Becoming superhuman to stay ahead

The bots are taking over!

If 90% of our customer service interactions are going to be handled by artificial intelligence ‘bots’ within a year or two (in some industries, we’re already at that point or thereabouts) and if computing power doubles every 2 years or so, with huge strides being made in machines’ ability to sift and extrapolate from unimaginably large sets of data, how long will it take before artificial intelligence outperforms human intelligence in ALL areas?

What do machines do well?

Let’s start off by looking at machines and what they can do. They are incredible at so many things, they can be taught sets of rules that they can then apply to real-world situations and then be taught more rules that will help them respond in novel situations. They can now outperform humans in many games of strategy that were previously thought to be beyond their reach, like poker and Go.

They can drive cars. They can process images more accurately than humans. They now provide us with a huge proportion of customer service support. And they can train other machines without the need for human involvement. Which is slightly scary.

But what do humans (still) do better?

But there are still so many things that humans do better. As of now, machines can’t comprehend causality, just linkages between data. Which is like understanding that the presence of clouds may be linked to a probability of rain without understanding that the clouds cause the rain.

Machines can’t make choices based on ‘gut feel’ or intuition, because they don’t have the capacity to do so, so they can’t outperform humans (yet anyway) in stock market investment or in novel situations where they haven’t built up enough knowledge. AI can’t formulate strategies based on complicated, seemingly unrelated information because they can’t have moments of insight like humans can.

They can’t truly demonstrate empathy or create deep connections, rapport or trust like we can. And that limited understanding of emotion also limits their ability to produce creative work like art, music or writing in a way that’s relatable, innovative and original.

So how do I get superhuman using strengths?

All of which can give us hope that there is still space for humans. And lots of it. In my intro, I mentioned that the challenge for all of us is to become superhuman. What do I mean by that? Well on the one hand, I don’t mean actually developing superpowers that you might associate with the Marvel or DC universes. On the other hand, I am kind of going in that direction. So hold that thought.

That list of machine ‘can’t dos’ that I just went through, when you look at it more closely, is highly descriptive of some of the strengths that we identified when developing the Strengthscope model back in the mid-noughties. We wanted to find strengths that were most closely related to performance at work and we searched the literature until we found a strength set that would deliver that.

Rather fortunately for us humans, a large number of those strengths represent things that up to now, machines have found notoriously difficult to emulate. To name but a few of our final set of 24 Strengthscope strengths: Empathy, Compassion, Critical thinking, Creativity, Enthusiasm, Strategic mindedness, Self-improvement, Decisiveness.

In fact, pretty much all of the 24 Strengthscope strengths are virtually impossible for a machine to emulate because they relate to the energy that humans feel when we use them. That’s uncomputable to a machine. And when you start to combine strengths in new and unique ways, and introduce the individual experiences that you have had in using them, you take it to a whole new level of unemulatable, unsimulatable machine off-limitness.

Love you AI, you’re super helpful for some stuff but you ain’t getting there anytime soon (big words!). And that’s why the chances of you getting the same Top 7 strengths in your Strengthscope report in the same order as anyone else are 1 in 1.3 billion. Because humans are unique and that’s a major advantage that we will continue to have over AI.

What can I actually do, right now, to get to superhuman status?

So, back to my Marvel and DC question – how to get to superhuman? Both to stay ahead of the machines and to get the most from your career. Two ways:

  1. Stretch your strengths so that they become superpowers that nothing and no one else can touch.
  2. Learn how to use your strengths in combination so that you can outperform anyone and anything.


Stretching your strengths to stay ahead

To the first of these two options. Whatever strengths you have, you can level them up, time and again, by putting disciplined, focused effort into developing them. Let’s take Empathy, just as an example. So there it is, your empathy, it helps you to build rapport, understand other people’s perspectives, helps you to get energised when you make that connection. But how about levelling it up?

  • Can you take on work assignments or projects that will need you to coach or mentor others – that’s a very practical way of you stretching your Empathy strength.
  • Can you use your Empathy to understand the perspective of your team’s stakeholders or company’s customers?
  • What about finding some people in your network who are exceptional at showing empathy for others, at making those deep human connections? And learning from them, by observation or getting their input through conversation somehow where you can pick their brains and learn from their learning.
  • And of course there are a million training and development options out there that will help you build your empathy in areas which will add the greatest value for you in your role, career or team. So go look for them.

Look at that – one strength, clear development plan, discipline in delivering it and you’ve just got one step closer to superhuman. You’ve taken a strength that was already nigh on impossible for the machines to get ahead of and you’ve developed it to put it at least another 100 years out of reach. Good work.

Strengths in combination to maximise your uniqueness

Second option is to get super-skilled in using your strength alongside others in your (completely unique and uncopiable) strengths-set. So with our Empathy example you can do this to avoid Empathy in overdrive…for example, bringing in your Results focus to stop your Empathy letting you get lost in someone else’s situation or story. Or bringing in your Collaboration to make sure you remember to get the views of ALL the relevant people on a particular topic rather than overfocusing on just one.

Or you could use other strengths to supercharge your Empathy. What about Strategic mindedness and Empathy as a combination to make sure you’re considering the needs of your customer not just for now, but in 3 months’ time and in 12 months’ time, developing a strategy to support them. Or Developing others and Empathy in combination to help someone come up with their own development plan after you’ve spent time helping them to identify their learning and development needs.

Check it out – one strength and a huge number of combinations of how and where and why you could use those strengths together to get an outcome that’s going to outperform any machine ever. They just can’t keep up with human ingenuity, curiosity, uniqueness and our ability to make links and connections.


So there’s my simple thoughts on getting superhuman to stay relevant. Staying ahead of the machines but also making sure you’re continuing to create value at work. Drawing on those human capabilities for curiosity and critical thinking as well as self-improvement.

Good luck in stretching your strengths and exploring some new strength combos. Till next time, stay superhuman.