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Being or Becoming?

The Future of Work is how this young child is shaped by the society that is bereft of bias and based on equitable justice.

“Work spares us from three evils: boredom, vice, and need.” Voltaire

"What do you want to be when you grow up"? This is one of the first questions people ask children. Isn't what we are really asking is "What do you think you will BECOME" rather than "What do you want to BE". You won't hear a child say "I want to be an Uber driver, will you?", no matter which social strata of society they come from!

BE is the ability of just BEING; finding expression for one's latent as Talent. And that expression comes from the inherent understanding of the excellence required in a specific field of work making a contribution to life. BECOMING on the other hand is the ability to execute what others expect from you and are explicit and / or implicit in their instructions. The social inequities in our societies has biased and limited the choices that life has to offer for an individual to make a decision which determines what one can BECOME more than what one can BE; isn't it?

And suddenly, we are faced with an existential crisis of how we sustain what we have become; which is no longer tenable for the societies or the enterprise that can keep the economy ticking. But then, there is also the avenue of new learning, that can renew the idea of who we want to be. The sweet spot of "The Future of Work" is in this intersection of the divide between Be & Being; encompassing both. For it is not human to leave anyone behind, can we?

So it is important to now find a uniform understanding on "The Future of Work". If we were to value each life as we keep saying through any of the movements; #Blacklivesmatter; #Metoo; #Poverty; and / or #diversity, where would we start? The answer is embedded well within the question; asking ourselves what is the value of each life and how valuable it can be for the society in its contributions? This is not about selling the dream of being one's own boss or making more money than what a conventional job would offer. This is about pursuing a calling that would truly enable a person to express and showcase talent.

Even when one chooses to be an Uber driver, how can a day at work be joyful? Or if one is a masseuse, how can the delivery of a massage service be safe and respectful? Or when a software developer contributes a brilliant algorithm, how can the business growth value that contribution? How can one find dignity in one's work and at the same time learn to find creativity in it to deliver a higher value?

Technology is still a point solution today that first of needs harmonizing between hardware and software and further connection to other systems before it can be widely perceived as a disruption to human existence. To the contrary, humans have a great chance to ally with technology to transform life.

These connection of dots needs to be designed, transformed commercialized as innovation for growth to sprout again from the waste of the our current pandemic and economic crisis. It starts for me with the question on whether we are in a position today to offer better choices to people;

  • whether they are in they have lost their jobs;

  • or in fear of losing them;

  • or are just about to enter the workforce?

This is a cross generational question simply because none of the above three demographics is actually equipped to handle the real needs of what the future of work demands of them. If an entire surgery were to be performed digitally, it doesn't mean humans are not involved. To the contrary, humans are involved in tuning, training and twisting them to combine with different systems to create a cohesive outcome. Please refer to the following illustration that points to how Seven Technologies are altering life as we know.

Before the dialog on The Future of Work can become a meandering and meaningless one, there is a great need to transform workforce; depending on where they would be relevant;

Within the seven technologies (Point Solutions) of Machine Learning / Artificial Intelligence, Biotechnology, 3D/4D Printing, Nanotechnology, Wireless Mesh Networks, Robotics and / or Pervasive Computing.

  • Where a doctor would know how to perform a surgery with robotic assistance or a biotechnologist would have automation to support research or a mechanic would have the ability to test, train, twist, maintain and manage a self driving truck.

  • Connecting the Customer Universe of enterprise adapting to the above technologies.

  • Developing code to connect digitally in real time or developing new engines or developing connectors between hardware and software or between security data endpoints.

  • Connecting to the extended ecosystem that represents life management including Environment, Education, Governance, Health, Wealth, Mobility and Technology.

  • Developing and Publishing Content, or developing new recipes or creating unique ways of creating and distributing music.

Jobs are not being taken over by robots or disappearing. They are just morphing into something new and different from what we have known. And while there is still time, we need to prepare a workforce to meet the growing demand.

A Cushion to try new Ideas

Let us not romanticize the idea of a gig economy. We are not ready for it. But this is where the opportunity is with truly democratized systems supporting the process of the journey in human excellence; one that we all understand as Innovation.

How many of us go to work with the idea that we have the power to Transform / Change lives? What makes us believe what we are fed rather than Inquiring on our potential, exploring the potential and discovering the possibilities as a consequence?

At Wells Fargo where I was hired to lead the Innovation of the Digital Channels Technology organization, I asked the units of Development & Support that I led to assign 20% of their productive day towards learning and innovation as a voluntary measure; with the explicit understanding that they had to deliver a 100% on the Technology Health Refresh (THR) initiatives that were the enterprise priority at that time; About 20 out of the 1500+ people initially volunteered. They took an initiative to deliver a Device, Channel and Medium independent life experience to a customer with money as Inventory. And they spent a lot more than the 20% of the time after their initial work was all torn down because it did not conform to the brief of finding new and better ways of developing technology and delivering it to customers; where the product journey intersected the customer life journey to deliver a unique engagement and experience; every single transaction. And this enthusiasm was fuelled purely by the discovery of their own potential to dig deep and find hidden reserves of strength to discover new means to an end.

There are a lot of people out there who are looking for sponsorship, support and guidance from leadership and those in power; to allow them the opportunity to contribute. All they need to tap into is their being to start discovering how they can bridge the chasm of Potential and Performance.

Andrew Yang the democratic Presidential Candidate proposed the Universal Basic Income (UBI) as a means for people to have a cushion for people to become part of the new system. His scheme would cost US treasury $3 Trillion while the US Treasury budget for 2018 was $4 Trillion. President Donald Trump gave tax breaks to corporates to create jobs. The congress sanctioned stimulus packages to keep people on jobs. In India, the government announced an approximately $265 Billion Stimulus package, the details of which yield schemes that are barely essential for normal economic activity; leave alone extraordinary circumstances. Meanwhile, the migrant workers have suffered great indignity and injustice; just to get back home.

None of the thought has percolated to the problem at hand; 95% of the incumbent workforce is neither skilled nor has a mindset to fuel and energize the growth engine of the future from the present. If this is a gig economy, then the gigs must produce tangible outcomes. There is a platform in India "Urbanclap" that connects gig workers to consumers; but it has no means of guaranteeing the delivery of metrics on any of the dimensions of customer's perception of value; Quality, Cost, Delivery, Service and Flexibility. How long can this business survive?

A paradigm shift is imminent in the future of work no doubt. Life is tethered to technology now. Tugging with the tail or just any other body part of the horse called technology will not move the carriage forward. Open Source, Cloud and Machine Learning / Artificial Intelligence are resources that are and will be available more contextually to make the "Future of Work" more compelling. It has to be a holistic system, not a partitioned frontier for a privileged few. Human Cloud is worth $ 50 Billion per year.

Whose job is it, anyway?

Whether I am performing cleaning services or writing application code or performing theater, I am going to be digitally connected and therefore whether it is a job or a gig that I perform, I have an accountability that aggregates at an institutional level. And therefore, I need to start finding my connection to this new life. I must have a digital identity and my Vision must global. I can BE whatever I want. This is a democratic world and the best is yet to come. Because, I am going to create it. I don't want to be left behind.

References & Resources

In addition to this article, please find the following video resources that would be extremely useful for your understanding of the subject:

From the food we eat to the clothes we wear, VICE's Future of Work explores technology’s threat to the American worker and the ways we are responding.

This is the workforce of the future. Technology is transforming the world of work beyond all recognition creating groundbreaking opportunities. But it's also eroding the rights of workers. Some even fear a dystopian jobless future. But are these anxieties overblown? How we react to this brave new world of work today will shape societies for generations to come.

Do the entrepreneurial myths surrounding the so-called gig economy stack up? Journalist and author James Bloodworth doesn’t think so. In his talk he relays some of his own experiences working undercover in the gig economy and debunks some of the glamour surrounding the increasingly popular idea of ‘being your own boss’.”

A special event featuring Jacinda Ardern, who spoke about what the future of work looks like, and how it’s going to affect businesses.

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