4 Skills To Beat Artificial Intelligence In The Workplace

We asked a pro to ensure you keep your job – even in the future.

Kirsten Curtis |

Tech company, Accenture, replaced 17 000 workers last year. The reason? Artificial intelligence. The technology consultancy brand had no need for human beings doing repetitive tasks. So they took to a process termed Robot Process Automation (RPA).

Fortunately, the company didn’t fire anyone – they reskilled and replaced them. But not every company will be able to afford that, says Richard Lumb, Accenture’s CEO of financial services.

Broad thinkers, researchers and sci-fi junkies alike all fear the fourth industrial revolution. And whilst some say it will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, others fear there’s lots at stake.

“Going forward, there’s lots at stake. Healthcare, law, stock trading and accounting are going to be the first sectors to take a hit,” says Rob Stokes, Chairman for Red and Yellow Creative School of Business.


“What makes this industrial revolution fundamentally different from the previous is that we are replacing our minds and not our hands. That is going to have a far greater impact than replacing hands has done in the past.”

With South African genius Elon Musk concerned, surely we should be too. “I think it’s only five to seven years before we start to see this,” Stokes adds. “Take autonomous cars in the U.S alone there’s 8.5 million commercial drivers whose jobs are at risk.

“It’s also all the industries that support that, motor insurance, roadside hotels, diners. All those complimentary industries will really suffer. Cars won’t crash nearly as much.”

A survey done by the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Agenda Council on the Future of Software and Society states that machines are to be part of a company’s board of directors by 2026.

So how do we beat AI in the future? Or rather, tomorrow? Stokes sat down with MH to find out the crucial skills needed to survive.

Creative Thinking


Creative thinking is the most essential skill going forward. It leads to innovation and that leads to influence.

“I believe that creativity is a really important skill for the future – and at least for the time frame that matters to me, is robot-proof,” says Stokes. “Businesses grow when they innovate, and innovation is the product of creative thinking.”

According to The World Economic Forum, creativity will become one of the top three skills needed. With new ways of working, new technologies and a string of new products, the forum says that workers are going to need to be more creative to benefit.

Social Intelligence


“There are very few or any ideas that are new. All ideas are combinations of other ideas and the more other ideas you have, the more chances you have of coming up with new ideas,” Stokes tells us.

Emotional intelligence, which doesn’t feature in the top 10 today, will become one of the top skills needed by all.



Stokes feels that management will fade in five to seven years. “Management is creating a certain objective and then measuring a person against that objective. Which a robot can do quite well.

“Managers need a job title, leaders just lead,” Stokes says. “Those are the people that will never be replaceable.

In the future cars may move on their own, but being able to drive those around you and motivate them emotionally will be priceless. “The ability to get 100 people to commit to a project that is likely to fail and yet they will believe the whole time that it’s going to succeed, that’s leadership.”

Stokes says young leaders should take steps to think laterally in order to make crucial decisions. The Six Thinking Hats method is one Stokes advises, which is a savvy step to look at all points when making a leadership decision. The key is to learn techniques to brainstorm ideas and help conceptualise and improve ideas, he says.

Negotiation And Persuasion


“Most people think negotiation is a win-lose kind of scenario, but negotiation is part of our lives everyday, we just don’t realise it,” Stokes tells us.

“As a leader if you need to get the best out of your team you need to negotiate with them, he adds. “Negotiation takes uniquely human skills, they are skills of empathy and curiosity. It is a way of finding that all people involved are really happy and not one winning or losing.”

But according to the World Economic Forum, although we may outwit robots now, skills of negotiation will be less needed in the long run. Negotiation and flexibility are high on their list of skills for 2015 but in 2020 they will begin to drop from the top ten, as machines, using masses of data, begin to make our decisions for us.

The Year 2020

WEF states the top most crucial skills needed by 2020 are:

  1. Complex Problem Solving
  2. Critical Thinking
  3. Creativity
  4. People Management
  5. Coordinating with Others
  6. Emotional intelligence
  7. Judgement and Decision Making
  8. Service Orientation
  9. Negotiation
  10. Cognitive Flexibility

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