Once upon a time, the vast majority of the workforce got paid for showing up. During the industrial revolution and the heyday of manufacturing, a day’s wages were swapped for a day’s labor regardless of the quality or creativity that accompanied it. Sure, those days were long and hard, but you clocked in and followed the clear process required of you.

In Seth Godin’s book, Linchpin, he references the work of Thornton May in pointing out that we have reached the end of attendance-based compensation (ABC). At this moment in time, it’s not sufficient to just “show up” to your work. Technological advancements continue to put roles once believed futureproof at risk, and more will become obsolete over time.

Do you truly understand that merely showing up is not enough and going above and beyond is now a necessity?

Become indispensable at all costs

Unsplash – standsome worklifestyle

Being indispensable

Whether you’re a business owner or work within an organization, you must seek to do what only you can do and do it exceptionally.

When roles are broken down into processes, tasks, and minuscule parts of a whole, the creativity is largely removed. It doesn’t take an artist to follow a process. Manuals created by bosses remove variance in getting the work done to a certain level. They leave nothing to chance and they set a minimum standard.

But what makes humans brilliant is their ability to think. To be creative, to solve problems in unique ways. To research and collaborate and have the confidence to speak up with their ideas. There is little point in striving to do processes really well and go home. That’s not conducive to a meaningful career and it’s not what progress is made of.

Eventually, everything that can be broken down into a process or production line will be automated. Robots will do these jobs; it’s happening in most industries already. If you run your business based on what’s always worked, you might have a shock. If your business is doing something that will be swallowed up by tech firms, innovate.

Become indispensable at all costs

Unsplash – Alesia Kazantcev

Where does it lead?

Machines are replacing process-led roles bit by bit and most won’t return. What will be left? The thinking, the planning, the top-level co-ordinating. The strategizing, the communicating, and the art. The people who are, as Godin calls them, linchpins, are the ones whose futures are safe and the ones who can happily adapt no matter what technology brings. In Godin’s words, “Successful organizations are paying for people who make a difference and are shedding everyone else.”

Individuals who set out to adequately meet standards will continue to take side-steps in their career whilst never really progressing. Each time they may blame their boss or clients or circumstances, but the reality is that they did not aim to stand out and were, therefore, forgotten. They became victims of the system and were overtaken by progress. It could have been different.

In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlie’s father works at the local toothpaste factory screwing on caps. According to the book’s fan site, he “works for many hours, the pay is terrible, and occasionally there are some surprises.” Eventually, he is replaced by a machine, but he re-trains and manages to secure a job fixing said machine. It took a crisis to change his thinking and discover an opportunity.

Become indispensable at all costs

Unsplash – Charles Forerunner

Cal Newport’s book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You, puts forward a similar sentiment. Be remarkable and do work that cogs in wheels cannot. It doesn’t take remarkable input to stick to a process, and it’s frightening how easily each factory worker is replaced. It’s not that they did anything wrong, it’s that they went along with the method and didn’t question it. Everyone lost out because no one inspired them to do more and be more, for the benefit of everyone involved.

Are you remarkable and indispensable or are you obedient and replaceable?

What really matters

In any role or piece of work, see the brief as the bare minimum, not the upper limit. See the processes as covering the basics, not the entirety of the work. Use the structure to incorporate creativity into the project. Use the freedom of routine to see what you can do elsewhere. See the requirements and find the best way of reaching them, which may involve different inputs. Look for opportunities to surprise and delight.

Organizations are not looking for people who will quietly follow processes; not anymore. There is software that will write your blog posts. There is software that will transcribe your podcasts and meetings. There is software for every process, and you will never out-work it.

Remarkable organizations want remarkable people, to do the things that remarkable technology cannot. They want you to learn the process and then improve it. Challenge what’s there in favor of what could be. To grasp a set of constraints and push them. To see the expectations and exceed them. Simply showing up is not enough.

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Roland Millaner