Have you ever noticed that where focus goes, energy flows? (Get me, I sound like some kind of Hippy!) Yet the truth of this really stood out to me as I researched the whole issue of 'The Future of Work'.
This article in The Guardian by Robert Skildesky is actually 3 years old now but outlines a future where the inevitable question is; 'If, sooner or later, we run out of jobs – what are people to do if machines can do all (or most of) their work?'
For some countries, 'tomorrow' is a lot closer than they thought and it's only at this, the eleventh hour, when they find themselves uncomfortably close to the question that they have seriously begun to wonder what people are going to do if machines can do all (or most of) their work cheaper, faster and with less of the messy stuff called 'emotions?'
Sure they have breakdowns (machinery not humans, though....) but the're not interested in pesky things like holidays. Nor motivated by bonuses, salaries & status. They just do.Inexorably and relentlessly. But is our greatest challenge not technology itself but the fear of change? Where will the new opportunities lie? If labour costs are no longer an issue (albeit because there is no labour) doesn't that free up capital for reinvestment and remove obstacles like employee rights?
Will that old fashioned term - employee - still apply or will we be human capital that both uses and is used to suit prevailing opportunities? And does that changing environment give us flexibility or famine?
If these questions just affected one industry, they might be easier to answer or at least get a handle on but they don't. Manufacturing first had to get to grips with the impact of technology over a hundred years ago as Unions kicked and screamed all the way through to the 70's and Margaret Thatcher.
Skildesky notes that automation & technology had manual jobs as a starter to fill it's hungry belly but is now eating up the better jobs, too. A wide range of jobs that we now think of as skilled, secure, and irreducibly human may be the next casualties of technological change.
All of which sounds more than a little depressing but The Centre for the Future of Work(yep, there really is one) says that although the winners in digital transformation will commit to developing in seven key areas at a pace sufficient to provide competitive advantages, the rest of us can adapt by;
- Becoming a data-centered business
- Developing and implementing an OILS (optimized information logistics systems)
- Achieving real-time business operational tempos
- Implementing intelligent process automation using artificial intelligence and machine learning
- Ensuring a shared situational awareness through the use of collaboration platforms
- Utilizing real-time contextually relevant data to personalize digital experiences
- Redesigning and re-architecting to become a digitally agile business
More simplistically, I would say this; computers are not designed in a vacuum by other computers but by those pesky things called people. It is people who buy the products they make and people who define a need based on emotional responses to things & places. 'People' are not out for the count yet. Definitely a lot to discuss though making Investor Tony Fish's predictions even more relevant;
"The giants of tomorrow will be those who use innovation, strategy, transformation and commercial engagement in a whole new way. Blasting away the cobwebs of current thinking, it offers a fantastic platform for businesses of all sizes to find out how to get the most from change. Can’t wait!"