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Future of Work: Navigating to the Zone of Highest Value

The Way of the Navigator provides tremendous value to your customers and stakeholders in part because it encourages you to add value by doing what is most human and to focus on those skills that are the least likely to quickly be replaced by machines and software algorithms. These include intuition, empathy, leadership and more (see my book The Way of the Navigator).

Your constituents will have the greatest need for navigation services when they are going through periods of change and transition because that is when disruption and especially complexity are experienced most acutely. And as a follow-on I believe that we are on the cusp of a period of Disruption (with a capital D) that is epochal in nature.

As technology continues to move up the value chain we as business leaders understand that we need to “add more value” to our customers. But I am always surprised at how much confusion there is around what constitutes “high value”.

Over the years I have concluded that to have a high value service or product that is the least likely to be replaced by a machine, or a software algorithm, it needs to be positioned squarely within what I call the Zone of Highest Value™. To be in the Zone of Highest Value the product or service must serve a market or need that exhibits at least two of the following characteristics:

  • Low frequency

  • High emotion

  • High risk/reward

Let’s look at an example:

Picture the medical industry for a moment. A heart surgeon is someone who performs services squarely in the Zone of Highest Value™. If you are in need of heart surgery, and have the financial resources, you want the best and will pay anything because the event occurs infrequently (hopefully), it involves high emotion (“I don’t want to die”) and there is High Risk/Reward associated with the event (“I might actually die”). At the other end of the spectrum are family doctors who provide routine check-ups. You have a check-up at least once a year, there isn’t much emotion tied to the event and there is very little risk. Trust me, when the family doc asks you to bend over and cough it might not be comfortable but you aren’t going to die!

But you ask,” won’t people always need doctors”? And the answer is a qualified yes. Yes we will always need medical analysis, diagnosis, and treatment and portions of that will continue to be administered by doctors. But no, we will not need as many doctors per person as in the past. And this dynamic of reduced human input is true for every field of work.

So your follow up question probably is, “But if I am a family doctor does that mean I should close my office and go home?” And my answer is a qualified no, if you are able to think outside of the box and apply the “design principles” that I describe in this book. The idea that at 35 or 40 or 50 years old you will go from being a family doctor to a heart surgeon is ridiculous and will never happen. But you could become a consultant to those that are facing heart surgery and help them navigate the complexity and confusion that is inherent in the event. And by this I mean really help them navigate the event including selecting a surgeon, understanding and planning for recovery, navigating insurance issues, helping them think about and navigate through potential psychological consequences, marital issues, and on and on and on. But sadly most family doctors do not see themselves as Navigators and so are quickly being replaced with technology.

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