You wake up in your sleep pod, 3D-print a bagel for breakfast, wave at the hologram of your virtual assistant and then let your Google car drive you to a meeting. This could be a typical morning routine in the year 2025 if technology delivers its promises.
One thing is clear – the business sphere in 10 years’ time will have changed dramatically, but don’t give in to the robots just yet. Want to stay ahead of the space race? Predict the challenges before they arrive and prepare for them early. Say hello to your future self – and your future skill set.
BECOME A JACK OF ALL TRADES
“Fifty years ago, the life expectancy of aForbes 500 company was 75 years,” say Tane Hunter, co-founder of Future Crunch.“Now it’s less than 15. In 2025, it is expected to be even shorter.”
This is why it’s predicted that ‘neo-generalists’ will have an advantage – that is, those who have a vague knowledge of many topics rather than ‘hyper-specialising’ in one skill. In times gone by, this would have been seen as a weakness (‘jack of all trades, master of none!’) but it could soon be seen as a major advantage.
What to listen to: The TED talk ‘Embrace the Near Win’ by historian Sarah Lewis – a speech dedicated to the importance of near misses.
FEEL MORE THAN YOU DO
While science fiction would have us believe we’ll all lose our jobs to robots, the experts say that’s only half true. If your job needs a big IQ to perform it, pack up your desk. But if it needs a big heart, you’re probably safe.
“Machines and programs are gaining the ability to complete many tasks better than humans and we are already seeing a decline in jobs involving production and manual labour,” says Tane. “However, there is a net increase of jobs that require social skills and human interaction.
“There will [also] be a fundamental shift in desirable workplace skills towards empathy, social sensitivity and relationship-building. For example, there are robots that can complete surgery better than doctors, but I believe humans will never want to receive ‘bad news’ from a robot. Those doctors who can empathise and have compassion for their patients will be in much higher demand than those who are emotionally cold.” Time to brush up on your bedside (or desk-side) manner.
What to read: The book Compassionate Careers; Making a Living by Making a Difference by Jeffrey W Pryor and Alexandra Mitchell, filled with hundred of interviews with innovators who believe business decisions should come from the heart.
TAKE ADVICE FROM THE YOUNG
“Whenever we hear the word ‘mentor’, we inevitably think of a single directional flow of information and knowledge,” says Cian McLoughlin, author of Rebirth of the Salesman. “The problem with this old mentoring model is that all of the value flows in one direction. The experienced industry veteran doles out their Yoda-like pearls of wisdom, which their acolyte gratefully accepts.”
So what’s the alternative? Cian believes reverse mentoring could drive innovation and keep companies cutting-edge.
“Take a leaf out of former GE chairman Jack Welsh’s [book], one of the first champions of the reverse-mentoring phenomenon.
“Become a mentee, ask these young people stupid questions, it will encourage them to ask you stupid questions in return (remembering, of course, that there’s no such thing as a stupid question) and break down the awkwardness that can sometimes exist at the beginning of a mentoring relationship.
“Try asking the following: where do you access news content, if you were going to buy a new car or a new computer, what process would you go through to research it?”
LEARN TO LOVE
Some futurists also warn that the traditional school system might not cut it in decades to come. Rob Davidson, director of growth at recruitment specialist Davidson, believes we need a new model in which, instead of compressing education into the first 18 years of a person’s life, learning is broken up and alternated with work.
“With the average tenure of jobs being three-and-a-half to four years, combined with the accelerating rate of change, our view of education and training needs to change,” says Rob. “A more realistic life path is [one] where we continue to learn and develop new skills throughout our entire career. Heather McGowan [the innovation strategist] suggests we should be spreading our education between periods of work and that we shouldn’t be saving just for retirement, but also for periods of unemployment.”
Where to sign up: The website edX is an online learning hub that collates over 300 courses on a variety of topics, offered by some of the world’s leading teaching organisations.
BE PALLY WITH A NEW WAY OF PAYING
Futurist Jim Carroll has highlighted another shift that retailers will need to cope with.
“Cash will have all but disappeared,” he writes. “We already have a generation that has been weaned on PayPal, online transactions and the web. With the arrival of Apple Pay and other initiatives that transform mobile devices into credit cards, the trend towards the decline of the use of cash will only accelerate.”
What does this mean for small business owners? Well it won’t be enough to just offer customers a PayPal button on your website, or even the chance to shop straight from your Instagram. Innovative founders will have to keep abreast of a whole range of new ways to pay – otherwise you might be left behind.
According to Jim, we’ll see the trend pick up speed as we drop payment technology into our cars, bicycles, clothing and everything else around us.
PayPal has already developed a ‘beacon’, which can be fitted in retail stores and identifies customers who have PayPal accounts when they walk in the door – all you have to do is click a button on your phone giving the store permission to proceed with a transaction.
Don’t want to waste time pressing a button? A Swedish company called Quixter has even developed a biometric system, which allows readers to pay by waving their bare hand over a sensor – it determines a user’s ID by reading the vein pattern in their palm.
What to Google: The term ‘proximity payment’ – when a customer can pay for a product by hovering their phone over a sensor. Set a Google alert for ‘proximity payment’ now to keep up with the technology as it advances.
BE A MASTER OF THE ‘CROWD’
“An area of the advice industry that is undergoing rapid change is that of investment research services,” says Matt Heine, author of the e-book ‘How to Innovate in a World of Digital Disruption’. “We’re seeing these kind of investment idea-sharing platforms emerge in the form of sites like Motif, Estimize, TipRanks, eToro and City Falcon. In Australia, one of the more popular ‘social networks for investors’ is SelfWealth, which lets users [share] their ideas and compare their investment returns against those of other users.”
In the future, investment advice will be increasingly about crowdsourcing from normal people – think TripAdvisor for investment options.
How does this affect entrepreneurs specifically? Well, if you’re looking for investors, you’ll have to figure out how to win over the masses.
Who to learn from: Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman has spent decades studying why people make certain decisions, from choosing a partner to investing in the stock market – or maybe, in your case, a start-up.