Six drivers that are turning the future of our work upside down

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Six drivers that are turning the future of our work upside down

Table of Contents

Global connectivity, smart machines and new media are just some of the reasons that our way of thinking about work, what work is, and the skills we need to make a productive contribution in the future. In this blog we look at the six drivers for change.

Digitization is taking off

In the 1990s, IBM's Deep Blue beat chess grandmaster Gary Kasparov, today IBM's Watson supercomputer beats contestants on Jeopardy. A decade ago, employees were concerned about outsourcing jobs abroad, today cloud call center companies like LiveOps can create virtual teams for customer support and sales work. Five years ago it would have taken NASA years to tag millions of photos taken with its telescope, but with the power of collaborative platforms, the task can now be accomplished in a matter of months with the help of thousands of human volunteers. Research shows that there are six major disruptive shifts that will make our future work look completely different. These are the six most important and most relevant.

1 Extreme longevity

A longer global lifespan changes the nature of careers and learning. It is estimated that the number of Americans will increase by 70 percent over the next four years. Not only are we getting older, the number of older people is increasing rapidly and we are starting to think differently about what it means to age. People are working longer and longer, and a career at one company, from school leaver to retirees, is a phenomenon that we encounter less and less. Lifelong learning, diversity and flexibility are themes that are becoming increasingly important.

2 The rise of smart machines and systems

Workplace automation means less and less repetitive tasks. Over the next decade, we'll see more and more new smart machines in our offices, factories and homes. This forces us to think about what the distinctive character of our people really is and how we can optimally work together with these machines to achieve an optimal result. We are entering a new kind of partnership with machines, resulting in a new level of human-machine collaboration.

3 A computational world

A huge increase in sensors and processing power make the world a programmable system. It provides an abundance of data and offers the possibility to see patterns like never before. Every object, every interaction, everything we come into contact with is converted into data. This is how we herald an era in which everything seems programmable. Collecting those huge amounts of data helps discover new patterns and see relationships that were previously invisible.

4 New media ecology

New means of communication require a new ‘media literacy'. Technologies for video production, digital animation, augmented reality, gaming and media editing are becoming increasingly sophisticated. As a result, a new ecosystem develop, a new ‘language'. We already see that the once text-based Internet is transforming, offering more and more space for video, animation and other visual communication media. At the same time, virtual networks are more and more seamlessly integrated into our lives, introducing new media into our daily experience. That has a huge impact on our culture. That also means that we must learn to approach content with more skepticism. What you see today may be different tomorrow.

5 Hyper-structured organizations

New technologies and social media platforms are revolutionizing the way we produce and create value. Amplified by a new level of collective intelligence, we can now achieve the kind of scale and reach that previously could only be achieved by very large organizations. In other words, we can do things outside of traditional organizational boundaries. ‘Hyperstructure' means that we create structures that go beyond the basic forms and processes with which we are familiar. It means collaboration on an extreme scale, from micro to massive. Learning to use new social tools to work, invent and operate on this scale is what the coming decades will be all about. Many organizations are products of age-old scientific knowledge and technologies. This organizational landscape is now being disrupted. Science games, from Foldit to GalaxyZoo, involve thousands of people in solving problems for which no organization had the resources before. Open education platforms are increasingly making content available to anyone who wants to learn. This new generation of organizational concepts and work skills does not emerge from traditional management and organizational theories, but from new areas such as game design, neuroscience and happiness psychology. These fields will stimulate the development of new training paradigms and tools.

6 Global connectivity

Increased global interconnectivity puts diversity and adaptability at the heart of business operations. In our highly globally connected and interdependent world, the United States and Europe no longer have a monopoly on job creation, innovation and political power. Organizations from resource-constrained markets and infrastructure in developing countries like India and China are innovating in some areas, such as mobile technologies, at a faster pace than in the West.


In our next blog we will look at the skills we will need to cope with all these developments. That lifelong learning is crucial is one thing that is certain. Do you also want to put continuous learning on the agenda, but could you use some help with that? We are happy to help you give knowledge development an even more strategic role. Please feel free to contact us.


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