I recently went to a presentation by Daniel Pink at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. Daniel was the principal speechwriter for former Vice President Al Gore. He is now a public speaker, editor, podcaster and best-selling author. He presented on the topic, “The Mind of the Future: How to Survive an Outsourced, Automated Age.”
This presentation described how millennials in the United States can thrive in the changing global economy. As a recent grad, I found this topic especially appealing.
The Impact of Automation & Outsourcing
During the presentation, Daniel Pink outlined three forces that are having a tremendous impact on our global economy: Asia, Automation, and Abundance.
To understand these forces, look at the work you’re doing on a daily basis and ask yourself three questions.
- Can someone overseas do it cheaper?
- Can a computer do it faster?
- Does what you offer to the world satisfy growing non-material, aesthetic, emotional, even spiritual demands?
The United States has historically valued “left-brain” analytical skills above others. While these skills remain necessary, they are no longer sufficient alone. Automation is changing how we value these factors on a global scale. Computer programs can now do work such as legal paperwork, certain kinds of accounting, and tax returns faster, cheaper, and with fewer errors than humans can. And high-tech call centers around the world are offering these services at lower prices. Any routine work that follows a set of steps and has a right answer can be outsourced or automated.
High-Touch vs. High-Tech Skills
As an employee, instead of focusing solely on expanding your “high-tech” skills, it’s important to develop your “high-touch” skills. Take art lessons, dance, play music and pursue your interests. To produce meaningful work in the future, individuals will need to be artistic, emphatic, observational and able to envision the big picture.
Like many American students, I have spent countless hours pouring over math textbooks and equations. Every day, I’m immensely grateful for these skills which give me the ability to track my finances, feel secure, and navigate the world. But the practices that truly bring joy to my daily life are much less measurable, (gardening, cooking, decorating my apartment, listening to music.)
On a large scale, “right-brain” abilities are becoming the engines that drive the U.S. economy. These traits are commonly expressed in designers, artists, nurses, teachers, inventors, and entrepreneurs. Right-brainers are the world’s problem-finders, not problem solvers.
Consider this statement from Rober Lutz, former Vice Chairman and Product Development Chief at General Motors:
“What we’ve got at GM now is a general comprehension that you can’t run this business by the left, intellectual, analytical side of the brain. You have to have a lot of right side, creative input. We are in the arts and entertainment business, and we’re putting a huge emphasis on world-class design.”
If a company like General Motors considers itself in the arts and entertainment business, then we must all consider our role in the arts and entertainment business. It’s never too late to nurture your creative side. How will you get started?
To learn more about this topic, read Daniel’s book, A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future.