Tomorrow’s manager Vs the Machine

A different world is taking shape, reshaping the role and capabilities of tomorrow’s manager. Tyler Cowen, economist, professor and author of “average is over” suggests the future economy will be run by intelligent machines. Economist Andrew McAfee of MIT agrees, suggesting there is a probability that more than 47% of today’s workers risk being replaced by automation within the next two decades. These are workers whose daily duties are primarily routine based, accountants. For example, face 0.94 probability of being replaced by computers according to Frey and Osborne authors of ‘the future of employment.’

Imagine a manager, in his office, surrounded by big screens communicating with an employee a hundred miles away. Smart computers in the background operating 24/7 carrying out telemarketing, accounting, invoicing sales, supporting customers. Tomorrow’s managers will be interacting less with humans and more with machines. His role will be facilitator, augmenting machine intelligence. Consequently, the machines will carry out most of the work, his time will be freed up, transforming into the driver of innovation.

According to the American management Association leadership survey of 2005, “fostering creativity and innovation was the fifth most highly ranked leadership competency of today. One that’s going to become more even more important 10 years into the future.” It’s nine years now and innovation has become the disposition for high performing managers. Innovation is driving today’s economy and will drive the future economy. Jeff Bezos CEO of amazon in an interview to Fast Company magazine noted that “what’s dangerous is not to evolve” to evolve one has to innovate!

However, innovations especially technological innovations lead to ‘non-linear’ and ‘irregular’ situations. Modern managers  must be able to  “regularise the irregular” says Gary Hemel author of ‘The Future of Management’ because “we increasingly live in an irregular world, where irregular people take advantage of irregular events and use irregular means to produce irregular products that yield irregular profits.”

The ‘irregular’ environment will increase focus on the customer, toughen talent retention, complicate Information technology and introduce cutthroat operating efficiency. Competition for customers will get tougher tomorrow as companies will struggle to find new methods of growing their customer base. At the same time, customers will be willing to give up some privacy for lower prices according to Tyler Cowen.

This is happening already as online retailers such as Groupon, eBay, Amazon etcetera track customer behaviour and design segment targeted product offers. But tomorrow is about personalised service and growth in business to ‘me’ (B2ME) practices. Cowen for example, gives a theoretical case of a shopping cart that uses GPS to track consumers’ movements through the store and uses cameras to see reactions to products and deals in order to adjust pricing. So, as customers give up more information, tomorrow’s manager must be able to use that information find innovative ways that will enhance customer experience treating each customer as an individual.

The ‘irregular’ nature of tomorrow will also lead to an ‘irregular labour market’, developed economies will have an aging population. According to the UK Office For National Statics, by 2020 the age distribution will shift toward older ages groups with economic activity of the people aged 16 to 25 is predicted to fall to 61.7% while the activity rate of people aged 25 to 59/64 is expected to rise to 79.8%.  As an innovator, tomorrow’s manager must recruit and retain labour with cutting-edge policies, especially for older top talent.

More immediate is the trend of organisations gaining more agile work styles that are enabling employees to strike a better work-life balance being able to work from anywhere, unrestricted by location, time or device.  According to a Citrix survey on mobile work styles in 2012, 24% of organisations surveyed had already introduced mobile work styles and predicted to increase to 89% by 2020. Tomorrow’s manager must be able to string teams of distant workers together and facilitate connections matching people with the right skills and abilities to projects where those skills are most needed. Equally, he must be able to increase productivity for people working anywhere by offering easy yet secure access to business resources. New technologies will enable tomorrow’s manager to introduce employees to employees, partners and suppliers building relationships automatically.

In general, therefore, it seems tomorrow’s manager is set to be an innovator and facilitator, someone who is able to compliment intelligent machines, facilitate connections, an innovator who designs attractive employment policies, focused on his company offering exceptional ‘personal’ service to his customers.