When you were a kid (maybe you still are), you had to memorize multiplication tables, the boiling point of water, and maybe even the periodic table. This kind of rote learning is giving way to outcomes-based education which favors deeper understandings of relationships and greater emphasis on results, not methodology or routinization. Dan Pink argues it is routinization in work and labor that can be either outsourced or even automated. Job-related activities in engineering, finance, accounting, even law can all be routinized and measured and thus easily sourced to countries and markets where these functions can be performed at a fraction of the cost in the U.S.
Last century machines replaced our brawn, now software is replacing our left brain – that side of the brain that is linear, sequential, routinized, pro forma. Think of drafting a Will for example. A decade ago or more it involved hours of sitting with a lawyer who builds you an estate will for perhaps thousands of dollars. Now of course you can go to LegalZoom and get one for 15 minutes and less than $50.
If you want to insulate your job and your company, consider what can’t be sourced, automated or routinized. Increasingly inventiveness, design, story, empathy, meaning, and something he calls symphony are becoming far more valuable than task-oriented excellence. Let’s take “story.” Story is taking facts and placing them in context and providing meaning through narrative. Dan Pink buys Big Tattoo Red wine because the marketing pitch doesn’t emphasize hyperboles and superlatives about the quality of the wine, and nor does Big Tattoo prattle on about the unique aging or fermentation process they use. Instead, Big Tattoo publishes a story on each bottle of wine about how they are trying to sell great wine in an effort to honor their mother who died of cancer and donate proceeds from the sale of the wine to cancer-related causes. And if you are like most people and can’t tell a great deal of difference in wines, theirs is just fine. The difference is their story.
Go pick up a copy of A Whole New Mind – it might save your job.