It is said that AI will replace the day-to-day work that many people do and that those people should instead become higher-level strategic workers to guide the work that AI workers will do. Is this not a conflicting situation? People need to experience and master low-level work before they can become competent strategy-level workers. Also, there are fewer strategy-level jobs than lower-level jobs.

The integration of AI into the workforce and its broader societal impact presents several paradoxes beyond the experience paradox and the scarcity of strategic roles. Here are seven notable paradoxes and suggestions on how to prepare for the challenges that these paradoxes present for humans.

The Seven AI Paradoxes

1. The Experience Paradox: Traditional career paths often start with entry-level positions, where individuals gain hands-on experience and a deep understanding of their industry’s nuances. This experience is crucial for moving into higher-level strategic roles, as it provides the practical knowledge and context needed to make informed decisions. As AI automates more routine tasks, there might be fewer opportunities for workers to gain this foundational experience. The concern is that without this groundwork, it might be harder for workers to progress into strategic roles effectively.

2. The Limited Strategic Positions Paradox: Strategy-level roles are inherently fewer than operational or execution-focused positions because they involve overseeing broader company objectives, decision-making and long-term planning. As more individuals are encouraged to move towards these roles due to AI automation, the competition for strategic positions could intensify. This could lead to a situation where there are more qualified candidates than available strategic roles, potentially leading to underemployment or a mismatch of skills in the job market.

3. The Productivity Paradox: AI and automation promise to significantly increase productivity by streamlining processes and reducing the time required for routine tasks. However, this doesn’t always translate to increased overall productivity at the macroeconomic level, a phenomenon known as the “productivity paradox.” Despite technological advancements, improvements in productivity rates in many economies have been modest. One reason might be the lag in adopting and adapting to new technologies across industries and the need for complementary innovations in organizational practices and structures.

4. The Employment Paradox: While AI is expected to displace many jobs, particularly those involving routine, repetitive tasks, it is also predicted to create new job categories and employment opportunities. This paradoxical situation raises questions about the nature of these new jobs and whether they will be sufficient in number and quality to replace the roles AI automates. The challenge lies in ensuring that the workforce is equipped with the necessary skills to transition into these new roles, which often require a different set of competencies.

5. The Skills Paradox: AI’s advancement requires workers to develop high-level technical skills, including coding, data analysis and machine learning expertise. However, there’s also a growing need for distinctly human skills such as creativity, emotional intelligence and critical thinking—capabilities that AI cannot easily replicate. This paradox highlights the dual focus on both technical and soft skills development, creating a dichotomy in skills demand that can be challenging for individuals and education systems to address effectively.

6. The Inequality Paradox: AI and automation have the potential to significantly increase efficiency and wealth, but they also risk exacerbating social and economic inequalities. High-skill, high-wage workers are more likely to benefit from AI, as their roles often involve designing, implementing and supervising AI systems. In contrast, low-skill, low-wage workers face a higher risk of job displacement without clear pathways to similarly secure and well-compensated roles. This paradox underscores the need for policies and interventions that ensure the benefits of AI are widely distributed across society.

7. The Control Paradox: As AI systems become more autonomous and capable of making decisions, there’s a paradoxical push for both relinquishing control to these systems for efficiency and maintaining human oversight to ensure ethical and responsible outcomes. This balance between automation and human control is a delicate one, requiring careful consideration of the implications of AI’s decisions in various contexts, from ethical dilemmas in autonomous vehicles to bias in hiring algorithms.

Addressing the Seven Paradoxes

Addressing these paradoxes requires a multifaceted approach involving policy intervention, educational reform and ethical considerations in the development and deployment of AI technologies. The goal is to harness the benefits of AI while mitigating its potential downsides, ensuring a future where technology supports and enhances human work and society.

The path to becoming a strategy-level worker is not linear and can vary greatly depending on the individual, the industry, and the specific organization. It requires a mix of formal education, skill acquisition, practical experience and a commitment to continuous learning and personal development.

Here’s a comprehensive learning path to consider:

Educational Background:

• Bachelor’s Degree: Start with a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field such as Business Administration, Economics, Finance or Marketing. This provides a solid foundation in business principles and practices.
• Master’s Degree (Optional but Recommended): Pursue an MBA or a master’s degree in a specialized field related to your interests or the industry you wish to enter. Specializations in Strategy, International Business or Organizational Leadership are particularly relevant.

Develop Essential Skills:
• Analytical Skills: Learn to analyze data, trends and complex information to make informed decisions.
• Critical Thinking: Practice identifying problems, evaluating alternatives and implementing solutions.
• Communication Skills: Become proficient in both written and verbal communication, crucial for conveying strategic plans and persuading stakeholders.
• Leadership and Management: Develop skills to lead teams, manage projects and influence organizational direction.
• Financial Acumen: Understand financial statements, budgeting and financial modeling to evaluate strategic initiatives’ economic viability.

Gain Practical Experience:
• Entry-Level Positions: Start in roles that offer exposure to the business’s operational aspects, such as sales, marketing or finance.
• Project Management: Take on project management responsibilities to understand how various initiatives fit into the larger organizational goals.
• Strategic Planning Projects: Seek opportunities to participate in strategic planning meetings or projects, even as an observer or junior team member.
• Networking: Build a network of mentors and industry connections to provide insights, guidance and opportunities for strategic roles.

Continuous Learning and Specialization:
• Industry Knowledge: Stay informed about industry trends, challenges, and opportunities. This may involve regular reading, attending conferences and participating in professional groups.
• Specialized Training: Consider certifications or courses in strategic management, strategic planning and related tools like SWOT analysis, PESTLE analysis or Porter’s Five Forces.
• Adaptability: The business world is continuously evolving, so being adaptable and willing to learn new skills or technologies is crucial.

Personal Development:
• Strategic Thinking: Practice thinking strategically in everyday situations and consider the long-term implications of decisions.
• Problem-solving: Work on becoming more proactive in identifying potential problems and brainstorming possible solutions.
• Risk Management: Understand how to assess and manage risks associated with strategic decisions.

Build Your Professional Identity:
• Personal Branding: Develop a personal brand that highlights your strategic thinking, leadership qualities and success in contributing to strategic initiatives.
• LinkedIn and Resume: Ensure your online presence and resume reflect your strategic contributions, leadership experience and continuous learning commitment.

Overcoming AI Paradoxes

Organizations and educational institutions may need to rethink career development and training programs. This could involve creating new pathways that allow workers to gain the necessary experience in a world where AI handles more routine tasks. Simulated experiences, project-based learning and rotational programs that expose individuals to various aspects of a business could become more common. Emphasizing the importance of continuous education and skill development can help workers adapt to changing job requirements. This includes learning to work alongside AI and leveraging it as a tool for strategic decision-making.

As AI transforms industries, it will also create new types of jobs, including roles that oversee, interpret and complement AI’s work. These could represent a new tier of strategy-level positions focused on guiding AI’s role in the organization. Encouraging an entrepreneurial approach to career development, where individuals are proactive in identifying opportunities, creating value and adapting to changes, could help mitigate the imbalance between strategic roles and candidates.

While AI’s impact on the workforce presents challenges, it also offers an opportunity to redefine work, career progression and the nature of strategic roles. Balancing AI automation with human ingenuity, empathy and strategic oversight will be key in navigating the seven AI paradoxes.