How to Stop Machines From Taking Your Job in an Age of Digitization


According to a McKinsey Report of  May 2014, Strategic Principles for Competing in the Digital Age, “Software replaces labor in digital businesses. We estimate, for instance, that of the 700 end-to end processes in banks (opening an account or getting a car loan, for example), about half can be fully automated.

Computers increasingly are performing complex tasks as well. “Brilliant machines,” like IBM’s Watson, are poised to take on the work of many call-center workers…..At the same time, companies are struggling to find the right talent in areas that can’t be automated. Such areas include digital skills like those of artificial-intelligence programmers or data scientists and of people who lead digital strategies and think creatively about new business designs.

A key challenge for senior managers will be sensitively reallocating the savings from automation to the talent needed to forge digital businesses….. One global company, for example, is simultaneously planning to cut more than 10,000 employees (some through digital economies) while adding 3,000 to its digital business.”

What is the implication of these?

Machines are competing with human brains and it is only those who can master machines that will survive.

These categories of people are those who are painstakingly developing superior minds, can determine the effective use of machines, understand systems, deal with intellectual complexities and can lead change.

Even if digitization is not catching up in Africa at the rate it should, it doesn’t discount its ripple effect as it redefines the we interact, how businesses are organized, function and make decisions. It is now a fundamental part of the model by which businesses and even nations achieve competitive advantage.

On the part of the individual, this requires new lenses with which to see the world, not as we want it to be but as it now is.

Why you have no excuse

The availability of the internet has removed the boundaries of learning and collaboration.

High penetration of cheap and affordable smart phones in Africa invalidates excuses of a lack of knowledge. In an age of the internet of things, it can only be pitied. However, the ruthless world of digitization is intolerant of any people or race who are slow to learn or embrace change.

We will need 3-5 times the learning power that previous generations needed to master the critical challenges of our times. Why? Nothing is predictable or certain anymore. Get rid of fawny fascination with security or predictability.

Why you are responsible

In case you have settled or have become complacent with your career growth, according to the report, superior technology can easily replace you in the following sectors – banking, insurance, media, telecommunications and travel.

This demands that you must not place the responsibility for your career growth on any employer no matter their reputation for developing people.

The survivors of the tsunami of digitization are those who take complete (not partial responsibility) for their professional growth, are quick to understand trends, anticipate change and swim upstream to embrace it

I therefore admonish young people to take their personal development seriously, stay hungry, develop an all consuming passion for learning and understand technology, not just using it. I repeat: understand technology, not just using it.

The age of letting your mind atrophy because you now have a paper certificate is officially over. You must develop an extreme love for learning.

What you were taught in school even if you had an Ivy league education won’t add up or fortify you. At best, it will only shows you have the potential to understand and respond to changes (learning). Maybe the experiences may count but not the paper.

The only one way to survive

Your ultimate survival skill is your ability to constantly reinvent yourself.

Your personal brand will lose value if what you know, the projects you work on, the challenges you surmount are still largely the same at the end of the year as its beginning.

The new rule is now set forth.

Always be learning. Always be developing new skills.

You just never know when it will matter. It’s a lonely road i must say but there is no wisdom in the crowd.

Keep at it anyway. Organizations and nations will always need people like you to maintain their competitive advantage.


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