As BlueJeans looks at how the future of work will impact employees and the way they meet, digital disruption is at the forefront of our thoughts. We are focused on the idea of helping customers lead with one foot in the present and the other in the future during this time of constant change in the digital workplace. To discuss more about this topic, we’ve created the Think Forward City Tour, a multi-city event series focused on examining how science and technology are changing the future of work.
We recently sat down with Think Forward moderator and panelist Tamara McCleary to discuss her thoughts on today’s technology disruptors, and what we can expect in the next few years. At the intersection of marketing and technology, Tamara is an internationally recognized expert on branding, influence, and social business. The founder and CEO of Thulium, a social media analytics and strategy company driving smart social, Tamara is also a futurist, keynote speaker, and creator of the RelationShift® method.
Discover more about how Tamara thinks about the future of work here, and join us on the City Tour to hear her speak in person.
Q: Thanks for sitting down with us Tamara! Can you tell us a little about yourself and what you have been up to lately?
TM: Sure! I’ve been traveling the globe keynote speaking, sometimes two countries a week, and racking up tons of United Airline miles! I would describe myself personally as an insanely curious philosopher who has an insatiable interest in technology, living in a modern world where I have donned the cloak of mother, wife, futurist, speaker, and leader of a global company.
My history is a heavy mix of service and science. I began my career as a registered nurse turned cancer researcher in molecular physiology. As a scientist, I became obsessed with what drives our thoughts, beliefs, behaviors, and decision-making, which ultimately led me to my career in marketing and sales. My keen focus on social media—before it was cool—may have garnered many eye rolls from colleagues who couldn’t see the goldmine of data being collected when platforms like Facebook and Twitter were in their infancy and MySpace was the largest social network in the world.
I saw the ultimate power of social media in the early 2000s, and I’m confident that social media will continue to expand. That is why I start Thulium—the form may change, but social media is here to stay. It has been interwoven into the very fabric of our culture as much as our mobile phones, and it remains the most powerful vehicle on our planet for communicating with anyone, anywhere, anytime.
Q: When you think of the “future of work,” what are the top three trends you expect to see in the next few years? How can leaders be prepared for them?
TM: The top three trends I see are disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, and the realization of 5G to ameliorate latency issues, which will exponentially grow the industries of e-mobility, AR/VR, the Internet of Things, and 3D printing. Each of these things will be changing the way we work.
In fact, over the next few years, we will see an exponential increase in human job displacement by AI, automation, and machines. This will continue to drive the adoption of jobs in the gig economy, which is another disruptor when we look at the workforce. If we examine where we are today, our workforce is completely unprepared for a new way of working and thinking. I see a tremendous opportunity for people who are willing to seek training and upskill their current experience. We are moving toward greater human-machine partnerships, and those individuals and organizations who can bridge the gap between humans and machines will see significant financial growth.
Q: There is an incredible amount of discussion around the terms “digital transformation” and “future of work” as people look to take advantage of technological innovations. What are the largest hurdles for organizations in preparing for the future?
TM: The future is pregnant with opportunity. However, there are significant challenges today that pose obstacles to harnessing opportunity. In the future of work space, organizations aren’t adequately prepared for the upcoming war on talent as the talent pool shrinks for the kind of jobs being created through advancing technologies. Another challenge is that organizations do not have a handle on upskilling their workforce to position them for relevant future jobs within the organization. As I mentioned previously, today’s workforce is unprepared for a new way of working and thinking. The biggest challenge of all is preparing for the unknown. We have glimpses of what could be, but we do not entirely understand or see the landscape ahead. It’s like riding a mountain bike along a cliff in complete darkness with just a headlamp to light what’s directly in front of you. You understand the terrain conceptually, but you cannot anticipate the obstacles along the path until you encounter them.
The challenge with digital transformation is that many see it as an IT issue, but that is only one slice of a much bigger pie. Digital transformation isn’t just an IT issue—digital transformation is the current strategic, financial, and operational driver for organizations. Keeping a digital transformation initiative moving forward is a people and cultural issue. It’s complex and challenging, so a level of specificity is warranted around the comprehensive steps that will need to be taken to execute change within the organization. Digital transformation is only successfully achieved when there is a successful culture shift empowering the organization to navigate the hurdles that will inevitably come alongside change. Skepticism, fear, and ambiguity around change often lead to a failed digital transformation initiative.
Q: You talk a lot about the idea that we will never be able to disrupt ourselves if we go with what we already know. What is your advice for those looking to start this disruption, both personally and within their organizations?
TM: If you or anyone else is looking to initiate disruption (personally or professionally), you are a leader. A change leader. Disruption is an overused term today so perhaps it has lost its punch, but the reality is that disruption is hard. What many call disruption is not disruption but rather simply an iteration. And there is a difference between disruption and iteration. Disruption is a complete newness of thought, idea, or execution. Iteration is an improvement upon what already exists. Qualitatively they are different, and we know when we’ve felt disruption… it takes our breath away, and it has a wow-factor.
Many people are not comfortable with disruption. Disruption is well… disruptive. It’s scary to take risks and to do or think what hasn’t been done or thought before. A change leader cannot fear making mistakes, and instead must embrace failed attempts as learning experiences. You either like it or you don’t—disruption is not something you can dip your toe into. You’re either dry or soaked. The key to being realistic about creating disruption in one’s self or in an organization is to first identify if you are iterating or disrupting. It requires leaving the past behind and envisioning future events that are not yet a reality. Begin questioning everything, and then pick one thing to do differently… entirely differently. This will set wheels in motion for destination disruption.
Q: You keynote speak around the world on change leadership and the future of work. What does it take to lead with one foot in the present and one foot in the future?
TM: Leaders today who wish to remain relevant in their leadership tomorrow must step into their mastery as change leaders. Change leaders are far more charismatic and people-centered than the stereotypical corporate executive of yesterday. Today’s organizations require a leader that can move people within the organization from idea to execution through inspiration and motivation. Relationship skills are paramount to successfully leading an organization into the future. A change leader is adept at decision-making in the face of uncertainty, linking innovation to business outcomes, embracing an entrepreneurial spirit, and possessing a fearlessness paired with a passion that ignites that same fire within the people of the organization to traverse the ups and downs along with them.
Never has there been a time in history as powerful as today, where a leader must be engaged with everyone throughout the organization. The yelling, screaming dictators of the past are out, and the wise collaborators who inspire with their sleeves rolled up in the trenches are in. As leaders, we can roll out all the initiatives we can dream up, but unless there is a willingness, a culture of accountability, and follow-through to execute on initiatives, it will fall flat. Your vision will not be made manifest. It might as well have just been a dream.
Tamara McCleary is an undeniable expert on digital disruptors and how they will impact the way forward for organizations. As part of the Think Forward City Tour, she will be joining world-renowned physicist Brian Greene, along with digital transformation expert Greg Verdino and cloud technology specialist John Knightly, to help you navigate the uncertainties that accompany periods of rapid change and disruption. We hope you join BlueJeans in Atlanta, Dallas, or San Francisco to hear Tamara McCleary speak in person.