As we peer into the Looking Glass, we know that uncertainty is staring back. Our exponential world and all its building blocks and scenarios has created this looking glass phenomenon – something I explored in this Leadership Course back in 2017. COVID-19 underscores this uncertainty, serving as both an accelerant and an obstacle. A good example is explored in this Article on automation. Will the pandemic serve as an automation accelerant, as businesses replace laid off employees via automation? Or is it an obstacle to the capital investment required to enable automation?
What job skills do we need for the future? A popular question that comes up a lot. In a Recent Post, I listed several: emotional intelligence, creativity, flexibility, adaptability, data literacy, and technology savviness. This Tweet of a World Economic Forum video adds complex problem solving, critical thinking, people management, working with others, and decision making to the list.
In a recent Article, Gartner says that no single tool available today can replace humans in the workplace. The article goes on to say that hyper-automation is a response to this challenge – bringing together different tools, technologies and techniques to amplify every company’s ability to automate more processes, more rapidly, with better results.
It is no secret that productivity has slowed. In a Post from 2016, I described this phenomenon in detail. According to Wikipedia, productivity is an average measure of the efficiency of production. It can be expressed as the ratio of output to inputs used in the production process. In a Citi Report I shared in that post, they describe the significant slowing of labor productivity growth, which drives a focus on next generation gains. But In spite of technological progress and innovation, measured productivity growth is low by historical comparison.
I Just finished another great book. This one is titled A World Without Work authored by Economist Daniel Susskind. The author explores a phenomenon that we have discussed many times over the centuries: Technological Unemployment. Drawing on almost a decade of research in the field, Susskind argues that machines no longer need to think like us in order to outperform us, as was once widely believed. The book describes a world where more and more tasks that used to be far beyond the capability of computers – from diagnosing illnesses to drafting legal contracts, from writing news reports to composing music – are coming within their reach. Mr. Susskind tells a compelling story to support his conclusion: the threat of technological unemployment is now real.
As many focus on the future of work, various different perspectives are presented. A common theme is emerging: Jobs will be there, but they will be very different within the next decade. This recent Article draws three conclusions:
- In 10 years time, 50% of jobs will be changed by automation – but only 5% eliminated.
- 9 out of 10 jobs will require digital skills.
- Young, low-skilled and vulnerable people – all need help with up-skilling.
Several critical points are made by the World Economic Forum article:
The world is about to enter a pivotal decade. This decade is likely to be remembered as the launching pad to a very different future. The next ten years are marked by uncertainty, complexity, and an inability to predict how an overwhelming number of Dots Connect to shape the decade. In a 2018 post, I looked at some work by Karen Harris and others that focused on some of the Macro Trends that drive the decade. In the supporting insights report, the authors see volatility emerging from the Collision of Demographics, Automation, and Inequality. These three factors drive a very Turbulent 2020s and Beyond.
An Article by IEEE Spectrum captured a dialog that occurred at a recent MIT conference. The topic: AI and the Future of Work. The conference discussion underscores the struggles between Techno-Optimism and Techno-Pessimism. Pessimistic when AI and automation are viewed as an industry-destroying path that takes jobs via self-driving technology, smart law algorithms, and robots that continue to put factory and warehouse workers out of work. Optimistic when those same technologies are viewed as augmentation that improves the employee experience.