Exponentially evolving technology threatens to displace a huge portion of the workforce in the not-so-distant future. In anticipation of this massive labor destruction, what can we do to prepare ourselves?

Luckily, where non-human employees may be efficient and precise, people are adaptable. So while we risk losing jobs that involve repetition in a stable environment, we can build on our abilities to respond nimbly to changing conditions.

We can also build on our natural strengths in areas in which technology does not pose an imminent threat, developing our skills in critical thinking, innovation and emotional intelligence. This means working to overcome our own cognitive biases, egos and defensive reasoning by improving our abilities to be objective, take criticism, approach issues with open minds and engage emotionally with other people.

Putting ourselves in environments that can teach us these skills is the first step. Some employers see and are responding to this need, actively developing company cultures and practices that encourage this higher-level thinking. Employees who don’t work in such companies have a bigger task at hand, but can develop social and emotional intelligence in other ways: taking courses in the humanities and sciences, reading books on how to think innovatively and using online resources to hone critical-thinking skills.

Read more in Professor Ed Hess’article “When Robots Come for Our Jobs, Will We Be Ready to Outsmart Them?” in Wired.


About the Expert

Edward D. Hess

Professor of Business Administration and Batten Executive-in-Residence

Hess is a top authority on organizational and human high performance. His studies focus on growth, innovation and learning cultures, systems and processes, and servant leadership.

Hess has authored 12 books, including The Physics of Business Growth: Mindsets, System and Processes, co-authored by Darden Professor Jeanne Liedtka, Grow to Greatness: Smart Growth for Entrepreneurial Businesses, and Learn or Die: Using Science to Build a Leading-Edge Learning Organization. His latest book is Humility Is the New Smart: Rethinking Human Excellence in the Smart Machine Age (January 2017), co-authored by Katherine Ludwig. He has written more than 100 articles and 60 Darden cases, and his work has appeared in more than 400 global media publications and programs.

B.S., University of Florida; J.D., University of Virginia; LLM, New York University