What Will We Do After AI Takes Our Jobs?

Christopher Mims predicts that artificial intelligence will increasingly put white collar, professional workers out of work. That means people who blog. šŸ™‚ Muriel Clauson, of Singularity University, says “Education is often touted as the answer to the skills gap, but it is generally a blunt instrument.” She recommends this system:

First, break down every job into the smallest tasks. Then, figure out which of those tasks can be automated. The jobs that include those tasks are the ones at risk.

Second, assess what skills each person has, and compare those skills with the tasks, across all of the jobs, that can’t be automated. That would give you a pretty good idea of how to match up people with the remaining jobs. Each person would probably be missing a few of the tasks for any given job, so this “task mapping” assessment system would tell you how to design universities and other educational organizations.

I’ve always been nervous about designing education based on what jobs currently exist. It’s because today’s jobsĀ are always going away, or transforming, and new jobs are emerging all the time. Those new jobs often involve new “tasks” that wouldn’t show up using any system based on today’s jobs. So the real challenge faced by education reformers, and education researchers like myself, is: What are the deeper, higher level skills that apply broadly across a wide range of tasks? Those are the skills that make you adaptable, ready to grow and change with the economy.

Collaborative Technology Leads to Collaborative Leadership

In my 2007 book Group Genius, I predicted that the organization of the future would drive innovation with collaboration.

In the ten years since, this prediction has largely come true. Yesterday the Wall Street Journal described how several big companies have shifted to a more collaborative, more innovative organizational structure–enabled by collaborative software that didn’t exist back in 2007, like Slack or Microsoft Teams. This is a big reason why I’ve written a second edition of Group Genius (to be published later this year).

New data-driven capabilities are breaking down barriers between formerly siloed business units, flattening out management structures and streamlining production processes, prompting many firms to redraw leadership roles and responsibilities.

Companies moving toward innovative structures include Equifax, Liberty Mutual, and Procter & Gamble. For example, Equifax is moving to “small, cross-functional teams”. And the role of leaders changes, too: “rather than issue top-down directives, these managers instead strive to help self-directed teams leverage collaboration and sharing tools.” Managers are changing from “dictating how things should be done” to acting more like coaches who guide collaborative teams.

My own research on collaboration and creativity explains why and how this works: Innovation emerges, bottom up, from improvisational, nonlinear, and unpredictable processes. The organizations that can channel and foster this bottom-up, emergent process, will be the winners in the innovation competition of the future.

The organizational structures and cultures that lead to innovation have always been collaborative, distributed, and improvisational. Even before the Internet, a few rare organizations were able to design for innovation and collaboration.Ā But today, Internet-based collaboration software is making it a lot easier for companies to shift to innovative organization designs.

Match These Taglines With The Right Company

I’ve been watching the Weather Channel every morning with my son, Graham. A while back, I started writing down the taglines from the advertisements. The tagline is the catchy slogan that comes at the end of the commercial, after the company name. I started to notice that many taglines could work for lots of different companies. It’s not always easy to match the tagline with the right company! Try to match the number with the right letter:

  1. “Together all the way”
  2. “I can do this”
  3. “To help life go right”
  4. “What’s in your wallet”
  5. “Fine products made to last”
  6. “Show more of you”
  7. “Ready for the workday”
  8. “Experience an original”
  9. “Get yours”
  10. “Be good at life”
  • A. Cintas
  • B. Met Life
  • C. Otesla (a drug)
  • D. Cigna
  • E. State Farm
  • F. L. L. Bean
  • G. CNBC
  • H. Capital One
  • I. The Mattress Store
  • J. Met Life (yes, Met Life has two taglines on the list)

And here’s a creativity exercise for today: Create a tagline for you, that captures your personal brand.

Answers: 1D, 2J, 3E, 4H, 5F, 6C, 7A, 8I, 9G, 10B

Are You Too Old to Be Brilliant?

When are brilliant scientists the most brilliant? What age are you likely to be when the Nobel committee comes calling? Pick one of the following answers:

  • You need a lot of expertise and wisdom to make a big breakthrough. You need professional connections, lots of research money, and big laboratories.Ā Scientific breakthroughs come from people in middle age, or maybe even at the end of their careers.
  • It’s the young upstarts who have lots of energy and fresh ideas. After all, the old scientists are stuck in ideas from the past. They’re already past their prime. They’re tired and don’t have much energy any more. Am I talking about myself at the ripe old age of 56? I didn’t get much sleep last night, and my knees are kind of soreĀ šŸ™‚

A new study gives us the answer: None of the above. There’s no relationship between age and creative scientific contribution. The authors of the study analyzed 2,856 physicists, working from 1893 to the present. They found that the best predictor of exceptional creativity is productivity. It’s lots of hard work. The scientists who do the most experiments, and test the most hypotheses, are the ones with the big contributions. The researchers found that once they’d controlled for productivity, age doesn’t add any additional predictive power.

The researchers identified a second variable that’s related to scientific impact: They called it Q, and it includes intelligence, motivation, openness to ideas, ability to write well. Another surprise: The variable Q doesn’t change over your career. (Otherwise, you’d be back to the theory that age predicts creativity.)

It’s still true that younger scientists are more likely to make a significant contribution. But it’s not becauseĀ a person has moreĀ brilliant insights in your 20s, and it’s not because their ideas are fresh and unbound by old-fashioned tradition. It’sĀ because they work harder andĀ that’s why they’re more productive. So if you’re older, there’s still hope.

Now if only I could get a good night’s sleep.

Turtles and Creativity

Who knew that turtles played a key role in the downtown New York experimental music scene?

A recent New York Times article calls it “a substantial, and neglected, history of turtles in experimental music.” Reporter William RobinĀ did interviews with influential composers in musical Minimalism, including the members of an influential group from the 1960s,Ā Meredith Monk and La Monte Young, and their Theater of Eternal Music.Ā The composers were exploring the idea of slowness, and they both had turtles as pets. One of their compositions was called “The Tortoise, His Dreams and Journeys.”

Mr. Young said “we were creating sound that had to do with permanence” and “Turtles are these incredibly continuous and ongoing creatures.”

On a side note, the cover image of my 2006 bookĀ Explaining Creativity (first edition, but buy the 2012 second edition!) is a painting of a turtle, done by a Native American artist, representing hisĀ cultural group’s creation story, whichĀ involved a turtle.

We would sing for our turtles. We told ourselves that they liked it. They didn’t deny it. –La Monte Young

explainingcreativity

The Path to Creativity

In Austin, Texas, “Voice and Exit” is a cool gathering of tech visionaries and experts in human flourishing. At 8:30 Friday night, I kicked off a series of 10-minute talks, in front of 300 hipsters, in a converted produce market in Austin’s East Side–surrounded by fair trade coffee tables, massage artists, virtual reality rooms, and hammocks. Here’s how I started the 10-minute talk. It’s the core message of my ZIG ZAG creativity advice book:

Creativity is not mysterious. Creativity is not a rare insight, that comes to you suddenly, once in a lifetime, to change the world. It’s just the opposite. Creativity is a way of life. It’s a process.Ā The process starts with an idea. But it’s not a big insight–it’s a small idea. And that small idea can’t change the world by itself. In the creative life, you have small ideas every week, every day, even every hour. The key is to learn how to bring those ideas together, over time, and that’s the essence of the creative process. The latest creativity research shows the daily practices that exceptional creators use to keep having those small ideas, and how to bring them together in a creative process that consistently leads to successful creative outcomes.

For the whole talk, wait a couple of weeks and the video of my talk will be posted online. I’ll let you know!

Apple is Losing to Microsoft in Innovation and Design

I’ve been advocating for Microsoft for a few years now. Their vision has been ambitious and exciting: To create a single platform that adapts to all form-factor devices, from smartphones to tablets to desktop computers. The “tile” interface that Microsoft released in Windows 8 was the first new user interface design since the 1970s (when Xerox PARC created the “icons on a desktop” visual metaphor). Microsoft got panned for being TOO innovative! I think it’s because everyone is so used to Microsoft being an also-ran.

It’s taken three years, but the tech industry is finally waking up to the fact that Microsoft is pulling ahead of Apple. In the same three years, Apple hasn’t done much at all. It seems that all Apple can do is sell iPhones at ridiculous prices for their huge profit margins. And we know from tech history that this strategy always loses eventually.

MIT’s Technology ReviewĀ  magazine is the latest tech insider to come on board with Microsoft, in this article titled “Microsoft is looking like the new Apple.” Here’s the start of the article:

This week, one giant technology company looked like an innovator, launching a sleek new suite of forward-looking hardware to help media professionals work more effectively. Another added a row of buttons to an existing computer. In the past, Apple would have been the formerā€”for the moment, at least, that role has shifted to Microsoft.

“A row of buttons.” Ouch.