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VUCA

Fit for the Future

Some of us grew up at a time where only some families had a fixed phone line. We might even remember that we had to go to our neighbors’ home to make a call. I guess most of us remember visiting a travel agency to buy our travel tickets. Our parents worked for the same employer for years and years. In some countries people who worked over 30-40 years for the same employer, used to get a gift for long term loyalty. Our parents were convinced that certain jobs are great and we better aim to follow this path. Ideally continuing the same profession, they had chosen. That was consider back then, a great way to create a “solid” future.

This has been the world of the last century for (more or less) most of the people in the so called “Western World”. Nowadays there are more and more publications suggesting that the jobs that exist today might disappear in the next decades. We read that the jobs that will be in trend in 10, 20 years from now, don’t even exist right now. We just need to think of some people claiming a job title of a “Vlogger” or “YouTuber”. Who would ever imagine a “job title” like this 20 years ago.

The skills required for us to thrive in the future are mostly unknown. The future of work is quite unpredictable. The pace of change right now is exponential. They say that the change in the in the next 30 years might be equivalent of the change that happened in the last 300 years.

Who knows what could be the Leadership skills required from Organizations, if one day they end up “employing” 80% humanoid robots and only 20% humans?

The rise of the so called VUCA world has already a major impact for all of us, especially the ones that actively lead teams. First of all, many of these teams are based in different locations around the globe. This means that the biggest part of the collaboration is virtual. In addition, team members have diverse cultural and generational backgrounds. Hierarchical structures do not matter as they used to do. Not everyone in these teams is equally aware and/or comfortable with the existing set up and the upcoming changes. Leaders have a major role to play in helping their teams to become “Fit for the Future”.

According to research by McKinsey&Company social & emotional skills will remain relevant despite the rise of the digital world: “Our research finds that the strongest growth in demand will be for technological skills, the smallest category today, which will rise by 55 percent and by 2030 … This surge will affect demand for basic digital skills as well as advanced technological skills such as programming. Demand for social and emotional skills such as leadership and managing others will rise by 24 percent…”. (Skill Shift Automation and the future of the workforce, Discussion Paper, May 2018).

It seems that the more we will have “machines” substituting humans at work, the more the added value of humans will have to be differentiated from the one of the machines. Leaders of the future have a real mission to start cultivating the new set of skills required. Skills related to Agility, Creativity and Digital Savviness.

To join the discussion on LinkedIn, please go to: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/fit-future-vassilis-chantziaras/
Communication

The Human Side to the Digital Revolution

The last few years have seen increasing concern about the role of digitalisation and its impact on people’s lives. The tech community is full of hope and drive but the common man regards it as the reason for feeling left behind by the pace of change. I believe that this is the main reason behind the protest vote which has resulted in Brexit and the election of Donald Trump to name just two examples. It represents a vote against the present system rather than for a meaningful alternative.

Connectivity means change happens faster, impacts further and is felt sooner than ever before. It is driven by The Three ‘A’s – Automation, Artificial Intelligence and Data Analytics. Automation, or automatic control, can be seen in robotics and is the force behind The Internet of Things which allows your fridge to speak to your cellphone and potentially every other electrical device you own! Artificial Intelligence is the ability for machines to learn from the environment they are operating in and then change behaviour accordingly . Finally data analytics pores through data looking for patterns and trends to create information to make decision making more effective.

A 2017 study by the McKinsey Global Institute entitled ‘A Future That Works – Automation, Employment and Productivity’ estimates that 60% of all current occupations contain at least 30% of activities that are technically automatable merely by adapting currently available technology. These percentages increase dramatically when jobs include a high level of predictable physical activities and collecting or processing data. This means that both manual and knowledge workers will see a change in what they do and how they do it. Is this then in line with the worst fears of protest voters? If the system stays the same as it is presently is then yes, it is time to start worrying. However, the combined impact of the 3 As is highly disruptive to the system itself. Brynjolfsson and McAfee suggest that we are at the start of a great restructuring where how we work both as organisations and individuals is lagging far behind the advances in technology.

This creates an interesting situation. It makes no sense for humans to do activities which automation can do more efficiently and effectively – we cannot ‘out-machine’ the machines. So what can we do? The answer is in our imperfections! Richard Florida states that ‘Human creativity is the ultimate economic resource’. Humans can see the world for what is not and what it could be. While digitalisation enables, it is how it is guided by humans that makes the difference. Those companies that can create the conditions to harness the distinctly human side of humans will have a bright future. Those that don’t, won’t!

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