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Career disruption is real

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Technology is reinventing how we live our lives, and while it me seem like another trend, MARTIN PIENAAR, COO at Mindworx Consulting, cautions every employer and employee to take note that this is a real thing and it is likely to eliminate 60% of the jobs we know today.

Everyone is talking about disruption and disruptors and how technology is reinventing how we live our lives at home and work. And while it may seem like just another trend or catchy business phrase, I caution every employer and employee to take note: this is a real thing! Exponential technologies are likely to eliminate 60% of the jobs we know today and if you don’t get to grips with what this means for your company and how you work, you’re not guaranteed of work in the future – which is closer than you think.

The next industrial revolution is here

Not for the first time are we experiencing a revolution that is threatening jobs and disrupting industries. Just think agricultural revolution, industrial revolution and even more recently in the technology age, how word processors obliterated the typing pool.

The next industrial revolution is here. People connected in real time by mobile phones and billions of connected sensors, are resulting in a revolution driving efficiency and productivity. Devices are getting cheaper, more powerful and more efficient which is pushing the internet into the industrial world. In this world, capital expenditure is giving way to monthly operating costs, where for example, the low cost of cloud computing allows for the growth of greenfields organisations which means more entrepreneurship and resultant innovation.

Companies need to gallup with technology

In this tech-era, companies should measure themselves on their responsiveness, not just the traditional assets and regulatory frameworks that have secured their success in the past.

Competitors of the future will likely not be the same as the past, and they will be faster, cheaper and do it better than you can. There is not an industry unaffected.

Employees need to reinvent themselves too

It’s highly unlikely that businesses of the future will insource all functions. The business model is likely to be a mix of own and outsourced pieces and “employees” will need skills in managing outsourced relationships.

“On-demand” skills must be mixed with full time teams in order to allow companies to rapidly scale up and down based on innovation cycles, but also to ensure they’re constantly resourced with current and best-of-breed skills. In order to stay competitive, companies will need to ensure that their permanent employees stay current too.

Over 53 million Americans are already participating in the part time, “gig” or “on-demand” economy. We expect this to grow over time.

Websites like Freelancer and Upwork (which is not yet active in South Africa) have allowed employers to find skills more easily. These trends will continue. In fact over the decade ending in 2015, the only net growth in staffing in the US market was in the “gig” economy, primarily Uber drivers.

Reskilling for emerging technologies like artificial intelligence/machine learning, big data, virtual and augmented reality, blockchain, robotics and the internet of things will soon be essential. Many of these technologies are coming out of a deceptive phase and becoming disruptive in the unlikeliest of industries. Robots are advising financial services clients, virtual reality is being used to solve pain issues in the medical realm and driverless cars have completed many millions of kilometers in California and Texas.

21st century skills are not about reading, writing and arithmetic

Companies and individuals who want to stay relevant will need to be up to date and competent in many of these technologies. If we carry on providing “broadcast” education rather than training for the attributes required in the 21st century, we are doing our youth, and ourselves, a disservice as they will be incompetent to cope in the workplace.

The qualities of curiosity, initiative, persistence, adaptability, leadership, social and cultural awareness are the basic foundational requirements for success in the new world of work.

And cross-team collaboration, creative thinking and prototyping are going to be the key attributes in a high-speed world.

And when you think that people are also starting to live longer – the current mean lifespan of 67 could well start to reach 100 over the next 2 decades – workers may be forced to work for longer and have to stay up to date with technology changes too.

The good news is that significant opportunities exist to grow skills outside of schools and universities, with massive online open courses (MOOCs) being offered by organisations like MIT, Coursera and iTunesU.

Real proof of a real change

Just in case you’re still not convinced that the disruption trend is here to stay, and will have a significant impact on the world of work, consider the following…

Business messaging service Slack is working on bots that will replace managers’ roles to get updates, follow up on tasks and send information to others. This type of technology will start to erode the roles of middle managers. Expect big improvements in productivity.

Airbnb has bought a blockchain company. The reason is to build a digital reputation system, which makes ratings immutable and could be used on the site to access premium properties, or elsewhere as a form of digital ID (not unlike a credit rating). It’s early days yet, but one gets a sense of how this technology will be used in future.

Many new industries will use people initially, but automate tasks as technology matures. An example is Uber and Lyft investing in self driving cars, Airbnb looking to unlock doors to rented homes using a mobile app (as against a person playing the key giver role), and online concierge services using artificial intelligence to replace humans.

We are living in very exciting times, but they are scary times for those who are not investing in their skills. Short term shedding of jobs is inevitable so standing still it just not an option when it comes to upskilling. But there are lots of new opportunities being created also. Think about how Airbnb and Uber have absorbed excess capacity; imagine when excess human capacity can be economically harnessed, it will create exciting new markets. I hope you’ll be ready.

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Millennials turning 40: NOW will you stop targeting them?

It’s one of the most overused terms in youth marketing, and probably the most inaccurate, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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One of the most irritating buzzwords embraced by marketers in recent years is the term “millennial”. Most are clueless about its true meaning, and use it as a supposedly cool synonym for “young adults”. The flaw in this targeting – and the word “flaw” here is like calling the Grand Canyon a trench – is that it utterly ignores the meaning of the term. “Millennials” are formally defined as anyone born from 1980 to 2000, meaning they have typically come of age after the dawn of the millennium, or during the 21st century.

Think about that for a moment. Next year, the millennial will be formally defined as anyone aged from 20 to 40. So here you have an entire advertising, marketing and public relations industry hanging onto a cool definition, while in effect arguing that 40-year-olds are youths who want the same thing as newly-minted university graduates or job entrants.

When the communications industry discovers just how embarrassing its glib use of the term really is, it will no doubt pivot – millennial-speak for “changing your business model when it proves to be a disaster, but you still appear to be cool” – to the next big thing in generational theory.

That next big thing is currently Generation Z, or people born after the turn of the century. It’s very convenient to lump them all together and claim they have a different set of values and expectations to those who went before. Allegedly, they are engaged in a quest for experience, compared to millennials – the 19-year-olds and 39-olds alike – supposedly all on a quest for relevance.

In reality, all are part of Generation #, latching onto the latest hashtag trend that sweeps social media, desperate to go viral if they are producers of social content, desperate to have caught onto the trend before their peers.

The irony is that marketers’ quest for cutting edge target markets is, in reality, a hangover from the days when there was no such thing as generational theory, and marketing was all about clearly defined target markets. In the era of big data and mass personalization, that idea seems rather quaint.

Indeed, according to Grant Lapping, managing director of DataCore Media, it no longer matters who brands think their target market is.

“The reason for this is simple: with the technology and data digital marketers have access to today, we no longer need to limit our potential target audience to a set of personas or segments derived through customer research. While this type of customer segmentation was – and remains – important for engagements across traditional above-the-line engagements in mass media, digital marketing gives us the tools we need to target customers on a far more granular and personalised level.

“Where customer research gives us an indication of who the audience is, data can tell us exactly what they want and how they may behave.”

Netflix, he points out, is an example of a company that is changing its industry by avoiding audience segmentation, once the holy grail of entertainment.

In other words, it understands that 20-year-olds and 40-year-olds are very different – but so is everyone in between.

* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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Robots coming to IFA

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Robotics is no longer about mechanical humanoids, but rather becoming an interface between man and machine. That is a key message being delivered at next month’s IFA consumer electronics expo in Berlin. An entire hall will be devoted to IFA Next, which will not only offer a look into the future, but also show what form it will take.

The concepts are as varied as the exhibitors themselves. However, there are similarities in the various products, some more human than others, in the fascinating ways in which they establish a link between fun, learning and programming. In many cases, they are aimed at children and young people.

The following will be among the exhibitors making Hall 26 a must-visit:

Leju Robotics (Stand 115) from China is featuring what we all imagine a robot to be. The bipedal Aelos 1s can walk, dance and play football. And in carrying out all these actions it responds to spoken commands. But it also challenges young researchers to apply their creativity in programming it and teaching it new actions. And conversely, it also imparts scholastic knowledge.

Cubroid (Stand 231, KIRIA) from Korea starts off by promoting an independent approach to the way it deals with tasks. Multi-functional cubes, glowing as they play music, or equipped with a tiny rotating motor, join together like Lego pieces. Configuration and programming are thus combined, providing a basic idea of what constitutes artificial intelligence.

Spain is represented by Ebotics (Stand 218). This company is presenting an entire portfolio of building components, including the “Mint” educational program. The modular system explains about modern construction, programming and the entire field of robotics.

Elematec Corporation (Stand 208) from Japan is presenting the two-armed SCARA, which is not intended to deal with any tasks, but in particular to assist people with their work.

Everybot (Stand 231, KIRIA) from Japan approaches the concept of robotics by introducing an autonomous floor-cleaning machine, similar to a robot vacuum cleaner.

And Segway (Stand 222) is using a number of products to explain the modern approach to battery-powered locomotion.

IFA will take place at the Berlin Exhibition Grounds (ExpoCenter City) from 6 to 11 September 2019. For more information, visit www.ifa-berlin.com

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