How to stay above the automation line

Extract  from Business Innovation by Nick Whiteley

Extract from Business Innovation by Nick Whiteley

Why should you be more creative and innovative within your organisation?

Because without this edge your job is, or will be, at risk. Just as many blue-collar workers have been replaced with automated production lines, technology will also automate many of the process driven, “decision tree” making roles within the white-collar workforce.

Remember the bank tellers (now cash machines) and typist pools (word processors) of yesterday? If you cannot add value above the “automation line” then your job is at risk.

The automation line is an ever rising bar encroaching on the white-collar workforce through new and ever improving technology, computerisation, and software. As computers and software become more sophisticated, they are capable of doing more and more of the work that we are employed to do. Computers are great at automating processes and can rapidly make decisions based on the defined rules and data provided. They can do this much quicker, consider many more variables or data points, and with far fewer mistakes. However, right now and for the foreseeable future, they cannot create, innovate or think outside the box.

So think about your role and how far above the automation line it is. If it isn’t, then it will not be a new college graduate that you need to fear replacing your role; it is that thing that sits on your desk and in the server room. Companies will increasingly outsource or automate functions, roles, and activities that fit below the automation line. If it is not a core competency, does not add value, or create a competitive advantage then it is just a cost that needs reducing through automation or outsourcing. And if they don’t do it, someone else will and the company will be driven out of business through competitive pricing. Focus on your core competency and passion.

Innovation and creativity work well in the intersection of passion and competency. How can you transform yourself? Feed your mind. Just as a varied diet is important for physical health, so is a varied intake of ideas and knowledge. Become an avid reader. Not just books on your speciality or on innovation, but spread the net wider, read a variety of books on different topics from science to philosophy to the arts.  Read up not just on your industry/market, but also others. As you read look for connections, ideas that could be applied to your industry/market or function/role.

Become a dreamer. Think of a future unconstrained by technology. Science Fiction, however bad, is simply the idea of a future not confined by the technology of today. To get outside the box, you need to stop yourself from artificially constraining your thought process. What was not possible yesterday may well be possible today. The pace of technological change is becoming rapid. Constraining yourself by the limits of yesterday or even today will not allow you to invent tomorrow. Spend time with the customers and prospects. Understand their pain points. Great innovations come from real problems.

Become a problem miner, looking for problems to solve and the mother of ideas. Where are the gaps in the solution? Understand the space around the product or solution. Can this be filled? Will it add value? Learn to unthink and unlearn the rules and solutions of yesterday. You need to be fearless in your ability to destroy the status quo. Revolutions and Paradigm shifts are not incremental, they do not build on top of yesterday; they overturn and destroy to make way for something new and better. Do not get attached to yesterday’s idea or even your latest idea.

You need to be a revolutionary and a constant one at that.

The above extract is taken from Business Innovation: A little book of big ideas by Nick Whiteley and is available from Amazon. The book is available in both paper and kindle versions. Click here to read the reviews and download.

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