Why Leaders Need to Know What Machines Can’t Do

by Geoff Colvin

Some jobs really must be automated; others need the human touch.

When stock markets plunged early this year, managers at USAA’s investments division noticed something odd. Customers who routinely conducted business online were suddenly lighting up the phones. USAA had nothing new to tell them—its fundamental advice hadn’t changed, and they could have found that guidance online. Yet clients deeply wanted to talk to a real human being, and never mind why. They just did.

That reality illustrates a high-stakes decision that confronts managers in every industry: choosing which employees must be replaced by technology and which must not be. Growing numbers of jobs at every level can be performed by ­machines—not just faster and more cheaply than humans can do them, but better. In many of those jobs, such as in factories, failing to replace people could doom a company through uncompetitive costs. Yet in other jobs that machines can do well, such as giving financial advice, replacing too many humans could be a fatal error. How to decide? Three situations in particular seem to justify the costs, and quirks, of people.

When customers value the human touch. Many decisions that in theory are calculable—where to invest, whether to sue, how to respond to a medical ­diagnosis—are in fact laden with emotion. Many people need to interact with a person before choosing a course of action. In finance, law, medicine, and other fields, workers who handle those interactions most adeptly will be the least susceptible to replacement.

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This Old “Truth” Is A Lie

by Joe Calloway

“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.”

That quote has been attributed to everyone from Mark Twain to Henry Ford to Albert Einstein.  Whoever said it was wrong.  Or at least they’d be wrong today.  Today, that old “truth” is a lie.

Here’s what’s true: If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll begin to get less and less than you’ve always gotten.

If you do what you’ve always done, you will begin to fail, because:

  • Your competition’s getting better (if you don’t believe that, you’re delusional)
  • You’re ignoring trends
  • Your customers are changing
  • Expectations are rising
  • Your industry/profession/business is being redefined and reinvented whether you like it or not

If you’ve getting better at something and still not succeeding, it means that either:

  • Your competition is getting better faster than you are or,
  • The market doesn’t value what you’re doing in the first place. (Then it’s a hobby, not a business.)

The one sure formula for business success is constant, relentless improvement at something that the market values.

What did you do today that made you better than you were yesterday?

If your answer is nothing, then your business just failed.

The Best Advice From 2016 Commencement Speeches

By Vikram Mansharamani

Graduates

Graduation season is a wonderful time for celebration. Teachers applaud students, and parents praise their children. All eyes focus on the graduates, and rightfully so. After all, for many college graduates, commencement is well, just that: a beginning. And like most beginnings, graduation ceremonies are filled with a contagious optimism and energy.

I love graduations and am a commencement speech junkie. As a parent and educator, I am keenly interested in how best to advise young people. I also find the ceremonies inspiring, energizing, and renewing. So each spring I get my fix by reading or listening to dozens of commencement speeches.

We can all learn from the nuggets of wisdom shared during the proceedings. Here are five of the most valuable tidbits I’ve taken from some of the best addresses delivered to the class of 2016:

1. Get in the Way
Speaking at Washington University in St. Louis, legendary Georgia congressman and civil rights activist John Lewis urged seniors to be proactive—even if it means ruffling feathers. Noting inspiration from Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Lewis said, “I got in the way…I got in trouble…Good trouble, necessary trouble.” This lesson is as important today as it was in the 1950s and 1960s. As Lewis continued, “When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you must have the courage to stand up, to speak up, and find a way to get in the way.” The advice Lewis offers is as valid for working professionals as it is for ambitious and idealistic graduates. Convention and inertia are often impediments to progress. Get in the way to force change. The world may be better off because of it.


“When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you must have the courage to stand up, to speak up, and find a way to get in the way.”


2. Cherish “Uh-Oh” Moments

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor recounted to University of Rhode Island students an embarrassing story in which she choked during one of her first job interviews. These “‘uh-oh’ moments are worth cherishing just as much as ‘ah-ha’ moments,” she said. “Mistakes, failures, embarrassments and disappointments are a necessary component of growing wise.” The logic of learning from failure is not new, but Sotomayor’s reminder to embrace the “uh-oh” moments is refreshing in an era in which every corner of life has grown competitive and perfection is a ubiquitous expectation. When navigating the crosscurrents of global economic uncertainties, failure is almost certain at some point. Reframing setbacks as wisdom acquisition will empower and energize— precisely at the point when a boost is most needed.


Reframing setbacks as wisdom acquisition will empower and energize— precisely at the point when a boost is most needed.


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