At Davos this past January, the Fourth Industrial Revolution (technology) and its impact was top of mind. From fears of robots taking over and the end of privacy as we know it, with YCombinator experimenting with basic income, there still seems to be uncertainty on what will happen. I think a few things based on these sources:
Technology has ALREADY changed us: Technology has changed the way in which we communicate, share, consume, and even think about the future. The lines between private and professional, work and home locations, and working and retirement age have been blurred. We have already changed, and therefore, our way of working has already changed.
The changed nature of how to work means that corporations need to change their legacy business processes and technologies
The fundamental business processes and technologies that underpin most corporations were built upon the industrial nature of work: fixed time, locations, and labor. With those elements now made flexible, these processes and technologies break and are no longer valid. In order to even stay relevant, not to mention competitive, companies need to evaluate and re-invent their core ways of doing business.
- More emphasis on the individual's responsibility and entrepreneurial qualities
Because of the more unstructured nature of work, more priority will be given to optimizing an individual's ability to work given this environment. More latitude and responsibility will be given, and leaders that can manage this new corporate structure will need to be groomed.
- The robots aren't taking over! Automation may even increase jobs: a most excellent article here. Essentially automation produces cheaper services, which then increases demand for that particular service, which increases labor. Granted some labor will have to retrain with new skills on how to deal with technology, but on a macro level job creation may even be positive.
What I DO worry about is that despite these trends, there are still significant barriers to change. Around or more than half of the WEF Job Survey's respondents say that there is insufficient understanding of necessary changes AND resource constraints on making something happen.
This is a bit like saying that "we don't know what to do, and we don't have the money to see what to do". Instead, companies should allocate a small amount of resources, develop experiments on corporate innovation and how it impacts their companies, and learn and iterate from there.
Taavet Hinrikus, co-founder at Transferwise, said it best in his Medium post:
It struck me that we’ve reached the transition from early adopter to late majority. For the people who go to Davos to be discussing these issues means we’ve reached a moment of transformation.
This really is a tipping point for change to come.