You are a genius if you cannot solve this puzzle

What did you when you first came across this brain-teaser? Some of you may have dived right in and experienced a brief moment of satisfaction after having solved it. Some of you may have averted your eyes and quickly moved on to the next post to avoid the feeling of defeat.

No matter what your reaction was, I bet we all have something in common. We believe the person who can solve this puzzle in short-order must be a minor genius. I used to believe that people who can spot patterns in chaos will surely get promoted, make tons of money by betting on the right investing opportunities, and thrive in our future digital economy.

But I'm losing my religion. I'm starting to believe those puzzle-avoiding individuals may actually be the ones who have the critical skills to thrive in the future job market.


Turns out, computers are very good at pattern recognition. The current wave of innovations in Artifical Intelligence is fueled by a branch of advanced analytics called machine learning. Computers are trained to recognize patterns and relationships without a programmer telling them what to look for. Remember IBM Watson, the Jeopardy-winning machine that beat their two greatest champions in 2011? Watson is the face of A.I. that will come to our workplace in the next 5-10 years.

Fear not. According to Andrew McAfee of MIT, the right combination of machine and human smarts, not machine alone, generates the best performance. We have the unique skill-set to innovate. Here are three ways to race with the machine.

1. Improve your emotional intelligence
Politicians may seem persuasive with their facts and figures, but we are won over by the hopes and fears they arouse. The iPhone is a coveted product, but we are just as drawn in by the anticipations and desire that Apple creates. The ability to anticipate, read, and react to others' emotions is what separates great leaders, marketers, and waitresses from the merely competent ones. Improving your emotional intelligence is critical in your race against the machine.

Can computer sense emotion? Boston-based startup Affective is a pioneer in the field of emotion analytics; they are helping marketers to understand if their ad campaign is generating the emotional resonance they are looking for.

2. Boost your creativity
Do you know that company earnings reviews on Forbes have not been written by human writers since 2012? The algorithm of Chicago-based startup Narrative Science], is probably also writing the article about last night's NBA playoff that you just read.

While you may soon be able to enjoy the performance of robot actors in your local theaters, creating an imaginative and immersive universe like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings can still only be perfected by a human.

You may say to yourself, "I'm not creative". Think again. Remember when you were 5-years-old and you wanted to open up all the cabinet doors and drawers to see what's inside? Creativity is in all of us--we just need to reclaim our creative confidence.

3. Fight your instinct to pattern-match
You may be proud that you can solve puzzles like the above, but Andreessen Horowitz, arguably the most famous venture capitalist, would disagree. Who is he? He places early bets in industry-changing startups such as Facebook, Twitter, Groupon, Skype, Airbnb, OculusRift and many others. The key to his success, according to this excellent New Yorker article, is to fight your instinct to pattern-match.

“Breakthrough ideas look crazy, nuts,” he said. If we tried to pattern-match, we would not have known what to think of Facebook had Mark Zuckerberg approached us in 2004. We would have quickly turned him away in favor of some newer e-mail technology.

All of these seem daunting? Try this. Give yourself 10 seconds to think about how others will response to your email before pressing the send button. Take a different route on your commute home each week. And don't let the sense of pride or despair overwhelm you when you see these damned puzzles again. All this will help you be better positioned to thrive in the workplace of the future.