Future Jobs, Future Work

What do future  jobs and the future of work look like was the focus of a recent interview I had with Rick Anthony on his Entrepreneurs Network Radio show.

future jobs and robotsLike most of our conversations, we started off with a discussion about the multi-generational workforce.  And like we do so often it led off with a discussion of the Baby Boomers and Millennials.  Rick started with, “What is the major shift you see occurring right now and where is it headed?”

I’m not sure Rick got the answer he was expecting. Here’s an edited version of my response:

We typically classify generations by date of birth. I wrote a book about it and you and I have talked about it. So have a lot of other people. And whether it’s the Baby Boomer, Generation X, or Millennial Generation, these cohorts span 15 or 20 years before another cohort is defined. During each time span trends change and events happen. Each generation is indelibly stamped by them. When I wrote Geeks, Geezers and Googlization and even more so after it was published, I started to see a shift in how we describe generations. It wasn’t so much an age dependent demographic as much as it was maybe a technology dependent demographic.  I’ve begun to look across those generational time spans and talk about more about the Wired and the Tired.  For more, listen now.

Rick then asked why we have such a shortage of skilled workers if the Millennials and Gen Z are so wired.  Here’s an edited response – for the full and original version, click here.

We have to be very careful with the wording that we use. Just because you were born in the age where technology is ubiquitous and used every day doesn’t mean everyone is savvy with it.  I never say Millennials and Gen Z are the exclusive citizens to a Wired generation.   Many of them use technology much like Baby Boomers drove cars.  It doesn’t mean that all Baby Boomers can repair and maintain or that all Baby Boomers are excellent drivers because they were doing it for 4 or more decades. That’s the difference between Wired and Tired. Millennials and Gen Z may be comfortable living life via apps but don’t have the ability, skills, or experience to integrate it with other aspects of life. Likewise Baby Boomers have the experience but struggle with a world of apps.

Next up was one of my favorite subjects – robots, automation, and artificial intelligence (AI). Rick asked about what happens when robots and AI initiate the wholesale replacement of humans with machines.

At a recent global entrepreneurship summit I mentioned why disruption is not a strong enough word to describe how technology is transforming our lives.  In his new book, Thomas Friedman describes the difference between disruption and dislocation. “Disruption is what happens when someone does something clever that makes you or your company look obsolete. Dislocation is when the whole environment is being altered so quickly that everyone starts to feel they can’t keep up.”  We’re living in a time when change is happening so fast that it’s no longer just an inconvenience or something we can choose to ignore. It is dismantling long-held policies and societal norms, and neutralizing government and academic strategies.

Finally we touched on the subject about career planning and what we should tell our grandchildren. Rick posed an insightful statement: “I guess it is folly for career counselors and parents and teachers to continue to talk in terms of career planning. They should be substituting it with life planning.” Rick is absolutely correct.

People for nearly two centuries people have equated a career to their job title.  We still ask young people what they want to be and they tell us ‘I’m going to be a doctor.’ Or I’m going to be an attorney. I’m going to be a welder, a tradesman or whatever.  In the past our life, our career, our job title were melded into one.  Today that’s just bad advice. For now the best advice is to develop skills that in the near term won’t be replaced by robots and AI.  At the top of the list is what I call the C list: critical thinking along with curiosity, creativity, collaboration, and communication.  In time these too may fall under the domain of robots but it’s not likely in the lifetime of our children or their children.

The final question was how does this relate to entrepreneurs and start-up businesses.  My recommendation is “Identity the work that will still need to be done by a human being or at least partially done in collaboration with the technology and figure out how to remove the complexity of doing it.”

To listen to the full interview click here.

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