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Full range of thinking in future work

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Measuring the impact of discussing better development

It is clear that most organizations will not return to where they were before the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, the best organizations return to the extraordinary opportunity not only to recover but also to improve.

What we call “human resources” (HR) today will be completely different tomorrow as people and computers become more and more mixed. Human resources departments will support what Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Thomas W. Malone calls the “superminds” of tomorrow.

People and Machines

In the future, smart digital counterparts will be everywhere. These machines will be more human-oriented, and people will be amplified digitally. Most importantly, by looking at ourselves in digital mirrors, people will have a deeper understanding of what it means to be human and what we humans do best. We focus on efficiency (doing the right thing), while computers emphasize efficiency (doing the right thing).

As minds emerge, people will learn how to combine our skills with the capabilities of advanced digital tools and media. Human skills and computer augmentation are blending into new powerful ways that are already evident in the gaming industry. Jane McGonigal of the Institute of the Future (IFTF), one of the world’s leading designers of socially constructive games, defines games as “emotionally charged” and we could use the same phrase to describe a good story. A good game is a good story that a player can immerse himself in. And, as author Orson Scott Card says, “The essence of learning is to make mistakes without consequences.”

Here is an example of how people and machines can combine effectively:

Immediately after 9/11 the IFTF was asked to make a forecast for future fun at Walt Disney World in Orlando. Parents, of course, were concerned about safety, while children wanted play experiences where they could be intimidated in a safe way. The Magic Kingdom was a place where one could escape from the traumas of the everyday world where terrorism was looming.

My experience during this time with an early prototype called Paul Mickey gave me an important lesson about learning. My friend Mickey, strapped to guide me through the park, once stopped working. When I brought my faulty buddy Mickey to one of the cast (a term used to describe employees), she said it wasn’t a problem and that she would give me a new one. However, I was disappointed that I had to give up my Mickey’s friend. I asked if she could cure my buddy Mickey instead.

She paused for a moment, but then said, “Oh, I think I saw a wizard passing by just a moment ago!” Leaping over the curtain, she returned, bursting with enthusiasm. “Your buddy Mickey has healed!” she said.

I’m pretty sure she gave me a new buddy Mickey, but did it with such charm that I gladly went on the road.

Walt Disney World is known for its animatronics, but more subtly, it has also mastered the art of mixing human and machine resources. Its actors use a wide range of digital tools while maintaining human connection to create magical impressions. Future staffing organizations will need the same skills.

Mickey’s friend turned into a Magic Band. Walt Disney World now is a huge computer world where you can safely scare children. But it’s not just a computer; the cast is now augmented in ways that do not automate but enhance the experience by providing powerful computing power in a very human way.

To be there, not to be there

To develop, leaders will need new capabilities and full-range thinking skills to make good use of new tools and media. The market will require companies, nonprofits and government agencies to offer a wide range of working arrangements so that employees can earn a living. Networking technology makes it much easier to work anytime, anywhere – although working anytime doesn’t mean you have to work all the time.

I call this ability “literacy to be there without being there”. Fortunately, the tools for distributed work will become even more sophisticated in the next decade – but our own human self-discipline will be needed more than ever. The smarter computers become, the more people will appreciate other people. The more digital we become, the more we will appreciate the interaction between people.

Here’s what you can do to make it happen:

Encourage and reward full-spectrum thinking at all levels of learning

Your goal should be to improve the way people think. Encourage the use of new clarity filters to help go beyond categorical thinking. Your organization probably already has full-scale thinking, but it needs to be informed, supported, and scaled. And don’t forget gamified participation is the most powerful learning tool in history and is a great way to practice the full range of thinking.

Develop an intergenerational mentoring program for your employees

Mentoring between generations is one of the most profound but simple changes. At IFTF, almost every research group is a team from different generations. The young man has worked very closely with me for the last 15 years. My selection criteria are simple: he or she should be different from me in an interesting way.

Conduct spectrum diversity training for all employees

Variety correlates with innovation. We can now make a separate but additional argument that spectrum diversity will lead to increased innovation, productivity and growth – and growth can be a stronger stimulus than guilt.

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