The Future is Here?
Welcome to 2021!
We are officially into the 2020s now. If you’re from my generation, then hearing “the year 2021” conjures up thoughts of futuristic settings that didn’t come to pass. In fact, many movies and books from the past that showcased futuristic or apocalyptic visions were set either in the 2020s or prior!
To put this into perspective, here is a shortlist of science fiction pieces that took place either in our present or recent past:
While some of the technology we have today exceeds what was depicted in these stories (particularly our digital technology), I am still anxiously awaiting my flying car! It may not “feel” like the future to most of us, but we are still living in a world that has significantly changed over the past 50 years.
Instead of living in the future that we expected, we are living in a transitional age, and transitional periods in society are often messy, chaotic, complex, and confusing, which certainly describes today’s world. Work is not immune to this either, as it is being impacted by many major trends that are part of this transition. For example, ….
…..Globalization kicked off the chaos and has been impacting business and work for some time now, changing it forever.
………...Remote technology is reshaping how we work.
…..Automation, which is just beginning to ramp up, will not just reshape but will remake the entire landscape of work.
………...At the same time, the nature of organizations is evolving from the Industrial Age model to Teal organizations, changing the relationship between employer and employee or manager and staff (mainly found today in only very progressive companies).
….Finally, the role of government in all this is being rethought, with ideas such as Universal Basic Income (UBI) receiving a lot of attention.
And this doesn’t even touch on the impact the pandemic is having on shaping and accelerating the future of work (more on that here).
With these trends in mind, one thing is certain and it’s that UNCERTAINTY rules the day. Rapid change has already become the new normal. Uncertainty adds another layer on top of that, increasing the challenges businesses face today. Those organizations who can best anticipate and navigate disruptive change, and then rapidly adapt (or continuously morph like a chameleon when needed) will be the ones that survive this transition period. Leaders will need to channel their inner futurist or Sci-Fi writer, à la Ray Kurzweil or Arthur C. Clarke, to guide their organizations through this storm.
The future, as we imagined it would be, is not here yet and may never arrive. However, we do have a front-row seat to the making of the next age of mankind, which is pretty exciting. Like watching a cooking show, we can see all the ingredients being tossed and stirred into the pot. (A dash of virtual work! Two cups of automation!) Our disadvantage though, is we don’t know what the dish is and we don’t know what additional ingredients (out of reach of the camera) may still be added. So far, it’s an interesting stew with fascinating smells that hint at what’s to come...but in the meantime, the kitchen is a complete mess, the water hasn’t even reached a boil yet, and the patrons are starving for a meal that’s better than what they last had. The best leaders will closely follow what the chef is doing, anticipate his next move, and perhaps begin to create their own recipe with the ingredients given.
What’s your recipe for the future of work?