Article published originally in El Periódico de Catalunya in February 2020

Are executives safe?

Until recently, we humans have enjoyed a long reign when it comes to creative tasks. By land, sea, and air, we have achieved incredible milestones. And although we are beginning to see clearly that technology will dominate all kinds of monotonous or physical tasks (which will make many jobs disappear), many creative people feel that their work is protected insofar as machines have been no match for human creativity. And executive and board members supposedly have creative jobs (here’s where the trouble begins).

Allow me to explain. For some years now, it’s been clear that smart software which can help us (and in fact probably surpass us) is also being developed in the creative field. So, will the executive of the future be out of a job? And the board, will it be replaced by machines as well? In my opinion, management skills will be more necessary than ever in the future. Why? Because if all companies, led by their executives, access sooner or later the same technology, humans will be more necessary than ever. That is, if any company has software allowing it to make investment decisions, manage a call center automatically, or have dashboards that evolve thanks to cognitive intelligence – as machines will be continuously learning – people could find themselves in paradoxical situations. Because if everything, absolutely everything, is managed by software supported by very dense data, we could come up with some “absurd algorithms.” In other words, machines could make some ridiculously illogical decisions because they are only logical.

Also top executives will find themselves challenged by machines. And they will have to decide when to accept, question, or reject these suggestions.

For this reason, the executive’s in-depth knowledge of the tasks and processes necessary for a company to function will be very valuable for the success of the organization and will make the difference. Executives will be the ones who must give context, with a critical eye, to this ocean of data if they don’t want to sink. They will have to learn to work with these digital colleagues and re-calibrate them every once in a while.

In any case, what there is no doubt about is that top executives will find themselves challenged not only by the professionals on their teams but also by machines. And they will have to decide (as they usually do with their human colleagues) when to accept, question, or reject these suggestions. Executives will also have to learn to manage techno-stress, that which will emerge from ubiquitous technology, omnipresent but at the same time stifling, even suffocating in data. And look after their teams in this task. Where does work begin and personal life end? Will they have to decide or will the employees under their management do it? Executives will have to create a context so that each employee is able to leverage technology as they see fit. I foresee more and more work for executives and board members. Phew… that’s a relief.