Today’s tech revolution needs leaders with the right ‘heartware’

Cover art Laura Villanueva

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In the past few years alone, new technologies have changed nearly every aspect of every industry. A smartphone in every pocket means any service needs to be on-demand to be competitive. Social media has completely rebuilt the advertising and journalism business models. Bleeding edge frontiers like artificial intelligence have turned computer science from a specialized course into a basic component of today’s high school curriculum.

They’re calling it the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). If the past few years have seen new technologies change nearly every aspect of every industry, the next few will see monumental changes in industries that haven’t even been invented yet.

Designing humans into obsolescence

According to this year’s edition of the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) “The Future of Jobs Report”, four new technologies in particular will largely affect business growth until 2022: ubiquitous high-speed mobile internet, artificial intelligence, widespread adoption of big data analytics, and cloud technology.

The report found that Filipino companies have already been utilizing these technologies in one form or another. Big data analytics was the most commonly implemented at 92% of businesses surveyed; the internet of things and app and web-enabled markets followed at 83% and 81%, respectively. Rapid adoption of these technologies have created new openings in many of these companies looking for data analysts and software and applications developers.

And now, the elephant in the room: job automation. A majority of businesses surveyed by the WEF reported that streamlining workflows by implementing new technologies will inevitably cut down on their manpower. For the jobs that survive the tech-culling, massive reskilling will be required — with tech and programming knowledge in high demand.

At first glance, these trends paint a bleak, robotic picture of the future. But while humanity seems to be designing itself into obsolescence with each new advancement in technology, some experts project that these massive industry-shattering changes may make humans and human work more essential than ever.

From working with tech, to working alongside tech

A study by Oxford University revealed that routine jobs — like those of telemarketers, loan officers, even runway models — had a 98% chance of being automated due to their routine nature. A machine can run a spiel, or process your financial history, or follow a route down the catwalk.

So what will keep humans in the playing field? Two things.

First, soft skills. As of today, machines are still incapable of capacities like emotional intelligence, critical thinking, and creativity. But more than soft skills, are the character, drive, and core values that make human beings human.

That’s the second advantage human workers have over tech. Delane Lim, Chairman of the ASEAN Youth Community (AYC) calls it ‘heartware’, and believes these will be vital in managing the transition from humans using tech, to humans working alongside tech.

The advent of 4IR poses overwhelming challenges. Tons of new information and rapidly advancing technologies will affect interpersonal relationships in ways we have yet to anticipate.

With these huge developments happening so rapidly, it would be easy for most to sink. It’s the heartware that will keep humans afloat.

Developing your ‘heartware’

This is the drive of the AYC, the Singapore-based regional empowerment program that aims to prepare the young Southeast Asian not only for 4IR but also for the lofty economic goals of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC).

The development of one’s heartware will mean identifying and solidifying one’s purpose and personal value. This in turn, also develops one’s “personal leadership” — the figurative lighthouse that guides one through periods of personal and professional struggle. When one’s heartware is strong and sound, then the individual is resilient enough to push through in the right direction. After that, the acquisition of soft and hard skills will naturally follow.

For workers thrust into the fourth industrial revolution, well-developed heartware will be a powerful asset in their careers. For leaders guiding entire organizations through these particularly tumultuous times, it’s absolutely essential.

“Without heartware, we’ll just be electric,” Mr. Lim said. “That’s why humanity is important. There is a need for a human touch. Because today, employers are not just looking at you being technology-savvy, but for the ability to connect with people, the ability to communicate with people. I think these are two very important gaps we have to close.”