The ‘now of work’ and reframing the fourth industrial revolution

Leadership | Technology

By AGSM Mar 28, 2019 

With the right infrastructure and education, organisations have the opportunity to flourish as automated technologies are introduced to the workforce, says Michael Priddis, Founder and CEO of Faethm. 

As the keynote speaker at the sixth Annual MBA World Summit hosted by AGSM @ UNSW Business School last week, Priddis discussed the future of work, and how technology can help governments and companies plan and prosper from emerging technologies like AI and automation. 

Since its launch in 2017, Faethm has seen tremendous growth, and is already in use by organisations across North America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific. The AI Analytics software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform uses proprietary analytics with client data to predict the impact of emerging technology. 

With their work attribution model, Faethm uses data to define the attributes that match a role likely to be automated, and helps organisations identify more future-focused roles that share similar attributes, for the purpose of re-educating their existing staff. 

“For example, there's a significant amount of accounting work to be automated over the next years, and globally we have a cyber security shortage. So when you look at the attributes of particular roles, being an accountant and cyber security analyst is actually very similar – it’s a teachable gap.” And it gives organisations a clear learning and development pathway for those people.

Evolving education, the solution to tech disruption

“It’s a lot less expensive to retrain people and redeploy them than it is to make people redundant or to make new hires,” said Priddis. And looking ahead, one of the largest gaps Priddis has identified in retraining people is education. “Globally, everyone is behind on education for the future of work,” he said. “No country is ready to deal with the volume of education gaps we will see as technology evolves.”

He says investment in education is crucial. “For institutions to adequately teach about technology, which is constantly changing, we need funding that lasts, and a commitment to keeping content fresh and relevant.” 

Awareness is another issue – access and understanding of the value of education is dependent on socio-economic and geographic conditions. “How do we teach people what they need to learn?” 

Finally, the structure of courses and content needs to be flexible to suit peoples needs. “It’s not enough to have just 12-month courses or 3-year courses. People need access to a 3-day course, or 12-hour course. And they need action-based learning to learn new skills quickly.”

We’re in the future of work right now

Priddis believes the language ‘future of work’ is a barrier to the right actions for a lot of organisations. “Some CEOs hear ‘future’ and think ‘that’s not my problem’. But change is happening right now, and CEOs need to be taking action now.” Which sets the platform for Priddis’ preferred term, the ‘now of work’. 

Another term Priddis is pushing against is ‘fourth industrial revolution’, which conjures imagery of a more hostile world. “What if we reframe this time as the third renaissance? A period of opportunity and enlightenment? We don’t need to think of mass-automation as people on the streets, or the end of work. It’s time for investing in new skills, industries and new growth,” said Priddis. 

“There’s a common misunderstanding, the ‘lump of labour fallacy’ where people are wondering, ‘What will we do with surplus people?’ But it’s wrong to consider work as a finite level of activity divisible by people present. Work is elastic, it extends.” 

A tipping point for developing countries 

Priddis is optimistic about the future of work in developed economies and urged the Summit of future global leaders to pay serious attention to the opportunities and challenges ahead. 

Many developing countries depend on high volume, low skill work to run their economy, which also makes these jobs most at risk of being automated. “If technology automates a problematic proportion of a country’s jobs – who is thinking about what to do next?” he asked. 

In developed countries, we have the safety net of a benevolent government, capital to invest, and social welfare.

“I’m concerned about what will happen to displaced individuals if work runs out. Welfare and healthcare – it doesn’t exist in many developing countries,” said Priddis. “We need to be aware that decisions we make in developing countries will have implications that need to be carefully considered.”

And looking towards the developing world, social impact was a huge focus for the 100 delegates attending the MBA World Summit. This call-to-arms from Priddis was followed up with a session run by Cody Aaron of start-up Project Everest Ventures, who facilitated the group to focus on social impact in global Indigenous communities.  

“The key thing is that people start taking action now. The world is moving fast and being a fast follower isn’t sustainable,” said Priddis.

Michael Priddis was one of the many AGSM MBA Alumni who spoke at the MBA World Summit and is an active member of the AGSM Alumni community. 

To learn more about our MBA program head to: www.agsm.edu.au 

If you have further questions, call or email: +61 2 9931 9490, admissions@agsm.edu.au

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