Let’s Embrace What Makes Us Human

The bright, young faces on this month’s cover (PPB’s 2017 Rising Stars, see page 22) represent everything that’s good about the future of the promotional products industry.
But, believe it or not, there was a time when people were apprehensive about younger workers because they feared they would steal their jobs.

The younger generation is not to be feared. But what could be a legitimate cause for concern is the rise of smart machines—robots—that, soon, will be able to outperform humans in many jobs. Research from the University of Oxford reports a high probability that 47 percent of U.S. jobs will be automated over the next 15 years. Further, based on that research along with independent research, the chief economist at the Bank of England predicts that the U.S. workforce could lose upward of 80 million jobs to robots during that period.

Is it too far-fetched to imagine robots calling on your customers and collaborating with them on creative campaigns? Probably. But the possibility of losing business to automated solutions is very real. In a July/August 2017 Inc. magazine article, Amy Webb, founder of the Future Today Institute, says artificial intelligence will usher in huge changes in every industry from farming to medicine, with A.I. handling any task just as a human would.

Still, not everything can be automated. The key to staying employable is to further excel at what makes us unique as human beings—our real, not artificial, emotional and social intelligence, says Ed Hess, professor of business administration and Batten executive-in-residence at the Darden Graduate School of Business, and co-author of Humility Is the New Smart: Rethinking Human Excellence in the Smart Machine Age.  
Hess explains, “In the Smart Machine Age, you do not want to behave like a machine. As smart machines take over more jobs, the most successful people will be those who can leverage their emotions and the best of their humanness to think better and be more creative, innovative and collaborative.”

According to Hess and co-author Katherine Ludwig, mastering human emotions is dependent on three things: increasing positivity, actively managing negative emotions and embracing the power of “otherness.” Here’s what these experts suggest:

Increase positivity. The strategy is two-pronged: first, generate plenty of positive emotions, and, then, stop allowing negative emotions to control your behavior and thinking. All it requires is a shift in focus. Take more time to notice the beauty of nature and the smiles of a young child. Reflect upon something joyous in your life. Think more often about the people and pets you love, the times you felt good about your performance at work, the times you felt appreciated by others. Practicing gratitude also increases positive emotions.

Hess says he keeps a list on his desk with five reminders: One, be positive. Two, take time to exercise and meditate. Three, just smile. Four, slow down at every opportunity. Five, avoid “drainers” (negative people).

Actively manage negative emotions. These include anger, fear, anxiety, dread and cruelty. They suggest letting negative emotions float through your mind without engaging them.

“One way to recognize when negative emotions are taking hold is to be very sensitive to physical changes that often accompany them,” says Ludwig. For example, your heart rate may increase, you get warmer, your stomach tightens, you may clench your fists. Learn to identify and label the emotion and then calm yourself by taking deep breaths and reflecting on something more positive in your life.

Embrace the power of Otherness. Otherness, they explain, is the ability to rise above our self-absorbed, ego-driven emotional defensiveness so that we can connect to and emotionally relate with others. They say humans can’t reach our potential by ourselves; we need others to flourish and to open our minds to new perspectives.

To do this, you must take the time to connect and relate to others in ways that show you care about them. For example, give people your undivided attention, make eye contact and smile. Put down your phone and turn away from your monitor. Actively listen and don’t interrupt.

The rise of A.I. in all aspects of our world is an exciting prospect. But our ability to connect with and relate to others on an emotional level is something that sets human workers apart from robots and ensures our continued value. Rest assured, the emotional intelligence to make others feel good about themselves is not something robots will be able replicate. At least not as of this writing.