Steven Forth is a Co-Founder of TeamFit. See his Skill Profile.

 

How will your work change in 2018? This will depend a lot on where your organizations sits on the three critical axes of change that will reshape our workplaces and careers over the coming decade.

 

These are not the only possible axes to play with. Others to consider are productivity per person. Will it continue to stagnate or begin to improve? Will wages go up or remain flat; Will the distribution skew left, skew right or perhaps be bimodal? These three axes are enough to generate a rich set of scenarios to help you think through the possibilities over the coming years. Understand where your organization wants to position itself on these three critical axes and if you don’t like what you see push for change.

From automation to AI

The AI revolution is real and AI driven solutions are becoming part of all knowledge work. This will mean many different things. Routine work will become automated. Creative work will increasingly rely on the symbiosis of human and machine. We will look at the implications of AI for designers skills later in 2018. More and more work will involve understanding and communicating with people. These are all very good things, but for some of us the displacement will be jarring and new skills will be needed. Invest time in your friends, colleagues and find your potential collaborators, wherever they may be.

From Employees to Engaged Collaborators

Talented people will become more and more important to the success of their organizations. Older hierarchical models of command and control will generally fail. This means that people need to treat each other differently and that organizations need to give people more autonomy and control. This ranges from control of the forms of work to control of workspaces, to control of data and information. This will be difficult transition for companies built on tight control of proprietary intellectual property.

Concentrated Wealth to Shared Wealth

We are likely at a tipping point where we could see continued concentration of wealth in the hands of a very few or an opening up of ownership and a transition to new models for how ideas are shared. This may well become the defining struggle of the next thirty years.

One can combine these to generate a variety of scenarios.

In my own work, I use these three axes to explore different scenarios for how skills will be developed and applied. Our goal at TeamFit is to tilt the world towards the scenario of people working together with AIs to expand their potential, while working as engaged collaborators where they have control over their own work, in organizations committed to creating shared wealth. The dystopian alternative is a world in which most work is automated (and there is massive underemployment), people are trapped into rigid organizational structures that use automation and data to control their behaviors, and wealth and control are increasingly concentrated. No doubt all of these scenarios will come to be in one place or another. At TeamFit, our goal is to give people and organizations they tools they need to make the most attractive scenarios real.

What is TeamFit

TeamFit is a skill management platform. It is designed to help people document their current skills, discover their potential skills, and find the best roles and projects in which to put them to work. We also encourage people to identify their core skills (the skills they rely on most often) and their target skills (the skills they want to develop).

Our design is intended to support collaborative work where individuals have a high level of autonomy and work together on projects in teams. In other words, we are designing for a world of collaborative work, with a lot of shared ownership where AI is used to enhance skills rather than replace them. This will not work in all contexts. We believe that the organizations that adopt this model will be among the most successful.

These organizations will attract people who are committed to constantly improving their skills and finding new ways to put them to work.

Some more reading

If you want to go deeper into these ideas, here are four good places to start.

What will work look like in 2030 by Jeff Hesse and Scott Olsen at PwC

A scenario planning approach to the future of work in which the critical axes of uncertainty are collectivism vs. individualism and integration vs. fragmentation. The implications of each of the four scenarios for people strategy and workers are set out. One attractive feature of these scenarios is that each is attractive on some level to at least some people.

There is even a quiz for you to see which of these worlds you will be most comfortable in. It is worth taking the time to do this and reflecting on the result. Not surprisingly, I found myself suited for the Yellow World.

I am not convinced that these are the two critical axes of uncertainty, but the thinking here is worth following through and it is supported by a good set of underlying data.

What the future of work will mean for jobs, skills, and wages by James Manyika, Susan Lund, Michael Chui, Jacques Bughin, Jonathan Woetzel, Parul Batra, Ryan Ko, and Saurabh Sanghvi

This article offers more of a linear forecasting approach. As such it is a good backgrounder to the PwC work. McKinsey provides a number of tools to explore the different parameters of their forecasts and gives good international coverage. I suspect that in many places automation will proceed more quickly than the midpoint of the trendline and that close to 300 million workers worldwide will need to switch occupational categories.

Planning for the Future of Work by Gerald C. Kane

In this article by a professor of information systems at the Carroll School of Management at Boston College is gives much hopeful advice on how we should prepare for a future where we are frequently working together with robots. Professor Kane suggests that one of the critical skills for the future is ‘asking better questions’ and that the organizations that invest in supporting life-long learners are the ones that will thrive.

Robots aren’t killing jobs fast enough—and we should be worried by Dan Kopf (on Quartz, which is doing wonderful reporting on the future of work).

This article points out that, contrary to popular opinion, occupations are changing more slowly now than at any time in the past 100 years (the agricultural and then industrial revolutions were, at least so far, much more disruptive) and that stagnation of work and not disruption is what we should really be concerned about.