What is YOUR Future at Work?

How to Predict the Future of Work
(Photo by Wyron A)

What is the future of work? More importantly, what is YOUR future at work?

These are questions my Columbia University colleagues and I have been discussing with increasing frequency as we design our research projects, as well as courses for our students. Because the more we understand emerging trends, the better we can equip our students for a brighter future at work.

But how to identify and interpret emerging trends?

Many years ago, a colleague at my law firm told me that he was leaving his seemingly secure place on partner track to work for a small venture capital fund. He said that the fund’s founder had “noticed” that as baby boomers were getting older they were also getting more invested in fighting their aging. So that founder decided to engage in their fight by investing in the new wellness industry. Over the next few years, he invested in companies that made supplements and other healthcare items and then he shifted into organic wellness products. The founder was well ahead of the curve, thanks to his ability to understand the logical outcome of current trends.

Emerging AI and Automation trends

If you look past the hype about AI, you will see that many businesses are changing the way they work as they explore the potential of this technology. In the process, we are also seeing some shifts in employment patterns emerging. With AI and automation comes dislocation. Unfortunately, according to a recent report on Automation and Artificial Intelligence by the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, the negative impacts of automation and AI are going to hit some groups harder than others:

  • Routine physical and cognitive tasks are most likely to be automated. This has tough implications for people in office administration, production, food preparation, and transportation roles.
  • Smaller, more rural areas will be harder hit by automation than the largest cities. (The higher the level of worker education, the less likely those workers are to lose ground to automation.)
  • Men, youth, and under-represented groups will be most negatively affected by automation.
Education is your insurance for your future at work

The authors of the report propose several policy approaches to mitigate the negative impact of automation. In addition, they recommend some crucial actions for organizations and individuals that come straight out of the playbooks of knowledge management and organizational learning. In their view, the most important thing we can do is promote a learning mindset by taking the following actions:

  • Invest in reskilling incumbent workers
  • Expand accelerated learning and certifications
  • Make skill development more financially accessible
  • Align and expand traditional education
  • Foster uniquely human qualities

Clearly, the keys to employment success and security are to keep ahead of automation through education and to double down on the things that humans do better than machines.

Join us to learn more about the future of work

My Columbia University colleague, Dr. Ed Hoffman, will be speaking about the Future of Work on Thursday, May 2, at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, DC. After his presentation, Ed, our colleague Jordon Sims, and I will lead an interactive discussion with the audience on the issue. For more information on Thursday’s session, see this post by Ed Hoffman: The Future of Work: Intangibles, Machines, and Cultures of Excellence.

If you are in Washington, DC on Thursday and would like to join us, go to https://dc.alumni.columbia.edu/hoffman for more information on how to attend.

We look forward to seeing you there.

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A New Adventure

Every so often, opportunity knocks.

This year, opportunity started knocking and did not quit until I finally paid attention. Thanks to the persistence and support of several wonderful colleagues, I now find myself embarking on a new adventure.

On July 1, I became academic director of the Master of Science in Information and Knowledge Strategy (IKNS) program at Columbia University. It is a remarkable program that equips students to lead high-performing teams and unleash the power inherent in the knowledge assets of their organizations. In the words of one our distinguished faculty members, Jeanne Harris, our program teaches how to  optimize organizational decision making and execution.

Who doesn’t need that?

Next week we will welcome a new cohort of mid-career executives eager to learn the things that knowledge management professionals know how to do. However, unlike most KM professionals, this cohort will have the benefit of a thoughtfully designed set of courses taught by industry leaders. This creates a wonderful path to the education that the rest of us gained painfully through the school of hard knocks.

We just released to our new students the online learning site for their first course. One of their initial assignments is to read a foundational book for knowledge management professionals: Working Knowledge by Tom Davenport and Larry Prusak. The site directs the students to read the book with a critical eye — not because there is a particular problem with the book but because they will have a chance next week to discuss it face to face with Larry Prusak. What an opportunity! And it’s only the beginning for them and for us.)

Together with the other members of the program’s leadership team (Dr. Ed Hoffman and Carolina Pincetic), our expert faculty, and dedicated alumni, I look forward to bringing the benefits of collaboration and knowledge sharing to more and more individuals and organizations.

We have some powerful tools in our IKNS toolkit that are just too valuable to hoard.

 

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