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The Future of Work in Tec: Stop Doing the Robot

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A lot has been said about empathy lately and while that’s just part of the panoply of human feelings we need to examine in the new digital engagement and ways of work paradigm, it’s also the key to unlocking so much more and without it, as I’ve written time and again, in our industry, we tend to remain stuck in our Banker hat and never remember we are wearing the Consumer one as well. So undoubtedly, empathy is the sine qua non condition to all other foray into humanity and it deserves the attention. In fact, it deserves tenfold more attention, it deserves becoming a true priority.

Over my career I’ve never wanted to “end up being about the fluffy stuff”. I gravitated towards technology, I built products, I ran teams and developed a fetish for Agile methods, all to avoid having to focus too deeply and delve too seriously into “the feels”. If all the answers to turn the ship of customer experience in banking laid in the technology we employ it would be *so* much easier! I admit, Mrs Emotional Banking wanted as little to do with emotions and as much to do with technology as the world of FinTech allows. Which is painfully plenty.

So believe me, I get it. Examining the intangible is unsettling and the road to making the conclusions useful is treacherous. Not for the faint of hearted that’s for sure. Not for the security seekers either. Unless you’re willing to take risks you can’t do an honest open exploration of anything.

My kid is 7. Everyone’s brood is their dynamo for accomplishing anything and mine is no exception – gaining his approval gets me out of bed at 5 am most mornings and sadly, he has a raised bar in terms of what it takes to be impressed with his mum – gone are the days when he would have been tickled pink by a webinar or a radio interview, since the book was published he expects uber-excellence which is equal parts exhausting and insanely motivating.

Funnier still, he has gotten it into his head that Emotional Banking is the equivalent of a corner shop or a property portfolio in terms of being a family business which is to be passed down through generations and often speaks about growing up and taking over “once mum passes away, of course”. No matter what I’ve tried in the way of expressing the difference between a boutique consultancy born out of burning passion and a trucking company, he won’t have it, so he is firmly the next heir of the Culture meets CX exploration which probably means I should sharpishly introduce him to some of our leads to ensure his pipeline is sustainable considering the speed of some of the banks we’re trying to change.

Now here’s the kicker – I wish I could tell him “to get into something else” like any good parent who hears their progeny express interest in their firmly vocational career. The artist guiding their kids towards medical school, the footballer nudging their kids towards law, the singer hoping theirs will go into accounting. The reason being that in wanting what is best for one’s child, one hopes they will choose easier paths and guaranteed payoffs from sure, stable lines of work, of course.

In my case, more than the examples above, there’s a world of exact science to be the opposite of what uncomfortable sea of unknowns about consumer and organisation feelings we examine every day at Emotional Banking so surely, every time he mentions my passing of baton I should immediately redirect but is that still the wise and caring thing to do?

What should he do when he grows up that would give him guaranteed shelter from:

EMPATHY

INTUITION

COMMON SENSE

EMOTION

If the advent of AI is as fast and as dangerous as the tin-foiled heads of billionaires herald it, shouldn’t we immediately safeguard by teaching our kids and ourselves how to do more of our only competitive advantage? Feel?

While the time frame is disputable and we’re still smarting from how slow flying cars are to arrive, it’s also likely that at least half our young kids’ professional lives will take place in a world where the jobs we see today will not exist. Asking them to train to be an accountant is conceivably no more useful to them than having them learn how to drive horse-drawn-trams.

Related: #BankWithPride: The Bank and the Hashtag

His father wants him to follow in his own footsteps and become a programmer. Really? Are humans the ones best poised in cornering that trade as compared to their counter-parts in the next 30 years? – Safe of course for the jobs where they guard the red button that will keep them from overpowering humanity, etc-. Once we shortlist what the robots can and will have a monopoly on, we should next wonder what are the jobs that will remain irreplaceably human?

None exclusively so, of course. All professions rely on hard data and science and those bits will indisputably be replaced by AI faster than we can say “Black Mirror” but most, -or arguably all- lines of work have an element of being human baked in. It can be found in our passion for the job, in having and using our sixth sense based hypothesis to innovate, in how we see the bigger purpose and tap on a myriad of motivators to achieve it, and in how we deeply care about other people around us.

That is the real competitive advantage and the hopefully-irreplaceable secret sauce that we need to hold on to for as long as we can and push our little Sarah’s and Jimmy’s towards.

Not what profession to choose but how to invest themselves to it once they do. How to apply themselves fully, how to learn to understand emotions in themselves and others, how to go with their gut and have the courage and flexibility to do so, how to be open minded and even more open hearted and understanding, how to feel.

This ailment of not encouraging “the feels” is for once, not one that is exclusive to banking and can be seen in other industries as well but in ours, maybe more so because the lack of mobility meant lack of dedication to become a brand and investigate humanity, it already hurts us in terms of how we relate to our consumers.

I put it to us all that letting our kids spend 20+ years in school learning all of the hard facts and none of the tools to deal with the soft, fluffy bits is at best, irresponsible.

It may be, by and large too late for us. Few bankers will turn their outlook around and be able to overcome the stigma of “getting in touch with one’s feelings” not being exclusively a female enterprise reserved for non-professional settings.

That one empathy workshop done mostly to get out of the office is sorely insufficient and a much larger scale paradigm shift would be necessary to bring emotions to the forefront, from the generations in banks today who have been conditioned to perpetuate this charade of measuring success by using code business language based on scant numbers and data but while it may be too late for us, it’s high time we examined what skills we empower our kids with.

Out of sheer love for our kids we have to open the urgent and uncomfortable dialogue of how to best stop doing the robot and start doing the human instead.

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