Leadership and working in the age of digitalization

What real leadership looks like and how our work is changing in the digital age

Will you still be needed as an employee, manager or even your company in five years? Because the following figures are currently being passed around: “60% of all jobs will disappear by 2025”. Some even speak of 80%.

Will you still be needed as an employee, manager or even your company in five years? Because the following figures are currently being passed around: “60% of all jobs will disappear by 2025”. Some even speak of 80%. How will leadership and management change in the future and what can machines really do?

What do you have to do now so that in five years you will
a) still have a job that
b) is fun and makes you
c) makes you successful and satisfied?

The basic error in thinking

Has the following ever happened to you or do you know someone who has experienced this situation? You make an invention, offer a new service, post a groundbreaking thought and – BANG – the very next day your competitor copies you?

We all constantly emphasize our uniqueness, that you should think outside the box or that you can only get ahead if you are different from everyone else. Do you know this?

In reality, however, we live in the age of “equality”: Everyone offers everything that the competition offers, so as not to be at a competitive disadvantage. Innovation is either copied immediately or, unfortunately, very often suppressed because one violates a regulation or a law far too quickly and because no one wants to take responsibility for it.

Quite honestly, we live in a time when everything should be, and increasingly is, predictable, predictable and automatable.


If you want to survive, however, you must not be standard!


What machines can really do (better)

Not 60% of all people will lose their jobs, but 60% of the jobs we know today will be performed by machines. Machines are good at performing standardized routine tasks, especially when it comes to data processing.

That’s good news, isn’t it? Boredom is eliminated.

The greatest strength of machines is classification. Machines are incredibly good at learning. From A follows B. Machines already recognize objects, images or patterns with incredible precision. And they do this at a permanent speed that totally overwhelms us humans. A machine does not need a break and always works with the same precision.

Furthermore, machines have meanwhile developed such clever algorithms that predict your subsequent actions based on a few clicks. Amazon, for example, already knows what you will soon order and therefore already prepares the delivery, so that they can then, when you order it, actually deliver within 1 hour.

The waiting time is eliminated.

Even if we do not want to admit it: We humans and our preferences are quite easy to predict. Thanks to the linking of your digital footprints, they will be able to deliver you the right products at exactly the right time – without a human having to evaluate it in advance.

Machines are masters of automation

Two trends can be observed here:

Machines are becoming more and more like people: We humans don’t want to run complicated complex processes or programs. We like things simple, we want technologies that can be operated intuitively. For this reason, machines are becoming more and more like people – chatbots, Alexa or Siri & Co. send their regards.

In the wake of industrialization, however, people are also behaving more and more like machines. In this day and age, there is almost no process that is not prescribed or standardized, everything is certified. This is a good idea if you have a large company in which you have to standardize the processes in order to always get the same output.

But everything that is standardized will be automated in the future, and everything that can be automated will be replaced by machines.

These are the 60% of the activities that are replaced: Everything that is standard about us!

We have forgotten how to be unique, which I sometimes attribute to our education system (see also: Philipp Zimmer, Learning needs no walls): We are rewarded for doing what the system wants, a system that comes from times of industrialization.

Why empathy is so important for leadership

What machines cannot do (at least as long as you and I are on this planet) is develop emotions. Our brain is a social organ. People learn in context, the experience counts. A machine cannot explain the experience component. Why do you play tennis, for example? Because it is fun? Because it triggers something in you to do this together with a friend?

Alexa will never be able to play tennis and will never know what it means to have a friend.

Machines will be good at imitating, but they will never understand what it feels like to be human. It will always take a human to describe the experience to another human.

For example, when we go to the doctor, he should rely on all kinds of machines to make a diagnosis, but the doctor should please communicate and explain it – not the machine. It’s the same in an airplane: the machine is supposed to control the plane because it’s just much better at it for the reasons mentioned above, but woe betide any pilot sitting in the front.

We refuse to accept that it is a machine that makes the decision, we want to talk to a human. And in exceptional cases, a human should be able to take control.

Because only a human can understand how a human feels, what it means to sit on the other side. Alexa knows no fear or stress.

The dark side of success

So machines have many advantages. But as the advantages increase, so do the expectations. People no longer want to wait. People also no longer want to ask questions. Customers and employees expect everything to be clear from the outset, to be simple, to be automatable. It has to be so simple that you don’t have to ask any more questions.

And people don’t want to think anymore. Thinking is exhausting. People want to use their free time to be creative. Creativity is deeply rooted in us. The experience is in the foreground.

You have to learn to deal with this expectation.

You have to make things simple, away from complicated. But to do that, you have to understand people.

How smart leaders use this to their advantage

First: To close the circle to the introductory thinking error: We don’t need to ask ourselves what we should do better than the competition. Henry Ford once said, “If I had asked people what they needed, they would have said faster horses.” We need to think about what people really need.

“The products product” is important, the meaning behind it or in other words: the Purpose. What is the meaning and purpose of what you do? Why does your company need it? It’s not about building cars or making people healthy. It’s about getting from A to B or staying healthy. This can lead to completely new models. Use your creativity.

Second, this also applies to employees. Because when employees no longer just work in a template-like manner but think along with what the customer wants, then things really take off. My motto is: Make the employees happy, then the customers will be happy, too. Look at your environment.

You have to surround yourself with the right people. And you have to take care of the people!

I’ll explain how to find the right people and get them to deliver creative excellence in my next article, “Leadership is more than digital #2 – The Game Plan of a Successful Company.”

Als internationaler Eishockey-Schiri mit über 2000 Spielen Erfahrung habe ich gelernt, wie man 40 Männer führt, die testosteron-geladen auf einer rutschigen Unterlage ein emotionales Spiel mit Körperkontakt ausüben. Unterdessen ziehe ich zusammen mit meiner Frau vier Kinder gross, lehre u.a. «Arbeits- und Organisationspsychologie» und gebe mein Sport- und Business-Wissen als «die Pfeife» interessierten Unternehmerinnen und Unternehmern weiter. Warum ich das alles mache? Weil es mir immer schon Freude gemacht hat, Menschen zu entwickeln und weiterzubringen - das Leben ist more than digital!

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