Here’s what it will mean to be a smart thinker in the age of smart machines.

Here’s what it will mean to be a smart thinker in the age of smart machines.

There are many things machines can do better than human beings, among them manual and administrative tasks that follow the same routine  day-in-day-out.

For the most part, the technology we rely on for these tasks makes our lives easier, freeing up time to focus on other activities. The implications are both exciting and scary for our careers. It raises the question about what we’ll do all day if we don’t have to spend as much time on the routine things? What exactly will it mean to be smart in the age of smart machines?

According to FYA’s report The New Work Smarts, we’ll spend 12 hours per week on problem solving; 15 hours per week thinking critically; and over 30 hours communicating and engaging with other people.

Further, past trends indicate that the average Australian will spend four more hours per week using science and maths skills to engage with and learn new technologies. In an average working week, the time spent on tasks requiring advanced technology skills is set to increase by 75% from 4 hours today to 7 hours in 2030.

A doctor for example, will spend 9 hours less on diagnosing patients, as technology is increasingly able to support with  information processing and analysis. Of course, they will need maths and science to understand the diagnoses and develop treatment plans, but without crucial interpersonal skills they can’t perform these tasks.

It’s estimated that by 2030 practitioners will spend 18 hours per week, a significant portion of their working days, interacting with patients to elicit the information they need to diagnose and prescribe the most effective individualised treatment plans.

This is why the ‘smart thinkers’ of the future must have a higher level of emotional intelligence, as well as strong enterprise skills like problem solving skills and communication skills.

Foundational, and technical or job specific skills will still be important in the future. However, in an age where smart machines will be able to do many of the routine or manual tasks in our jobs, these skills won’t be enough. The ability to be aware of of others’ reactions and understand why they react certain ways will become a highly valued and necessary skill for workers in the future.

The research also shows that these changes will not only affect jobs requiring a certain qualification, like a bachelor’s degree. While some jobs and industries will change more rapidly than others, the looming changes should have implications for everyone across the economy – from teachers and accountants to mechanics and computer technicians.  

Demand for these skills is already occurring across the economy.

The New Basics report shows there has been a 158% increase in demand for critical thinking and 26% increase in demand for problem solving skills since 2013. These skills are now considered just as important as technical role-specific skills across a range of industries and professions – and employers are willing to pay a premium for them. In fact, employers will pay up to $8,000 more for an employee with strong communication skills.

What we have to offer in the future of work is what we can do better than any smart machine: relate to the people around us. To prepare, we have to start nurturing and investing in these skills the same way we do our technical capabilities at school, university, work, and even at home. 

To learn more about how to build enterprise skills like problem solving and communication, and how to put these into practice look here.

Keen to turn FYA’s research into practical ideas? Join the New Work Order Masterclass in Melbourne and Sydney here.

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