Future of Work


I’m turning the traditional “show notes” from each episode of the Curve Benders Podcast into more in-depth articles with links, images, and a deeper perspective on each topic. To build on the intro article on Curve Benders here is a deeper glimpse into the Future of Work:

We think a lot about what the future of the way we work, live, play, and give will look like. What if we are to plan for the next decade or two, what skills, knowledge or behaviors would we need to gain, modify, or otherwise enhance to remain relevant?

If you knew 20 years ago what you know now, what skills, knowledge, and behaviors would you focus on to dramatically improve your condition? What would you gain? What would you be doing? Your passion, what the market needs and your competency intersect. So, what do you need to plan today for your path forward? Skills, knowledge, behaviors, mindset, skillset, and toolsets in your personal and professional growth.

The day you stop learning and growing is the day you become complacent.”

The day you become complacent — you’re no longer valuable to your biggest asset, which is your portfolio of relationships. That’s your colleagues inside your organization, the customers that you serve, the partners you work with, the partners you go to market with, those are all relationships that are critical to your success. And they all need you to continue to learn, grow, engage and influence them to think and level up their efforts.

So, the biggest thing is to start thinking about your personal and professional growth journey over the next two decades; what do you need to think about? What do you need to do? What do you need to work on that will help you really smooth out that journey?

Think about the sports you’ve played and their unique dynamics. So, think of fluid sports such as soccer, hockey, or lacrosse. Think of the player’s movements; most people would agree that a majority of those games are played when you don’t have the ball or the puck. That is exactly how the market should be seen: dynamic, constantly moving and reshaping challenges and opportunities, possessions and shots on goal. You won’t always have the ball, so where should you be to be of greatest value to your self and your team in the market dynamics you choose to compete in?

What do you need to do to consistently prepare?

From hospitality to manufacturing, technology, services, financial services, professional services; what we found in our research is that roughly 75% of them are going through some kind of transformation right now. Whether digital or process-oriented; a lot of it is people, skills, and knowledge. Unfortunately, an estimated 75% are going to fail to meet their desired outcome. The board, the executive, the CEO, the senior leadership team, they all have a vision of where they want to go and are going to try many things, and a lot of them are just not going to work. The quarter that does succeed will sustain some sort of gain over time. Here is the crazy part: adoption of ideas, adoption of new systems, and adoption of new processes dramatically drop by a third when they move from the execution tier.

So, I call that initiative fatigue. We create and launch a lot of initiatives and very few really gain traction. So, think about that idea and that dynamic soccer field, and think about that in a business environment.

Would you believe that the iPhone, the iPad, the Kindle, 4G, Lyft, WhatsApp, Airbnb, Oculus, Spotify, Nest, Bitcoin, Blockchain, Square, Instagram, and Snapchat did not exist in 2006? If I told you ten years ago that you would-be lying-in bed, watching the news and buying whatever you wanted and connect with people on the other side of the world; all on a piece of glass, you would think I am crazy. Have you used a tablet lately?

Similarly, we believe the fourth industrial revolution; technologies such as blockchain, drones, cryptocurrency, AI, and machine learning are going to continue dramatically change the way we browse, store content, video calls, operating systems, social messaging, payments. So, if you think of web 2.0 today; we use Dropbox, Google Drive, Skype, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and PayPal. If you haven’t heard of an ad-blocking Brave browser, Storj decentralized storage network, distributed expert cloud Experty, Social sites Steemit or Akasha, private and secure messaging platform Status or Signal, and payment platforms Ripple and Conti, these are all web 3.0 technologies driven by blockchain. We believe, blockchain, will have even a greater impact on the way we browse, store, video call, use an operating system, socialize, message, or pay others.

How do we bring systems thinking into our everyday work?

One of the concepts I’m looking at is how do we bring systems thinking into our everyday work? In the past several years, I’ve done some work with the Produce Marketing Association (PMA), and I’m fascinated by what’s happening in the AgTech sector. Think of a tractor, as a product. If the tractor sends data to the cloud, it is now a smart product. If the tractor sends data to a cloud that you can access through mobile devices, that is a connected product. When the tractor can speak with planters, tills, and combine that harvest, now you’ve got product systems. When the farm equipment and the tractor can talk to the weather data system, which can then talk to seed optimization system, which in turn can talk to the irrigation system and sensors in the field that tells you how much rain it’s absorbed, now you’ve got this farm management system, with multiple systems talking to each other. Now, imagine systems thinking in a business model. Imagine systems thinking in which we learn, grow, and complete tasks. How we evolve, how we get to the market with new products and services is one of the key sections of the Curve Benders book.

Technology and its effects on our lives

Think of a timeline of emerging science and technology that is going to dramatically change the way we live, the way we work, the way we play.

So, think of this as three phases.

  1. Present – It’s existing, it’s happening now. You see it, and there’s a whole lot of examples where appropriate all around us.
  2. Probable – This is our next decade. So, if you think of 2030, what is probable? What is it that I can extrapolate, I can really think moving things forward and that becomes really the next decade?
  3. Possible – And then I really want you to think bigger than that: what is possible and possible is beyond the next decade? None of us have a crystal ball but if you extrapolate things forward, and how fast this technology and implementation of technology in our everyday lives are happening, you can see what’s possible.

I travel extensively; I was at a hotel where they’ve got NFC (Near Field Communication) gym. So, as you walk in, they give you a wristband, and as you work out with different devices, the equipment picks up your exercise, and before I left they handed me a summary of how many reps I did, how much weight, and how long, and it actually gave you some predictive analytics of how many calories you burned while you were here, and how you can sustain that over some period of time. Have you ever made New Year’s resolutions and went ahead and bought that exercise equipment that becomes a really expensive coat hanger by the second week of January? What if there was a way that kept you motivated and kept you exercising, not just past January, but throughout the year? Digital and NFC is an example of what is present in our lives that can make that happen.

Timeline of Emerging Science and Technology

According to a fascinating project by Tech Foresight and What’s Next, by Richard Watson and Alex Ayad, with input from Chris Haley and Keeren Flora and the team at Imperial College London, five unique sectors in science and technology will thrive in the next two decades:

  1. Digital – from mobile phones outnumbering people today, to lifelogging, cryptocurrencies becoming more prevalent, crime prevention algorithms, facial recognition CCTV, AI in Surgeries, and ultimately cities banning human drivers.
  2. Nano – from antibacterial nanoparticles in clothing, nanoparticles in cosmetics and sunscreen, printed plastic electronic circuits, to featherweight super composites, and quantum computers used for material design.
  3. Neuro – from brain fingerprinting used in courts, neuroimaging of active brain areas, routine brain fingerprinting of air travelers, to the end of dementia.
  4. Green – from renewable energy, domestic powerplants, large scale carbon capture and storage, hyperloop mass transit systems, to wave disc engine for vehicles, and cloned humans legalized.
  5. Bio – from gene therapy, DNA, dating agencies, genetic testing for inherent diseases, to human organ cloning, RFID implants of personal data storage, and 3D printed bio-nano scaffolds.

In the early stages of the Curve Benders book manuscript, I talk about the skills needed in the future workplace; the future of talent. Think about the computational world, making the world a more programmable place. Social technologies drive new forms of production and value creation. You’re going to have all kinds of new media. So, this ecology of new media from new communication tools that are going to require new media literacies beyond just text.

Workplace robotics are going to nudge human workers out of some roles. But, redefining skills, and redeploying them is going to be critical. How are you using data-driven predictive analytics to upscale and redeploy your talent pool?

Increased global lifespans are changing the nature of careers and learning. Technology will dramatically replace a lot of roles, yet I believe it will create new roles to work with this technology and making sense of the technology, in a hybrid approach between these tasks; the mundane tasks and the functional tasks.

The Aspen Institute has a gig economy data hub and based on data today, the gig economy is predominantly the ages of 16 to 25, then 26 to 35 and even 46 to 55. The biggest bucket of the gig economy is business services. Think of graphic designers, copywriters, all the people that provide business services. Next is, believe it or not, construction, then education, health, finance, retail, manufacturing, hospitality, transportation; those are the biggest industries, but we believe the gig economy is not only going to continue but it’s going to become even more prevalent moving forward.

Today is the day to start thinking about your personal and professional growth journey. Think of Curve Benders as a roadmap. Think of it as your personal way to really help you be a little clearer about where you are going. What will your personal and professional growth look like, in the next two decades? How can we build that journey map? Take more ownership and ask, ‘What does my professional growth journey look like?’ And finally, ‘How can I upskill, reskill, and really gain new knowledge that is going to be critical to my success?”

I hope these ideas have been of interest and value to you. As always, I welcome your comments and recommendations for future guests of the Curve Benders podcast – em [email protected].



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