Future World — Are You Ready to Work It?

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A look at technologies making big impact on business models and what companies will need from you

In my blog posted the week of May 23, 2016 – “Your skills are who you are not what you do” explored the neuroscience of the Top Ten Skills the World Economic Forum indicates will be in demand in 2020. It’s pretty heady stuff that all ten are core characteristics of individuality, our genetic hardwiring; who we are as individual people because of the way our brains work.

Future WorldThat article in no way dismisses the experiential skills that we amass through education, and our career choices and professional pursuits. That’s the critical second layer to our skill bundle: what we do. With this piece, I don’t want to get into the weeds of what professions will be less in demand and what experiential skills will wane; instead I’ll address very specific technology advances, directions and end-products that will shake up most business models in a big way.

The infographic from the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report (2016) divides the highlighted technology segments into periods of impact. Those already influencing business models will be less dramatically challenging in a decade because global industries have some experience with them. Nevertheless, at the current rate of demand for innovation and rapid development, the mobile internet will likely look very different in 2020 and beyond.

The mobile future and mobile Internet of Things (machine-to-machine/M2M connectivity) will involve 50 billion devices and evolve into a $1.2 trillion industry by 2020. This will put enormous loads on our global bandwidth capabilities and impact everything from the education of engineers and developers to rewriting internet policy, innovating capital, and advancing security and privacy.

This is where who you are and what you do play equal roles. Companies will have an ever-increasing need for experts in the umbrella spaces of business intelligence/big data, information security, UI/UX design, mobile device and connectivity design, hardware and application engineering, and cutting edge networking. They’ll need employees and consultants with successes in:

  • Data analysis, interpretation and resultant application for change, and these people must demonstrate a keen head for business development and teamwork and management,
  • Cyber security who also exhibit the highest ethical standards and empathy for those who violate security in order to understand and thwart the enemy,
  • User interface (UI), user experience (UX) and mobile application designers who have their fingers on the pulse of what people want, how they want it delivered, and how they want to feel about their delivery experience,
  • Hardware and software engineers who have paradigm-changing collaboration skills that speed quality designs to manufacturing, through it and out to the market, economically and profitably,
  • Networking innovators that understand both the technology of information flow and the psychology of people who manage and benefit from it.

Big Data management and use, a core differentiator for all business (see my article “Inferential 2020” here << http://www.metaopsmagazine.com/big-data-inferential-2020/>>) is arguably the biggest challenge facing organizations and the most important one to overcome and master.

By the year 2020, IDC (International Data Corporation) predicts Big Data will reach “40 zettabytes (ZB), which is 40 trillion GB of data, or 5,200 GB of data for every person on Earth.” Currently only 1% of Big Data is analyzed.[i]

Experts who can transform big data into business intelligence – roadmaps to insight that drives innovation, competitiveness, customer satisfaction, etc. – need to fully grasp its value, volume, variety and velocity, and have the neuroscientifically hardwired good sense and judgment to “separate the noise from the nugget.” Effective big-data-to-intelligence-driven-enterprise experts will be required to be data detectives, judges and executioners, transforming information to intelligence and communicating that intelligence meaningfully to the myriad of different personnel who’ll use it for equally diverse purposes.

Entrepreneur Magazine writer, TX Zhuo, contends that “The Sharing Economy [familiar to most of you in the form of crowdsourcing] isn’t just a niche. It’s the Future of Market Capitalism.” Experts in this arena must be grounded in the concept of cutting out the middleman (loans from financial institution, costs associated with information publishing, etc.) – organizations like YouTube, Airbnb, and Uber, for example, have already done this. Going forward, the Internet of Things will serve as the foundation for advances in these new-capitalism models. Professionals in the industries of the sharing economy and crowdsourcing will be extraordinary innovators and tremendous negotiators as resistance from conventionally capitalized companies and conventional capitalizers will be considerable. These experts will also be on-team with the people who were once customers as employers, employees, and consultants that will all be in the drivers’ seats of these non-tradition business models.

New energy development (and I’m going to suggest that we put water supply management in this category as well), will move us away from dependence on the finite petroleum and natural gas resources and towards a cleaner environment. In that light, who you are will weigh heavily as philosophical leanings of individuals on this subject can be opposing and volatile – diplomacy and empathy will be paramount core characteristics. These professionals will be very agile as there are more unknowns than knowns in the areas of machinery and software design and failure. Experiential skills in demand will be successes in any application area related to biomass/biofuels, solar, wind, hydropower and geothermal energy sciences as well as sewer/water/saltwater management science and green building design.

I’m going to liberally group advanced manufacturing, 3D printing, materials and biotechnology. Talk about the future world! Development experts in these areas have already been living in the future and the rest of us have some serious catching up to do.

Suffice to say, for anyone to achieve professional fulfillment and be an asset to an organization in these fields, an open and innovative mind are critical, and fear of the unknown would be the enemy of achievement. The future of product creation will impact all aspects of research, development, supply, manufacture and distribution. Items that do big things will become smaller and smaller, even increasingly disposable – a commitment to design-to-recycle is critical, as is visionary ability to ensure profitability while reducing processes that are compromising to the environment.

Robotics, autonomous transport and artificial intelligence stretch core morality for many as they pose the age-old science-fiction question of “what happens if we can replace people with machines?” Success in these arenas will demand that you understand the benefits and potential threats; have empathy for people’s excitement and fears on both sides of the equation, and a moral compass that directs you to be truthful in communicating both pros and cons to stakeholders, the general public, and everyone in between. All positions in these industries do and will require engineer-centered teams of experts who are logical and reasoning, have excellent critical thinking capabilities, have fluency in both mathematics and writing communications, and, perhaps above all, relish everything about machines and their potential.

It’s all about science and technology… and the humanity required to develop and use it responsibly and for the benefit of all mankind and the planet on which we live. The future is not for the faint of heart or the closed, dogmatic mind. It is glorious and exciting. It will demand that we all make better use of who we are, the genetic hardwiring we’re born with, and what we can do. For most of us, it’s wise to focus on a sector of particular interest and learn everything we can about the science of it, the technology of it, the rationale behind it, and the psychology of the people who live it, breathe it, and benefit from it.


The Digital Universe in 2020: Big Data, Bigger Digital Shadows, and Biggest Growth in the Far East by John Gantz and David Reinsel sponsored by EMC, http://www.emc.com/leadership/digital-universe/iview/executive-summary-a-universe-of.htm[i]


Additional Reading

The Internet of Things: Friend or Foe?

Quantum Computing and the Internet of Things…a Potential Economic Paradigm Shift


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