Keynote: The Future of Work Means Dealing with Disruption

Wilen discusses the key forces impacting the future of work, industries, leadership styles, skills, and education with a focus on how to remain relevant in an increasingly complex digital world.

Speaker: Tracey Wilen, Author, Independent Consultant

Session Description: Everything we do is impacted by technology—how we communicate with others, connect at work, learn at school, and live our lives. We are accustomed to and dependent on technology. The accelerated pace of technology and competition is causing workplace environments to become more technical, diverse, and in need of disruptive leaders. This new landscape requires innovative styles of leadership and new techniques of managing organizations.  Drawing on over twenty years of research and the latest happenings in our world, Wilen discusses the key forces impacting the future of work, industries, leadership styles, skills, and education with a focus on how to remain relevant in an ever-increasingly complex digital world. Hear about the latest trends in a disruptive world, get practical advice about innovative best practices, case examples, as well as pragmatic tips and pointers.

[These are my notes from the KMWorld Connect 2021 Conference. I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session so they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]


  • 3 Forces Impacting Organizations
    • Extreme Longevity: babies born today could live for 115 years. Science has made this possible. What are the implications of this for work?
      • Work until 85 in order to fund a longer retirement. This implies a 60-70 year career.
      • Multi-generational workforce (maybe as many as 5 generations at once). McDonald’s youngest employee is 14.5 years old. Walmart’s oldest employee is 102. (He is a gardener.)
      • Each generation has different expectations, work goals, motivations, learning styles, view of leadership, and points of view. And they have differing appetites for technology. The organization will have to accommodate all of these differences simultaneously.
    • VUCA: We live in a VUCA world. VUCA = Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous. The effect of this is to make us constantly feel like first responders.
  • 5 New Skills Needed for our New World
    • Multimedia literacy = the ability to absorb and use information from multiple content inputs: words, images and sounds
    • Data literacy = being able to aggregate, sort, and parse available data. PLUS the human element to understand the meaning/implications of these data.
    • Computational thinking = think like a computer
    • Virtual Collaboration = remote work can be a fabulous way to work but you must establish new ways of connecting, creating trust, communicating, supporting digital work processes, meeting organizational objectives.
    • Novel and Adaptive Thinking = borrowing trends to solve a problem with new technology
      • 3D printing is well-established for use in industrial manufacturing. Now a doctor is using liquid collagen to “print” a new ear for a patient.
  • 3 Points for Leaders
    • Interconnected Knowing = have access to broader real-time knowledge so that you keep on top of your business and the world. (She reports that Rupert Murdoch has to consume 6 hours of content per day in order to manage his business.)
    • Customer and Vendor Guidance = you need to integrate your knowledge from one end of the supply chain to the other. How can you make your customers and vendors part of your executive decision making?
    • Workforce Innovation = hiring innovative talent, harvest employee ideas, find diverse talent/idea people, employee advisory teams, new board members, etc.
  • 3 Points for Employees
    • You are not a robot — Remember that your manager did not hire you to do a robot’s job. The elements you personally add to the way you do your job will fundamentally change that job.
    • Become the CEO of your job — do what you need to do to make a success of your current position AND to enable you to move to the next level.
    • Everyone should take a “career selfie.” This involves doing periodic career planning. One key is writing down your goal and the next steps to get there. The act of writing it down moves your mind/will to action.
  • Takeaways
    • Cast your net widely for new ideas. Remember that good ideas can come from anywhere — even from a 13-year old.

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