The Future of Work is History

It’s the topic of our times – The Future of Work, and the impact of increased technology. But hasn’t that been the case throughout history? So, what’s different about the times we live in? It could be argued not much, other than speed and connectivity. ……Ok, so that is a key difference.

During the course of Distinctive People’s consultancy work much discussion is now centred around the technology of driverless cars, 3D printing, drones, Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, robotics etc. As important as these innovations are, this is the wrong focus for businesses. These technologies are the present, not the future – they are largely functioning now, although future adaptations will continue to further enhance business productivity and increase opportunity. So, the question for us is how do we ‘operationalise’ these inventions so that they provide a competitive edge?

Let’s take driverless cars, or Autonomous Vehicles (AV’s) as they are affectionately known. The investment in R&D has been delivered, the manufacturing capacity is ‘teed’ up, and the big players like Google et al are ready to deliver to the market ‘en masse’. Could this happen tomorrow? Yes. So, why won’t it?

The problem is that those discussing how these new innovations will be of commercial value are still ‘wide eyed’ about the technology. What work has been done to consider the enabling strategies required to achieve traction, and make the technology part of everyday activity?

In the case of AV’s, once you start to consider these strategies, some obvious questions come to mind, including:

  • what will happen to the insurance industry?
  • how will the Highway Code need to be adapted?
  • what will be the protocol if there is a crash – particularly if it involves a car driven by a good old human being?
  • What will be the impact on those industries that are focused on driving – taxis/delivery firms/haulage?

In business terms, we need to consider:

  • how will employment policies need to change?
  • if employees are carrying out other activities whilst travelling around what will be the ‘elf and safety’ consequences? (a nod to Christmas – just 11 months away!)
  • how do we ‘reboot’ training and skills development to fully capitalise on this new innovation (we’ve not done that well in capacity building for the now near-prehistoric field of information technology)
  • How will the culture of the workplace change? The perennial problem of employee parking may disappear overnight – which may give us a welcome step change in ‘pulse’ survey ratings (or perhaps not!)
  • Do we have the foresight to ensure that changing culture is shaped towards transformation, as opposed to an unconscious gentle application of the ‘brakes’? A subtle play on words, but a serious question.

It is the non-creation of enabling strategies that represents the biggest risks to businesses, not being behind the curve in the latest new technological innovation !

In highlighting driverless cars, the strategic gaps are reasonably simple to foresee. What happens when we come to Blockchain however? Well, that’s for a future blog …..

Distinctive People lays down the challenge to businesses which are serious about stealing a competitive edge. Think about strategy, not just technological infrastructure – others have already cracked that nut. So, can we do it? In the words of Obama, ‘Yes, we can!’.

Mark Glinwood