For me, attending The World Economic Forum in Davos is a privilege. I can think of few other instances when the world’s greatest minds and influencers come together for the sole purpose of improving the state of the world. Not even the torrents of snow could keep me away.
Since arriving, I’ve had several meaningful conversations with business and political leaders on a staggering amount of topics. And each time, no matter what was being discussed, the conversation turned to technology.
I’m not surprised. Technology is pervasive in all that we do. But I was struck by the commonality. Those at the helm of large organizations want to know how work will change as a result of technology. What will the digital workplace look like? How will emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence affect talent pools, job security and work-life balance?
How we will work
It became abundantly clear that organizations have reached the point at which the digital workplace must be driven by both CIOs and heads of HR. Yes, there will be advances in artificial intelligence and smart machines. But they aren’t meant to replace humans or eliminate them from the workforce. Emerging technologies are intended to augment human aptitude and capabilities — and ultimately catapult organizations’ ability to drive and sustain growth.
Let’s be clear: The future of work paints a picture where human beings will remain at the center of that work.
Our focus should be on the new and different ways employees will be required to work and how to best put that into action. For example, 10 years from now, jobs will call for more thinking and less doing and be distributed across an increasing number of people in different communities and geographies. Such changes will require new models of learning and development as well as the creation of hybrid workplaces that combine technology and information to accommodate a mix of employees.
The most successful organizations will tailor their approach to their employee population. Some will need to enable tech to address the specific needs of retirees. Others will need to consider millennials and their preference for fusing their personal and professional lives with platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
Digital business progress and hype
Another theme that emerged in my conversations with business leaders was their progress with digital business. Sometimes referred to as Industrie 4.0, digital business means real business for many CEOs today versus the theoretical conversations we held a few years ago. Today’s CEOs can describe in practical terms how their organizations are creating real business applications that build on digital ecosystems and blur the physical and digital worlds. On the flip side, most of them realize that with maturity comes a saturation of hype that has taken us to a level of inflated expectations. In other words, we’re headed for the trough of disillusionment.
The good news is, there’s a formula for scaling digital business to survive the trough: Set clear goals for digital transformation, don’t treat it as a side project, and establish clear digital KPIs to measure progress. Then harness people with digital dexterity, leverage network-effect technologies, and build an industrialized digital platform. The fear of disruption can build momentum to accelerate through the trough. Leaders who do so will have plenty to discuss at the next WEF.
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