Thinking about our future can be tough at times. In this blog I write about trends, important developments and influential events at a global scale, which lately often translates into the keywords of volatility, protectionism, populism, globalization threats, and automation. So, what is the future of work on the global basis? Certainly unclear and, clearly, uncertain. Yet, this unclarity and uncertainty might be seen as a pattern in itself, which allows for some suggestions and ideas on which direction to take in this increasingly complex and volatile world. A very insightful interview that Deloitte US CEO Cathy Engelbert and John Hagel, co-chairman of Deloitte’s Center for the Edge, had with Tom Friedman, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, is a worthwhile read on the matter.
Echoing the underlying developments of the gig economy Tom sees global work moving towards work being disconnected from jobs, and also from companies, which in turn are increasingly becoming platforms. As such, we are moving towards a continuous increase in speed and the amount of flow (be it information, goods or people), where there is little stability—apart from the stability of constant change. Having the big picture in mind, Tom Friedman gives some advice, which in my opinion is relevant not only to individuals, but also to organizations:
- ‘think like an immigrant’
What is the main difference between immigrants and locals? In my opinion, locals get comfortable, while immigrants can’t allow that to happen for themselves… Immigrants find themselves in a new situation that they need to adapt to, they need to look for opportunities and actively pursue them. In the work of the future, there probably wouldn’t be any comfort of pre-arranged placements that one can rely on for one’s entire professional career. Instead, one needs to be entrepreneurial. We will all be immigrants in an ever-changing environment, so why not to start developing the immigrant mindset already now?
- ‘think like an artisan’
What did the artisans do? Artisans had their unique craft, they were creating something that they could put their name on, and something that couldn’t be that easily duplicated. Given the inevitability of automation of many jobs and skills, we need to get back to making our work unique, make it have a personal value-add. What could that value-add be? How can we complement the technical competence of machines? Tom argues that it is empathy, the ability to emotionally connect with other people. If so far we have spoken about the need in global markets for STEM skills, then Tom proposes a concept of STEMpathy. I find the concept very relevant and fully in line with the emotional and cultural intelligence needs of global work.
- ‘always be in beta’
‘Beta’ refers to a software development stage of being ‘about 85% done’, in other words, not being finished or completed yet. Indeed, the notion of rapid changes requires lifelong learning, and it is quite fair to assume that perceiving oneself as ‘competed’ in terms of skills, knowledge and so on inhibits the process of learning.
- ‘PQ + CQ is greater than IQ’
Finally, Tom argues that in the future there will be much more important features than general intelligence, or the amount of knowledge one has. PQ refers to the passion quotient and CQ refers to curiosity, which might be undoubtedly more important in a volatile world than fixed knowledge.
All in all, I would suggest that the uncertain future of work definitely calls for changes. Yet, these changes are not about doing things differently with our hands, or filling our heads with more knowledge, but rather about our hearts… The future seems to require openness, curiosity, self-awareness, empathy and passion – everything we can cultivate in our hearts. Indeed, quoting his friend Dov Seidman, CEO of LRN, Friedman suggests that the world of jobs is moving ‘from Hands to Heads to Hearts’.