Scaling Up Magazine Scaling Up Magazine April 2018 - Page 17

SPRING 2018 WITH ARTIFICIAL intelligence (AI) replacing humans in unprecedented ways, Tom Peters predicts a coming “employment apocalypse.” As he notes, an Oxford study shows that 50 percent of American white-collar jobs could disappear over the next 10 to 15 years. “It may be an extreme prediction, but if it happens, the effect will be transformational,” says Peters, co-author, with Robert H. Waterman, Jr., of the best-seller In Search of Excellence. In his upcoming book, The Excellence Dividend, Peters offers ideas on how both companies and individuals can stay relevant. Although the business world has changed drastically in the 36 years since In Search of Excellence came out in 1982, the path to business distinction in many ways remains the same. “If you spend the $17 to purchase The Excellence Dividend, I guarantee you there will be nothing really new in it,” he jokes. “The principal messages of focusing on people, paying attention to your customers, and managing by wandering around [which Peters terms MBWA] is still not being done by most companies.” The solution to surviving this fallout from AI is to focus on unique human attributes, which are likely to remain beyond the scope of artificial intelligence, Peters suggests. “The things I talked about over the last few decades were always good things to do in order to stand out from the competition, but now they are becoming basic survival tactics,” he says. “You can’t in any way, shape or form get away with what you could 20 or 25 years ago. The heat has been turned up dramatically.” In The Excellence Dividend, Peters examines the success of Vernon Hill, founder of Commerce Bank in the United States and Metro Bank in the United Kingdom. While the recent retail TOM PETERS 17 "THE CALL FOR CUSTOMIZED TREATMENT OF EMPLOYEES COMES HAND-IN-HAND WITH THE RECENT SHIFT IN THINKING THAT FAVORS LIBERAL ARTS MAJORS—WITH THEIR CREATIVE THINKING, WRITING AND ANALYTICAL SKILLS—OVER PURE TECHNOLOGY STUDENTS, PETERS NOTES." banking model has entailed closing brick-and-mortar bank branches and reducing staffing in favor of online alternatives, Hill has maintained a contrarian view. Rather than specializing in “soulless transactions,” according to Peters’ book, he wanted to transform “every inhuman account number into a fully engaged member of our family.” Hill accomplished this feat by taking a completely unorthodox approach in everything he did—from remaining open seven days a week to instituting a dog-friendly policy to teaching employees to never say “no.” His methods worked, with thousands coming out for splashy, new branch openings and the growth of Metro Bank’s customer base to more than one million accounts. The bank’s attention to customer service—delivering banking in fun and unconventional ways—not only benefited the bank but also helped create thousands of well-paying jobs. That accomplishment is even more impressive given that the banking industry is in the top decile of software automation. Peters refers to this type of outcome as an “Excellence Dividend,” essentially saying that businesses that commit to excellence in both their internal and external dealings are likely to be the survivors. “They are better and more-spirited places to work,” says Peters. “Their employees are engaged and growing and preparing for tomorrow. Their customers are happier and inclined to spread tales of their excellence far and wide.” Even their communities and vendors are rooting for them. If each of these small companies is able to add one or two employees to the payroll due to their reputation for excellence, millions of jobs could be added to the economy, Peters notes. One of the keys to creating the type of excellence Hill achieved is continual training, which can take the form of online or in-person courses, professional training classes or even just relevant business reading, Peters says. Unfortunately, business owners still treat training as an expense rather than an investment in their employees—an investment that can lead to greater job satisfaction, enhanced productivity, better pay and increased loyalty. “There is a national imperative, whether you have six employees or 666, to IT'S ONLY A DRY ensure that an employee who leaves your organization not only better at PIECE OF is BREAD doing his or her job but also is better prepared be a SOME citizen of this YET to TO IT topsy- turvy world than they were before MEANS SO says MUCH. walking in the door,” Peters. “You have a moral obligation to help them become well-equipped for tomorrow.” Peters describes a recent scenario in which, in the midst of a “100-year storm” in his home state of Massachusetts, he was forced to summon a refrigerator repairman to fix a broken compressor. Not only did the repairman come out during severe weather, but he revealed that he had just completed a three-week training course on artificial intelligence