We kicked off our Think Forward city tour in Atlanta on October 10th; four weeks and 8,412 miles later we wrapped up in San Francisco at the gorgeous Dolby Cinema. It was an eye opening, three-stop journey that stretched my mind with Brian Greene’s captivating explanation of quantum mechanics and the potential applications for human-kind. It was also a time to delve into the real challenges organizations are grappling with in this evolving and accelerating digital landscape. As the convergence of cloud, artificial intelligence and new working models continue to reshape the world we live in, how do leaders establish cultures of agility, collaboration, and creativity today while keeping an eye on the future?
Along with my fellow panelists and some great audience participation, we had the opportunity to explore three topic areas.
- The changing nature of business and work
Digital transformation is not just a buzzword (although it can feel like it at times) – we can do fundamentally different things in new ways – but what does this mean for organizations? Rapid technology acceleration and behavioral shifts are driving the discussion. For example, we are seeing more shipping of the work to the workers, wherever that talent may be, than shipping workers to the work in the form of a centralized office. Leaders need to step back and turn an eye toward the future. This is incredibly hard to do when end of quarter is looming and you have sales numbers to hit, products to ship, and people to hire, but it’s a critical step in building a lasting business that's able to scale. While almost all IT leaders we speak with are feeling the pressure to execute on digital transformation strategies, many still haven’t been able to declare victory on the projects they rolled out a year ago because their internal operations aren’t working properly (or don’t exist) and adoption is lagging as a result. That’s where technology partners have an opportunity to come alongside their customers and assist with change management or best practices for implementation and roll out.
- The human-machine partnership
Artificial intelligence, augmented/virtual reality, IoT and machine learning are capturing imaginations, but I don’t think we’ve quite grasped just how much these technologies may impact our workday now and in the not-so-distant future. Some fear the so called “robot invasion” in which our jobs are usurped by intelligent machines, and while there are examples of this happening (e.g. toll both operators, check-out cashiers and assembly line factory workers), it isn’t all doom and gloom. These advanced capabilities are driving academia, entrepreneurs, and organizations of all sizes to build transformative and life-enriching solutions. Greg Verdino shared the example of a large energy company using AI and big data to harvest the knowledge of its seasoned workforce, catalog and organize that expertise, and share it with its next generation of young employees.
- What organizations need to do today
I think we can all agree that the responsibility rests with today’s leaders to drive a dedicated digital transformation strategy or risk being left behind. First, acknowledge there is an exponential change in technology and worker behavior happening. Second, identify the necessary steps so you don’t fall behind. This might include outlining a plan to move your processes and technologies to the cloud, it may be finding partners that can help you harness the power of AI to derive better insights from the data you have available, or it could require implementing putting educational programs in place to upskill and reskill your existing workforce.
Furthermore, while the on-stage discussion was great, it wasn’t contained to the event venues. We took this conversation online in the form of a #BlueJeansChat to see what the Twittersphere had to say. I’ve included some of the highlights below.
Q1: How is the next revolution in how we work being driven by technology?
A1a) Much of what we do is driven by #technology as we go forward in the #FutureofWork. #AI, #automation, #robotics and #DigitalTransformation will change much of what we experience in our careers. #ThinkForward #bluejeanschat https://t.co/yJIsw3lZAG— Tamara McCleary (@TamaraMcCleary) November 6, 2018
The ability for technology to augment what we do as humans is almost limitless. The biggest challenge will be understanding the differences between machines augmenting our abilities and machines replacing our abilities, and how to prepare for both— Joe Mann (@JoeMMannIV) November 6, 2018
Q2: When you think of the “future of work,” what are some trends you expect to see in the next five years, and how can leaders be prepared?
A further push for remote working becoming the norm and better tools to accommodate distributed teams.— Ethan Lewis (@EthanContentful) November 6, 2018
Q2/A1 We will definitely see the “offloading” of routine tasks to #AI and #automation, allowing human workers to focus on the tasks that we do best, making for more meaningful work for many. #bluejeanschat https://t.co/MARLGheGGn— Greg Verdino (@gregverdino) November 6, 2018
More sophisticated tools with built-in intelligence that allow us to be in more places at once. Avatars to attend meetings. Voice assistants to transcribe salient points in a meeting. Technology doing the "work" so we can fo... #bluejeanschat https://t.co/lSZaVSAkc5— Matthew Podboy (@podboy) November 6, 2018
Q3: Which types of job roles do you think are most susceptible to being disrupted over the next three years, and why?
Q3/A1 Any role that comprises mostly repetitive, routine tasks is at risk. I’m most interested in what this means for white collar work - bookkeepers, accountants, paralegals, entry level consultants, bankers... all at some risk of being ... #bluejeanschat https://t.co/GsmiOZ9von— Greg Verdino (@gregverdino) November 6, 2018
I think Strategic Sales Roles and the hiring process will dramatically change in the next three years. The market is flooded with so many sales professionals now that something has to give as far as compensation and the market being filled by mediocre sales talent. #bluejeanschat— Whit Cheever (@cheevs85) November 6, 2018
Thank you to all who participated in our 'Think Forward' city tour, in-person and virtually. I enjoyed speaking with all of you and walked away excited and inspired by the prospect of what lies ahead. I’m always open to continuing the conversation and learning how others are tackling these challenges; find me on Twitter @JohnKnightly.