There's an increasing chatter in the marketplace about possible job losses due to innovative technology such as artificial intelligence (AI) and robots.

Three times this week I've been in such conversations – and they were all enthusiastic about the future. A number of my conversation partners are market leaders in their different sectors, including recruitment, banking and accounting.

At the inaugural Auckland forum of Business Builders Group (a monthly business building and referral network with more flexible parameters than BNI) we brainstormed looming business threats. Here's a summary of issues from my discussion group:

• Large companies can discount, due to bulk buying, marketing and distribution. E.g. Specsavers and the Australian pharmacy brand Chemist Warehouse.
•Technology is automating more of the manufacturing of product. e.g. 3D printing.
•Legal requirements of how data is used are changing.
•There's a greater use of technology for functions previously done by individuals. e.g. Kiwi company Arlo - see my column from last year on their time-saving event management technology
•In the accounting field there is already a lot of disruption, with AI being used to do the basic legwork.
•For those who rely on Google searches for new business, searches are reducing.

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Is this all gloom and doom? Absolutely not. Are we about to live in a scary world of automation? The consensus was loud and clear – these seeming problems are also opportunities.

Solutions

The more things are automated, the more opportunity there is for high-value service or products, and especially for relationship-based services. Time is saved in not having to do routine boring tasks; instead, energy and resources are freed up for higher-value opportunities such as:

• Niche premium products.
• Personalised service.
• The ability to be agile, nimble and adaptive when the market changes.
• Instead of waiting to be disrupted, be the disruptor.

Two examples of specialised services:

1. I don't know any experienced accountant who enjoys doing reconciliations. What most of them do enjoy, however, is working on business strategy and growth. Their deep understanding of financial markers, and practical steps to improve them, can be a great asset to their clients.

2. My optician can test for Irlens and Cellfield – common but little-known conditions that impact a person's ability to read well, but which don't show up in a standard optometry test.

So what about the people who don't have the higher-level skills to take advantage of such opportunities? We still need people to repair our cars, build our houses, and fix our broken taps and blocked drains.

To future-proof jobs:

• Encourage more young ones into trade schools.
• Look for opportunities to provide personalised assistance.
• Never stop developing excellent communication and relationship-building skills.