Will automation replace your IT job? It could, if you don’t move now to develop your creativity.

I started to think about this after attending an endless parade of conferences and workshops on artificial intelligence and robotic automation. Eventually, I started wondering whether my own job was safe. Would an automated CEO or robotic entrepreneur take my place?

Yes, it is true. Much of the work that is done by traditional IT roles will be automated over the next five years. My former colleagues at Forrester Research, John Rymer and Rob Koplowitz published a must-read research report that details how automation is “hollowing out” application development roles. And the New York Times explained how Google is writing artificial intelligence software that creates artificial intelligence. Let that sink in for a moment. Automation is now taking the AI jobs that have not even been created yet.

Like all forward-thinking technology professionals, I am a big proponent of artificial intelligence and robotic automation. But what does it mean for you? In the digital age, creativity is what will separate high-performing IT professionals from those whose work will become commoditized and then automated.

How can IT professionals use creativity to get ahead of the automation curve?

  • Identify what “creativity” means for your specific role. Last week, I facilitated a Design Thinking Bootcamp with over 40 IT professionals. At the beginning of the session I asked, “How many of you feel that you are creative at work?” Only two hands went up. Most attendees imagined that creativity was about being a gifted painter or user interface designer. The first step to practicing creativity is to imagine what it would mean to be creative in your current role as an IT problem-solver. Picture your creative alter ego, and imagine what type of creative things this alter ego would do at work.
  • Learn new creative habits that are relevant to your work. Next, you need to equip your alter ego with new creative habits. Just wanting to be creative is not enough. To practice creativity, you will need to learn new practices and habits that help you tackle problems and challenges in creative ways. These new practices include design-thinking techniques such as framing challenges, observing customers, and rapid experimentation. Mindfulness and servant leadership are also great practices that support creativity, particularly at work. My recommendation: Just start. Take an on-line class on design thinking or attend one of our half-day crash courses.
  • Create time and space to practice being creative at work. I recently attended a powerful workshop that focused on bringing greater mindfulness and awareness to our relationship with time. At one point in the workshop we were asked to do a values inventory, identifying the top three characteristics we value in ourselves. For me, “creativity” was at the top. But then when we were asked to inventory how we spent most of our working time, I shared with the group that zero percent of my work schedule was blocked off for “creative-time.” I realized in that moment that my values were out-of-whack with how I spent my time. We must be intentional about practicing creativity at work, otherwise it will never happen. Following this workshop, I sat down and blocked off creative-time – time for writing, brainstorming, framing problems – on my calendar.

If you’re an IT or business professional looking to tap into your creativity, here’s a possibility: check out our upcoming Design Thinking Crash Course for IT professionals. You could spend a half-day learning to apply design thinking practices that unlock your full creative potential. You could become known as an innovator.

That’s a lot better than waiting for a computer to automate and replace what you’re doing now.