Do You Know Your Strengths?

Most of us have a poor sense of our talents and strengths, yet are acutely aware of our weaknesses and flaws. Throughout the education system and subsequent careers, there’s often been much more attention paid to how to improve and fix our shortcomings rather than enhance our strengths. “Most Americans do not know what their strengths are. When you ask them, they look at you with a blank stare, or they respond in terms of subject knowledge, which is the wrong answer.” – Peter Drucker, management expert Parents, teachers, and managers are well versed in spotting deficits. In fact, most people – partners and spouses included – consider it their duty to point out our weaknesses in the hope of helping us improve. As a result, most of us have become experts in our weaknesses and spend our lives either trying to fix these flaws or accept them as permanent character defects. Consequently, our strengths lie dormant and neglected. The research, however, is clear: we grow and develop by focusing on our strengths, rather than trying to correct faults. Over the last decade, coaching and leadership professionals have been placing greater emphasis on developing personal strengths. The goal is to help individuals work with what they have and build on their natural talents. Large corporations like Wells Fargo, Intel, Best Buy, Toyota, and Yahoo now require that employees take surveys measuring talents and strengths. Their CEOs recognize that company success depends on leveraging what already works instead of trying to fix what’s broken. Cultural Differences A Gallup poll investigated this phenomenon by asking Americans, French, British, Canadian, Japanese, and...

The Future of Work: 5 Skills for the Robotic Age

The challenges of 21st-century work – rapid innovation, unrelenting change and unprecedented uncertainty – have created a stress pandemic. Depending on your disposition, you may view the future as ripe for a spectacular explosion of creativity or poised on the brink of self-destruction. Either way, there’s no going back. The tools and skills we’ve developed over the last century inadequately address imminent challenges. We’re caught between two paradigms: a collapsing industrial platform and an uncertain new one. Man vs. Machine In February 2011, the IBM computer “Watson ” trounced two Jeopardy! champions over a 3-day competition. Watson’s cognitive-reasoning skills were far superior, with access to 200 million pages of structured and unstructured content (4 terabytes of disk storage, including the full text of Wikipedia). Even before Alex Trebek finished reading a clue, Watson’s 2,880 parallel processor cores began to divvy up the workload. At 33 billion operations per second, they could search 500 gigabytes of data (roughly 1 million books) in the blink of an eye. Watson could also hit the buzzer in less than 8 milliseconds. During the 3 seconds Watson took to deliver a correct response, various algorithms worked across multiple processors to return hundreds of hypothetical answers. Watson was programmed to hit the buzzer only after reaching a 50% confidence level. By the end of the game, Watson had surpassed previous champions’ winnings by almost 200%, easily becoming the first nonhuman Jeopardy! champion. In February 2013, IBM announced that Watson’s first commercial software application would be used for utilization management decisions at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Ninety percent of nurses who use Watson now follow...