The following text is a summary of Toby Peyton-Jones ´ presentation at Ambrosetti Live ´s Webnar. Mr Peyton-Jones is Commissioner of UK Commission for Employment and Skills, and HR Director for Siemens UK & Assigned Countries
Digital age can make us feel quite uncomfortable with such high speed changes and growing complexity: The emerging future looks increasingly unpredictable with disruptions and discontinuities fueled by global connectivity and machines, that not only have the power to compute, but also have the power to learn.
Mega trends are well documented to give some initial ideas about what sort of changes we will face in the labour market: A multi-generational and aging workforce, pervasive and increasingly intelligent technology replacing white collar professional roles leaving a society of winners and losers. In the meantime virtual working with the “anywhere, anytime anyhow interaction” will call for a drive in a new relationship between employer and employee.
Understanding which megatrends are important for you is the critical issue, and working out which provide opportunities/threats. Here Peyton-Jones shared with us how Siemens is positioning its portfolio of business to take advantage of a tail wind of megatrends and invest in skill that will support innovation in these areas.
But understanding the stable trends will only take us so far. The question is, how can we prepare for a world of increasing volatility with discontinuities like the shift from the physical to the virtual, from the programmed machine to the machine that learns exponentially faster than any human? In such a world the ability to adapt/learn and the ability to work with complexity and ambiguity, become central.
As a Zoologist as well as a business leader, Toby Peyton-Jones also explained that “Diversity is a survival determinant”.
A homogeneous gene pool is a ticking time bomb for extinction when the environment changes and there are many companies where we have seen this happen. In addition, while we may intellectually understand that diversity is important for survival in a changing world, we are hard wired to be suspicious of those that don’t think, act or look like us.
This backdrop sets the stage for the kind of skills we will need in our future leaders and employees.
While technical skills will be important, robotics and artificial intelligence will take the place of experts in disciplines as wide ranging as finance to medicine. In this world it is the interdisciplinary know-how that will remain in demand what Peyton-Jones referred to as Meta skills.
A combination of, for example: commercial skills, technical know-how, project skills, IT skills, market know-how form a lattice of meta-capability that will be hard to replicate with a machine.
In Siemens they value ingenuity – while the technical skills may go out of date fast this meta-capability will endure – there is no single training program for meta-skills like ingenuity but you can recognize them and they will remain in demand.
At the same time the old archetype of the “visionary leader” who’s great strength is un-wavering execution, can become a liability in a complex and volatile future. Our new leaders and organizations will be more orchestrators, where the skills of enablement, co-creation and listening become far more prominent.
When we look today we still have employment contracts with working hours from 9 to 5 with a specific work location, when we know people work anywhere any time. We have organization charts, role descriptions, and targets which say less and less about what people are really doing day to day. We have balance sheets which can’t help us steer a company where the assets are increasingly virtual.
This new world is already upon us but the old gene pool of thinking is keeping us in denial. To deal with what lies ahead we need a culture which values diversity of thinking and being and Leaders who know how to connect and co-create a future.
In addition we need an education eco system that combines learning and earning with the development of interdisciplinary meta-skills to support employment in a world where artificial intelligence will take over the role of the expert.
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