Boring. Mind numbing. Soul crushing. Those are the words that describe my corporate H.R. job in a large insurance company. I had a full team to manage, colleagues I liked, and a boss who was semi-rational on his best days. It was a refreshing change from consulting work, and a senior leader complimented me as being an “impact junkie.”
I hated it. Constructing processes, checking off boxes, picking the perfect color for each box, putting the boxes in the right order, finding new boxes to put inside the bigger boxes. Having my ears boxed if I suggested doing something differently. Crawling inside my office (we still had those then) quietly closing the door behind me, hoping no one would hear my muffled sighs followed quickly by hours of restorative and medically necessary web surfing. Hey, it beat sobbing and desk pounding, right?
Leaving that place was a career jail break. Returning to consulting meant dealing with numerous sticky wickets from multiple clients. I longed for the messiness of dysfunctional teams; the hubris of narcissists and their ravenous egos; the insecure nail bitters shaking and quaking before presentations; rising talent with idealist dreams of success. No more designing annual and quarterly and monthly forms that managers ran screaming from with H.R. zombies in slow pursuit. I wanted and was back in where I belonged – the muddy trenches of inter personal competition, conflict and contempt.
So I merrily trudged along, feeling pretty good about myself and the value I provided to organizations. I kept current in my field, went to conferences, had long term client relationships that were rock solid and lasted for years, plus solid earnings and freedom.
Yet sometime this year, in the dregs of winter, I woke from pleasant, cozy dreams of the English countryside with clotted cream and wild strawberries in endless spring to find my world unhinged, irrevocably changed and myself soon to be obsolete. Replaced by a smarter, younger, faster and sexier model with whom I could never compete.
Plus she was so small…
The geniuses at MIT, instead of preventing Russians from hacking our elections or making sure that the next release of Windows is bug free, have set their sights on putting me out of work. They developed “Coach Otto” a bot providing on line coaching for companies. There’s also Mindbloom, coaching played as a social game (and you wonder why I continue to hate millennials? Does everything have to be a game?!)
As one techie blogger put it:
” …a fascinating discussion ensued about AI and coaching. Can a coaching relationship be delivered through AI? Where will people go to get empathy in the future? “
Where will we go?!? Are you serious? You really think that A.I. is going to specialize in empathy? Does Siri feel your pain, hold your hand and agree that your last boyfriend didn’t deserve you? Of course if your standard of compassion is Russian novels or any character in Game of Thrones then she has a point. Technology that talks to you, even without a heart, has to be kinder than that (and a whole lot less complicated, too).
Lest you think that my fears about AI are exaggerated, a kind of sci-fi fantasy, I assure you – this is not fake news. Bloomberg recently reported that researchers at the University of Oxford estimate that nearly half of all U.S. jobs may be at risk in the coming decades. They get into the gritty details. Want to keep your job? Be a dentist. Who’s most at risk of being replaced by artificial intelligence? Insurance professionals.
HA! I knew I was right about insurance.
For the past twenty years I’ve preached and proselytised, chided and scolded, cheered and supported, analyzed and strategized. I work in partnership with really smart people – building off sites for senior leaders and their teams; on boarding new CEOs; coaching rising talent so they can move successfully to the next level and beyond; helping the befuddled and proud navigate the political waters of their companies. I’ve avoided off the shelf predictable solutions because they remind me of those boxes I hate. I’m not scalable, but that’s the point. My clients receive bespoke advice individually tailored just for them. Guidance they couldn’t get on Quora or from the legions of self-help (or self-hell as a favorite client calls them) books telling you to dream your ideal job and it will be yours.I bet they’re not going to get it from Coach Otto or an app either.
So what do you do when the future is in front of you and you’re not in it? I tried to find some wisdom, a few answers, a hint of strategy by asking AI itself what to do.
Thanks a lot.
Dear reader, it’s time to admit that I have no idea what to advise myself, let alone you. . You can’t outsmart the robots (Watson is in TV commercials improving everything from Bordeaux to fun office outings) or multitask more, or even out race them. But I’ll bet you can out feel them. Your intuition informed by experience will always pull rank.
Or you can hope, as I do, that the robot apocalypse won’t come until 2050. I’ll be too old to care by then and it will be my son’s problem anyway. Call me when AI can walk the dog, unload the dishwasher and make the bed. Until then it’s not really worth paying attention to, is it?