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Preparing Organizations and Workforce for the Future

Some interesting technology trends are developing concerning impact on the future workforce. Liam Quinn, sr. VP and CTO Dell Technologies, talked with me a couple of weeks ago about the results of research and a report with the Institute For The Future detailing these trends. The report is not specifically about manufacturing, but the ideas were all applicable.

Part of the discussion focused on a future workforce—what it will look like, what tools it’ll use, how it’ll use the tools, and so forth. That started a thought process about how we would train people for this new technological world. How do we get the maximum number of people (students) involved so that they do not get left behind.

Those thoughts led to my Dell Technologies contact sending me a link to a blog by Ari Lightman, Distinguished Service Professor, Digital Media and Marketing at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College. He co-leads the Chief Information Security Officer Executive Education and Certification Program and is Commercialization Advisor for the Center for Machine Learning and Health. Ari is also Director of the CIO Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. He teaches classes focused on assessing and measuring the impact of emerging technologies, including Digital Transformation.

How influenced are you by dystopian science fiction? Lightman begins his essay referring to how sci fi movies often depict future technology that is opposed to humans. Elon Musk is garnering headlines by talking about the evils of artificial intelligence.

Quinn discussed the future workforce of human-machine partnership in particular glowing terms with obvious excitement about the possibilities. I was curious about preparing for that positive future. So, we’ll dive into Lightman’s thoughts.

Says Lightman, “Questions we all should be thinking about: How will we interface with these emerging technologies? What are potential hurdles that need to be addressed? In the future, where human and machine interaction is seamless, does everyone benefit or are parts of society left behind? These secondary and tertiary impacts of an increasingly digitized world need to be examined and developed along with input not just from consumers and technologists but also from economists, regulators, ethicists, etc.”

Discussing conferences and colloquia at Carnegie Mellon, he states, “ The question is, what do organizations need to do today? When I look around the audience at these talks and get a chance to speak with participants, their enthusiasm often gives way to confusion and disillusionment when they try to reconcile where they currently are in this idealized future portrayed by the speaker.”

How do we cope with these thoughts, fears, and expectations in order to prepare for the future? Lightman suggests taking a pragmatic view.

The first step is to develop resiliency. – Remember the old saying “You have to get back on the horse that threw you”. Shocks will occur and they will become more frequent, so how do organizations adapt and learn how to minimize these disruptive shocks – become more resilient? Those who are complacent will become disenfranchised. The organizations my institution has worked with, and who we consider ahead of the curve, have put some of the following into place:

Build a Culture around Data

At Carnegie Mellon University, courses in Deep Learning, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence and other ways to interpret data have exploded and will continue to grow in popularity. From an organization perspective, how do we operationalize data-driven discoveries; what are the appropriate governance structures; how do we prepare (understand, predict and organize) around new regulations concerning privacy (e.g. GDPR), how do we incorporate security (proactive and reactive) into the beginning of any development effort (not simply as a bolt on); how do we provide appropriate levels of education on different data types, stores, analytical methods and interpretation?

Simplify Complexity

There is an explosion of data, coming from a multitude of different sources in a variety of forms resulting in a slew of possible interpretations. How do we explain this to various stakeholders with different objectives and levels of expertise? Hint: Learn how to tell effective stories.

Build a Safe Place for Experimentation

If disruptive shocks and complexity are increasing and the pace of technological innovations is accelerating; organizations will need to learn how to experiment. Too many unknowns leading to indecisiveness can be addressed through experimentation.

Embrace Uncomfortable Discussions
There is no covering up that disruption will lead to displacement. An open dialogue on how technological advance will impact industries, companies and employees needs to occur to level set expectations and prepare the workforce.

Understanding Employees

We spend an inordinate amount of time and money on understanding consumers and little on our own employees. Effective use of technology is predicated on understand motivation and incentives, utilization requirements, and adoption patterns. We are approaching the most inter-generational workforce ever, resulting in different behavior patterns, learning modalities and preferred ways of working. Knowing your employees can help with smoother technical adoption, understanding of consumer behavior and the four other initiatives mentioned.

I suggest reading the entire essay, but I like these ideas. A lot of wisdom there.

 

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  1. Preparing Organizations and Workforce for the Future | The Manufacturing Connection – BrentHumphreys.net - August 31, 2017

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