One of the emerging ‘hot topics’ of 2016 is the increasing awareness that computers and artificial intelligence are going to transform our world more rapidly and profoundly than we thought possible.
Computers are learning to learn. They can already outsmart their human counterparts in winning at games like Chess and the (infinitely more complex) Chinese board game, Go. Books like ‘The Rise of the Robots’ by Martin Ford predict that this will impact not just ‘blue collar’ jobs through automation (e.g. driverless trucks at mining sites), but also the professions, including medicine, law (insert your own lawyer joke here!) and accountancy.
Other reports paint doomsday scenarios where millions of Australian jobs will disappear, with unconvincing assumptions that, as yet unknown, jobs will emerge to replace them.
The reality is that no one knows. What is certain is that things are changing fast – a trend is only going to accelerate. To succeed, we too must change. We must fight our fear – the base response that so many of us experience in response to the unknown. Instead, we must be courageous. Above all perhaps we need to be open to new possibilities. We must be Curious.
Curiosity is one of the 16 pillars of the . It sits within the competency of Innovation. As I unpack in the 'Innovation' post, the four pillars are:
The 3 Elements of Curiosity
Curiosity refers to the thirst for knowing and the desire to explore and learn.
Curiosity is not a word typically associated with business. We know that it killed the cat, but historically it hasn’t been widely perceived as a source of profit, performance or differentiation.
In the Imagination Age, I believe that must change. If we are to add value, to create and innovate in a world where, in one sense, we are competing with machines for our livelihood, curiosity becomes extraordinarily valuable.
1) Eagerness to Learn
As a leadership consultant I am constantly exasperated that organisations employing hundreds or thousands of people, with annual salary bills of many $Millions put aside so little to invest in this precious (and costly) resource. It’s like buying a Ferrari and then saying you can’t afford the petrol to run it.
Smart leaders create a culture of learning, experimentation and growth and insist that the business invests. Last-year-plus-a-bit-thinking is guaranteed to fail, so we need to look for new information, ideas and partnerships.
In the Information Age, knowledge itself was power. In the Imagination Age, the value (and power) now comes from the application of knowledge in new and creative ways. Leaders must take every opportunity to learn and also to encourage their people to seek out new knowledge.
So don’t just attend your annual industry event, send staff to different marketplaces and online knowledge waterholes. TED-style events are a great example. Give your staff a personal development budget and task them to come back with a 12-month plan for their development. You might be amazed by where their curiosity will lead them and your business.
2) Inquisitive Nature
As leaders, it is easy to remain in our comfort zone, where we know the territory and are confident of the answers. We must ask more questions. Asking questions and demonstrating an inclination to investigate are essential ingredients of curiosity. It often starts with challenging our well-worn habits and rituals. Ideas to kick-start change include reading a book in a new topic area, visiting a new town or country and listening to a different genre of music.
We can all become stuck. The days when we would work for just a handful of companies across several decades are well and truly gone. If we are to rise to the challenge and compete personally and professionally in a world of intelligent design computers, we have to force ourselves to evolve and adapt. We must learn to revel in “I don’t know”, but I’d love to find out”.
Perhaps a surprising quality to be associated with innovation, honesty is fundamental to our ability to give our all. Research by behavioural economist Dan Ariely found the possibility of losing increases our motivation to cheat and ignore our ethics.
The coming changes caused by the explosion in artificial intelligence and related technologies are likely to test us to the core. Indeed, Hamish Douglass, CEO of the influential Magellan Financial Group predicts the impact could be greater than the industrial revolution.
To move forward then, we must prize honesty and openness. The alternative creates weak cultures of mistrust and self-interest. Clearly, we will need to be at our ethical best to empower our curiosity. In turn, this will lead to the new discoveries, ideas and partnerships that await for those who get this right.
American poet E.E Cummings wrote that:
“Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit”.
As with the industrial revolution, there will be big winners and losers in the coming ‘Artificial Intelligence’ revolution. As leaders, we have to lean in. We must learn to use our extraordinary brains in new ways.
As Cummings observes, we must “Believe in ourselves”. Nurturing our curiosity and going where it takes us the very DNA of this process. Now let’s all go have an adventure...