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How to win the race with the machines

"Need an accountant? Try a robot instead" was a recent headline in The Wall Street Journal.

Everyday there is another article about robots (A.I. and machines) taking over accounting. That same article went on to say, "Large companies reduced by 43 percent the number of full-time employees in financial departments' back offices between 2004 and 2016, according to Hackett Group, a consulting firm."

Maybe a recent Oxford University study had some elements of truth when it put accountants, auditors, and tax pros at the top of the list of jobs to be automated in the next 20 years.

Should we be worried? And how will we beat these machines that grow faster and smarter everyday?

We believe it comes down to a few simple principles.

First is a "future-ready" mindset that starts with a commitment to lifelong learning.

Next, we need three things to win the race with the machines:

Mindset: Adopt a future ready, anticipatory mindset.

  • Aware: Learn how to be a trendwatcher.
  • Predictive: Think about what the trends mean to you and your organization.
  • Adaptive: Discover how to harness the trends to work for you. Become an opportunity manager.

Skillset: Commit to develop these critical future-ready competencies that will complement the machines. Emphasize the uniquely human skills of trust, relationships, and empathy.

  1. Communications: Making your thinking visible to others.
  2. Leadership: Inspiring, motivating, and mobilizing consensus.
  3. Critical thinking and problem solving
  4. Anticipating and serving evolving needs
  5. Synthesizing intelligence to insight - large-scale pattern recognition.
  6. Integration and collaboration
  7. Tech-savviness and data analytics
  8. Deep functional and domain expertise

Toolset: Find the best tools to help you apply and master the critical competencies.

  • Understand yourself and others: Gallup Strengths, VIA - values, DISC, Kolbe, Meyers-Briggs
  • #MBSN: Management by Sticky Notes / collaboration.
  • I2a: Insights to Action - large-scale cognitive templates for group thinking.
  • Anticipatory Organization: Accounting and Finance Edition learning system
  • New BLI Future Ready Learning Portal in partnership with IBM for accounting and finance professionals to learn about Big Data, cognitive computing, blockchain, and other emerging disruptive technologies.
  • Social media to learn, develop your POV, and make your thinking visible.

Let's make A.I. stand for Augmented Individual, not Artificial Intelligence.

Here are our seven steps to win the race against the machines:

  1. Know yourself: Strengths and values.
  2. Leaders are readers: Read a minimum of one hour per week, and an optimum of five hours per week.
  3. Build your network: Your network is your net worth.
  4. Learn how to be even better at collaboration.
  5. Practice deep learning reflection via note-taking, writing, and teaching.
  6. Connect the dots and make it yours: Deconstruct and reconstruct, redefine and reinvent.
  7. Build your personal brand and make your thinking visible via social media.

And to quote Garry Kasparov, the famous chess master who was beaten by IBM's Deep Blue machine in 1997: If we feel like we are being surpassed by our own technology, it's because we aren't pushing ourselves hard enough, aren't being ambitious enough in our goals and dreams. Instead of worrying about what machines can do, we should worry more about what they still cannot do. In other words, focus on those uniquely human traits like trust, empathy, and relationships. At the end of the day, we can't win the race against the machines, but we can win the race with the machines.

I really think it comes down to this,:"You will be paid in the future by how well you work with robots and people."


Thomas Hood