How to Embrace Automation and Become Heroes

Cutting-edge technology should help us perform better as humans.


Destination West in Arizona
This hosted-buyer event, held Oct. 28-30, will bring together meeting and incentive buyers with top destinations, hotels and other supplies from Arizona and the West. On the agenda are educational sessions, networking opportunities and one-on-one appointments. More info here.

The news is everywhere: Machines are taking over the world! All the jobs will be gone! My identify will be stripped away from me and I will be adrift in the world of work like a derelict ship. Help!

That is exactly how the farmhand felt when the tractor was invented, and the weaver when the automatic loom was introduced, and the typist upon hearing about the first word processor.

Today, the looming threats are automation and artificial intelligence. But rather than feel threatened, event organizers should embrace new technology that helps automate time-consuming work and allows them to instead focus on the more creative and strategic parts of the planning process.

Automation and technological advancements have forever been at the forefront of human progress — and with them have come short-term fear and long-term prosperity. The fear is generally short sighted, misplaced or linked to a lazy mindset. Let's break it down:

Those who are short-sighted believe automation eliminates jobs and will drive up unemployment. To be fair, robotic process automation, the category of software that executes routine tasks on your computer like completing forms and sending mass emails, does eliminate form-filling jobs. But what quickly emerges are jobs requiring more advanced skill sets that only humans can fill. 

Misplaced fear grows from the belief that automation will leave affected workforces with nothing to do. On the contrary, farmers can now grow food 100 times more efficiently than in the times before machinery. With the help of technology, farmers have been able to grow more crops, and their children have learned agribusiness. As technology evolves, so too will the job market.

The last fear stems from lazy thinking. By this, I mean the millions of people who long ago settled into jobs that did not push them to grow and thrive — or, as Henry David Thoreau put it, those who lead "lives of quiet desperation," toiling in jobs that drain their brains and potential. The best workers strive to continually learn new things and master new skills. The same is true for the events industry. By embracing automation, planners can focus their time on continually improving their events and delivering new experiences for their attendees.

When four young idealists found themselves trapped in a garbage compactor in "Star Wars," they didn't demonize machines. Instead, one called upon a robot named R2-D2 and asked the robot to do what he did best. By sorting through thousands of spaces at machine speed, the robot found the way out. The humans were then free to be human, to take chances, be strong, solve problems, build relationships and ultimately be heroes. 

Likewise, event organizers should use technology to their advantage. Rather than fearing automation and digital advancements, planners should dive in head first. Automation can be used to free up time, allowing them to focus more on the creative and strategic aspects of a meeting. Similarly, planners should embrace digital events and meeting technology to stay on the cutting edge of the industry. Even the most robust technology can't replace your seasoned expertise and powerful intuition; but it can help you elevate the event experience. 

Christopher Hodges is the director of Potential Project, a global leadership training, organizational development and research firm that helps companies increase focus, productivity, well-being and innovation. He is presenting "Helping Humans Be Heroes in an Automated World," a session during Destination West, a Northstar Meetings Group event held Oct. 28-30, in person at The Wigwam in Litchfield Park, Ariz.