We are facing some very big changes in the workplace, driven by technology – primarily software and data. This means that software will do repetitive tasks, make decisions, and set priorities in a wide range of areas, in all industries, and in the majority of jobs. We will have to work with and understand many different types of software robots. These changes must be driven, understood, and developed, and thus require more than traditional professionalism. The vast majority of organizations are not yet ready for these innovations.
For the vast majority of businesses, it is clear that plans based on best practices no longer guarantee desired results. We need to reconsider business processes with embedded intelligence, for example, combining marketing, sales, and service to create great, new customer experiences. But innovation does not happen by itself. Businesses need to shake themselves up, work with others, create new teams, and develop different ideas. The alternative is to protect the current business as much as possible and hope others do not realize it. This approach is defensive and without perspective. Young talent would also rather develop tomorrow’s approach than fight while encapsulated in a downward spiral.
New requirements for education
As a society, we need much more education during our working life than we have been used to. Companies are interested in increased flexibility and having employees building more knowledge and skills on a continuous basis. When society changes faster and faster and robots and software resolve more tasks, we all need to be able to move on. Understanding the need for change, display empathy with other people, and maintain the stamina to cope with the new become crucial.
Linking work and education
Our work lifespan is growing, and that means each person may have several “careers” across the years. We need greater interaction between education and work. We must move away from the model where we spend our younger years getting educated and then use those skills for the rest of our working lives. Hypothetically, I could see a model where 20% of a person’s working hours are spent on training and education. Maybe a person takes an intensive, three-month learning course on machine learning, then works on concrete projects.
Taking the next step
But universities and current higher-education institutions are not at all geared for this transformation, as we do not have much tradition for continuous interaction between education and work. We need to establish that, and companies can take more initiative in this direction. This applies not only to IT and management but also to employees in production, service, and distribution. These are all to a great extent influenced by new technology.
Next – not best – practice
Young, new, and “unspoiled” minds are in an ideal position to ask the sharp questions and look for other ways to do things. They are born into a world which takes advantage of the digital possibilities first. Establishing a best practice is not enough, we must push to find the next practice. Youth can help us with that. It’s crucial for management and the organization to understand and focus on creating this culture of innovation. It requires more than business-as-usual and often means re-educating people to the new model.
For example, you could host a “Next-Gen program” open to college students in their final semester that provides participants a nano-degree in digitalization or a “mini-semester” in innovation alongside their traditional studies. Whether they are studying IT, leadership, economics, or something else, they can try to induce practical change challenges, get hands-on experience with exponential technologies, and learn about innovation methods, design thinking, and more. The purpose is to strengthen cross-disciplinary (rather than basic) skills, critical thinking, and the ability to navigate in a changing world with very few definite answers. (I know from experience how invigorating a program like this is for all involved).
The new technological opportunities are tearing down organizational silos, traditions, and value chains. The intelligent enterprise is created through our choices and actions today; although we do not know the end goal, we all have to take the first and next steps on the journey.
Learn what drives “The Mind Of An Innovator: Five Essential Skills For Innovation.”