The Soda Academy

Introduction to Talent

The bots are coming! There is a tremendous amount of buzz about exponential technology and algorithms these days. Some experts are predicting that robots will take over 30 percent of our jobs by 2025. White collar positions, by the way, are not immune from this disconcerting forecast. In the next ten years, 40 percent of S&P 500 companies are expected to drop off the list. An era of unprecedented change and disruption has begun, or as Steve Case calls it in his new book – The Third Wave.

We are seeing big brands (including some of our clients) being disrupted across verticals and industries. While these numbers and stats were created to “scare” you, they could also give rise to a much brighter future. A future where technology and humans coexist.

Ray Kurzweil, a futurist at Google, talks about the future of artificial intelligence in his book The Singularity is Near. In it, Kurzweil describes his law of accelerating returns which predicts an exponential rise in technologies like genetics, nanotechnology, computers, robotics and machine learning. He says this will lead to a point of technological “singularity” in the year 2045, a time where progress is so rapid that it outstrips humans’ ability to comprehend it.

Look around, with all this technology and data science, we find most digital agencies aren’t touting their algorithms or technology capabilities. Instead, they are focusing on the connection to the customer – what we refer to at my agency as being customer obsessed.

Advertising has shifted from a focus on product (driven by messaging) to one centered on purpose and customer experience (enabled by technology). In digital advertising, more and more companies are pursuing technology innovation, not as an end in itself but as a way to engage customers on a deeper, value-based level.

While technology innovation is important, we as leaders must also concentrate on building the soft skills required for our people to be successful in this new future. Google, for its part, has proven through “its quest to build the perfect team” initiative that connections and personal relationships do wield significant business impact. Agencies should also start to invest more in these areas.

Soft skills training programs are often cut when times get tough at companies. My argument is that we should invest more in these skillsets, not less. The exponential growth of technology will no doubt continue unabated. And despite those doomsday scenarios involving the large-scale displacement of workers by machines, I firmly believe technology growth will lead to new jobs. Jobs that center around what we humans are good at and what machines likely won’t even come close to doing well in the near term. Some of the areas where we should focus are creativity, emotion, trust and mobility.

Some people may refuse to accept the notion that data science, artificial intelligence and machine learning have the potential to wield a disruptive impact on our workplaces and workflows in the future. Others may choose to believe hook, line and sinker in Ray Kurzweil’s prediction of technological singularity, a point in the not-so-distant future where machines will grow ever smarter and more powerful than humans.

The reality that awaits us no doubt lies somewhere in between those polar extremes. And regardless of where we ultimately land on the continuum, the cultivation of innately human skills will continue to open up new opportunities, enhance team dynamics and improve business outcomes for the foreseeable future. We hope you enjoy these articles which provide fantastic insights into how to cultivate soft skills in your organization – whether it’s building “heart intelligence” through creative workspaces or understanding how to overcome the inevitable growing pains all companies face through an inherently human-centered approach.

It’s your choice, but hurry, the bots ARE coming!