialist skills and as your job is less likely to be the target of automation in the near future. It’s okay to be uncertain, these skills are difficult even for those trained to be creative.


Part 2: Developing both five minds or five metaskills

Develop five minds

In his book “Five Minds for the Future”, Howard Gardner makes an important argument for cultivating multiple intelligences that are disciplined, capable of synthesis, creative, respectful, and ethical. He believes to be future-ready we need to be immersed in the humanities, capable of critical thinking, more tolerant of others, and skilled in conflict resolution. And like Charles Eisenstein and psychotherapist Paul Verhaeghe, Gardner is concerned about the effects of neo-liberalism, free-market forces, privatisation, and the relationship between our ‘engineered’ society and how it affects our identity. Gardner argues more than one of these minds are required to succeed in the future workplace or they will be restricted to the menial tasks.

Broken down they look like:

  • DISCIPLINED MIND: is the ability to think in ways associated with scholarly disciplines (e.g. maths and science, history) and major professions (e.g. law, finance, medicine) with attention and focus.
  • SYNTHESIZED MIND: is the ability to distinguish crucial information from the excess overload, making judicious decisions and relaying information in ways that make sense.
  • CREATIVE MIND: an ability to go beyond the existing information to challenge and combine different things across genres to craft new ideas. Creativity is sought after, cultivated and praised and an important skill for successful career.
  • RESPECTFUL MIND: values diversity, responds empathetically and constructively and looks for positive ways to socially interact.
  • ETHICAL MIND: the ability to see the big picture, merge roles at work and align with the greater good.

Develop five metaskills

Marty Neumeier’s best seller, “Metaskills: Five Talents for the Robotic Age”, explores how we need more than knowledge in the robotic age. Neumeier sees machines taking jobs that don’t require creativity, humanity or leadership. He thinks there are five “metaskills” that will accelerate your success:

  • FEELING: including empathy, intuition, and social intelligence.
  • SEEING: the ability to think whole thoughts, also known as systems thinking.
  • DREAMING: applied imagination.
  • MAKING: mastering the design process.
  • LEARNING: the autodidactic ability to learn new skills at will. Learning is the “opposable thumb” of the five talents, since it can be used in combination with the other four.

See the TalentFinder, a simple, ten question quiz to assess which of these talents are your strongest. In a few minutes you’ll see your talent ‘handprint’ — a colour-coded chart showing the strength of your talents relative to one another. As Neumeier says ‘let’s start shaping the future.’


This content was created by Guardian Labs as part of a partnership with HSBC, and published on 16th October 2017.