Today, and tomorrow, it pays to care.
“Let’s face it, many of the products made today are becoming commodities with the same basic components and performance levels. How different is one bank ATM machine from another? How different is the performance and reliability of one car from another?
“How will business differentiate itself in a world becoming increasingly commoditized? In a world that is becoming increasingly automated? For some products and services, the lowest price will always be the focus. But there isn’t an economy in history that is ruled by price alone.
“To differentiate itself, a company can start by using the Internet to engage with its customers more, seeing them as partners so as to develop solid, long-term, mutually profitable relationships. By developing products that truly match customer needs. By focusing on service. By being friendly and helpful.”
I wrote the above paragraphs in the introduction to The Caring Economy, a book I published in 1999.
“Disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence and big data are changing the world of work,” Livia Gershon writes for the BBC in July 2017. “Retail jobs are disappearing in the US while the online sellers supplanting them fill their warehouses with robots instead of human workers. In China, manufacturing businesses that fled wealthy countries to find low-wage workers are now replacing those humans with machines. And on farms around the world, automated systems are beginning to take on backbreaking tasks like weeding lettuce. Studies have found that new technologies threaten around 40% of existing US jobs, and two-thirds of jobs in the developing world.”
“There is one kind of job though, that is both indispensable and difficult – perhaps impossible – to automate: the kind that requires emotional skills,” Gershon continues. “Artificially intelligent software is being built that can recognise emotions in people’s faces and voices, but it is a long way from simulating genuine empathy, and philosophers have been arguing for centuries that a machine with real feelings is impossible. Computers are nowhere near being able to compete with humans on the ability to really understand and connect with another human being.”
Emotional intelligence is the final frontier of human intelligence. It is the most complex, least understood, and has the most potential for humans in this age of smart machines. If your job involves you working on your own, figuring out things on your own, then, with a few exceptions, your job is in danger of being automated.
The future is for the carers, the connectors and the collaborators. The future is for those humans who understand other humans in the deepest possible way. The future is for those who thrive in multidisciplinary, multi-ethnic, multi-gender, multi-everything teams. The future is for those who are humble about what they know, and hungry for what they don’t know.
Break down the silos, the walls, the barriers, both inside and outside your mind. See your customers as your greatest partners. Today, if you truly care about what you do, and if you truly care to serve, to connect, to collaborate, it will shine through, and it will give you a path to the future.