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5 Crucial Skills for the Next Generation Workforce

In a technology driven landscape, it’s crucial for you and your team to be good at things computers can’t do. It’s a short list.
"Race Against the Machine"

Will robots steal your job? Slate technology writer Farhad Manjoo writes that the impending human-vs.-computer showdown dramatized in the Terminator movie franchise is not entirely inaccurate: “The real war will be about money, not military power, and instead of Skynet’s cavernous lair, it will play out in quiet office buildings across the globe — office buildings just like your own. The real war, in other words, will be for jobs.”

What’s critical for your organization, according to Race Against the Machine, a new book by MIT Sloan’s Erik Brynjolfsson, director of the MIT Center for Digital Business, and Andrew McAfee, principal research scientist at the center, is that your team can be (needs to be) great at the things computers aren’t. That way, your organization can capitalize on what technology increasingly enables, instead of being competitively victimized by it. Specifically, companies will need teams that master:

Applied math and statistics.Knowing which analyses to conduct and how to interpret their results is more valuable than ever.

Negotiation and group dynamics. It turns out that organizations need dedicated managers working with teams, advancing their agendas and working with their members.

Good writing. Computers can only generate the simplest, most formulaic prose.

Framing problems and solving open-ended problems. Computers don’t know what’s wrong or where the next opportunities are.

Persuasion. Does anyone seriously think that a great salesperson will be unable to find work, even in a highly digitized economy?


This list is adapted from Brynjolfsson and McAfee’s book, which is out in a Kindle edition and paperback. The authors add “human interaction and nurturing” to the list of attributes that defy automation.

Finding the brevity of the list somewhat frightening? So did the authors, as noted by a New York Times story covering their work. For an exploration of which jobs are the most vulnerable to robots, look into Slate’s fascinating “Robot Invasion” series.

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5 Crucial Skills for the Next Generation Workforce

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