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#Futureofwork

Yes, we are tired of Digital Technology and its onslaught on everything “normal”. Like the old battle cry leading to the revolutionary war – “the British are coming” – there is now a chorus saying “AI and Robotics are coming”. This change in the nature of work began in the the late 1970s. In the year 2000, our first book was published titled “The System Approach – A Strategy to Survive and Succeed in the Global Economy” https://stimsinstitute.com/20151207books/ where we stated “if you merely repeat what you have done before and there are others who can do the same, then the lowest cost person will remain employed. To Survive and succeed in this Global Economy, you need to be a System Thinker – figuring out what needs to be done and why and make that happen – and not merely a task oriented person (doing what you are asked to do without questioning)!”

Since then we have explored this need and the means for survival in professional life, with modest success. More than that, we have been able to mentor and train a large body of fellow professionals across the globe. This resulted in the summary – Transformational Skills – published in 2013 with co-author Prof. Rangan. https://stimsinstitute.com/20151207books/ The Transformational skills all are interconnected and not sequential or hierarchical. They are:

  1. Always develop a common language
    • Our biggest challenge today in our Digital world is that we are rich in words (information), poor in their meaning and common understanding. 
  2. 3D view of core capabilities:
    • Personal: Knowledge, Experience, Interpersonal skills
    • Professional: Science, Engineering and Management
      • Integrating the above is Technology 
      • Digital or IT is NOT the only “Technology”. It is just one form of Technology
        • A very vivid example of lack in common language.
        • This singular failure across the globe (of the word technology and its meaning) has made all education other than IT / Computer Science appear less relevant or valuable in public perception!
    • Enterprise: DT (Digital World), Physical Technology and Finance / Market Drivers.
  3. Always frame the situation / problem / opportunity as an “Input/Transformation / Output” system. 
    • The whole is always larger than and different from the mere sum of its parts!
  4. Emphasis on analysis, reasoning, data and inference
    • We are in a Knowledge Economy. Knowledge requires using our intellectual skills extensively.
  5. End to End Innovation: 
    • Solution and its impact matters.
    • But you can not get there without diligence
    • Nor can you get there without a shared vision and emotional intelligence (6 and 7 below).
  6. Develop and maintain a network for shared vision, goals and efforts..
    • Opportunities for collaboration and shared vision are limitless. All constraints in any form (nation, gender, family, self, rich/poor, have/have not, race, religion, intelligent/dumb, etc.) are all self imposed constraints.
  7. Emotional Intelligence.
    • Think and do good for others; it might be the only right thing for you to get better!
    • May everyone and indeed everything exist in peace and harmony!

Today I was watching a PBS episode titled: Future of work  https://www.pbs.org/show/future-work/
Using many visual examples the show arrives at a model for “Barbell Economy”, where the middle is depleted while strengthening of the two ends (high income jobs and low wage jobs). Actually this is a poor model of reality. The depletion in the middle is not equally pushed to either side like the barbell. See: https://stimsinstitute.com/2016/05/23/do-americans-really-miss-the-unions/
We have captured the changing nature of work more accurately as “Binary Economy” in our book titled “Thriving in the 21st Century Economy – Transformational Skills for Technical Professionals” published by ASME Press in 2013 – nearly 9 years ago:https://stimsinstitute.com/20151207books/

At the end of the PBS show, after an hour long lament on what is happening, the show leaves with a vague plea for change, with no formal or structured solution at the end! :-( Honestly, I felt depressed that at the end of the show there is nothing concrete to advance the society. But, this is nothing new. Most essays and movies on this topic rehash the past rather than leading the charge for change to the future. https://stimsinstitute.com/2020/11/22/commentary-on-american-factory/

Contrast that with our book where we lay out the Binary Economy model (the why?) in the first half, and we end with a clear set of Transformational Skills (the what to do about it) and the necessity for sustained education towards that in the second half of the book.
 The gravity of this issue and the solution have been further condensed into five simple illustrations:  https://stimsinstitute.com/2021/07/22/5-significant-lessons-for-any-professional-in-the-21st-century/

Will some one interested in workforce development (Educators, policy makers, parents, students) take a look at the Transformational Skills needed and adapt them as part of a sustained education and communication effort?

The forces of Digital Technology are the same in terms of challenges for companies to survive and succeed. The same Transformational Skills are also equally applicable to enterprises as they apply to individual workers.
#FutureOfWorkPBS

5 significant lessons for any “Professional” in the 21st Century!

STIMS Institute Celebrates 10 Year Anniversary – Part 1

On June 2021, STIMS Institute reached a significant milestone, its ten year anniversary! There have been many greetings and wishes for our continued success. We thank every one of our collaborators, friends and well wishers. To acknowledge this mile stone, we are pleased to publish a series of highlights summarizing the outcomes from the past ten years. Following is part 1 under the title: 5 significant lessons for any “Professional” in the 21st Century!

  1. Work and wealth Distribution are radically changing. Be aware and get prepared for it. Learn to swim through this sea change! The layers of work are increasingly separate, opaque and impermeable. The opportunity to grow from one layer of work to the next and thus climb the organizational hierarchy may no longer be valid.
  1. There is no “middle”, “learning curve” or “Safety net” unless you want to be dependent on the Government or Charity! Learn to deal with this critical reality of professional life. You can have the “Google jobs” creating a stream of new solutions or “McDonald jobs” which are low wage, plug and play activities. Every job will get pushed to either side, with a chasm in the “middle”.

See Thriving in the 21st Century: Transformational Skills for the “Binary Economy” model.

  1. Jumping across the chasm of the “middle” requires relentless practice of System Thinking for all professionals, at every level. Don’t do what you are asked to do (the task). Figure out what needs to be done, why and how? Then make it happen and rewarding!
  1.   System Thinking can be at three levels. Professional life today is not getting a college degree and then coasting in the job. Instead it is  a relentless search for new solutions everyday and in every job. Some professionals may not need that for their success or survival, if you have already made it or in a specialty area in hot demand. But your fellow professionals depend on you for your stream of new solutions for their success and survival! But, remember that the “hot area of specialty” don’t last as long as before. Their half life is increasingly short!
  1.     Growth in job and career is no longer a matter of how long you worked in a company, job or field of activity. See point 1 above and the impermeable layers in the figure. Every professional at every level of their job or career needs to be focussed on life long learning, contributing through a relentless stream of new solutions. Transform any job / assignment (activity) into a series of goals and their impact. In turn pave the way for the means necessary for sustainability. These are the outcomes of System Thinking and Transformational Skills. Practice them  relentlessly together with your academic education and industry/domain specific learning.

One final point: The Transformational Skills of End to End Innovation, Eco system Development and Emotional Intelligence rely more on the philosophy of thinking on behalf of others – using the heart and the mind in unison with that of every one and everything else. With this philosophic underpinning as a professional strength we can expect peace and harmony within each of us. It in turn will bring skills and resources to work with people and cultures across the globe. They can lead to solutions to meet the growing wealth gap, Climate crisis, racial and religious dissentions and other adverse effects of the 21st century society.

Will you be a System Thinking and Transformational technical professional as well as a Philosophic universalist? The power is well within each of us and collectively in all of us. Our decade of progress at STIMS Institute points out that there is indeed opportunity for both these pathways for evolution for all of us.

Humans: Our Nature?

The recent article in NYT also appears elsewhere in NYT The Morning version under ‘Our nature as humans’. This article ends with the summary: “Many people want to believe that being a generous employer is crucial to being a successful company. But that isn’t always true”. This would appear to be an example of an opinion stated as a fact!

No one should believe that any employer will be generous or benevolent, any more than any employee will voluntarily work for peanuts, just for the love of it. The relationship between any employer and employee is always an economic transaction driven by price elasticity. The value perceived by an employer and hence the wages offered will depend on the needs for the business met by the employee. The employer will always find ways to decrease the value of all its resources used while seeking to gain the most value out of it. Sadly it is true for any machinery or Robot used, as much as it is for the people used as resources by any employer at all levels. This treatment of human resources as “non-human”, yet as needed resources started in the late 70s and has continued to accelerate unabated. The Digital data driven innovations under the misnomer of “Technology” has been the driving force for this change. As long as we fail to recognize this driving force, for what it is, or couch it under any other reasoning we do a disservice to the very same workers we want to give a helping hand.

Amazon encouraged employee turnover. After three years on the job, hourly workers no longer received automatic raises, and the company offered bonuses to people who quit. It also offered limited upward mobility for hourly workers, preferring to hire managers from the outside. As is often the case with one of Amazon’s business strategies, it worked”.

Let us dissect the above quote here:

Planned Obsolescence is a well-known strategy in the business world. https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20160612-heres-the-truth-about-the-planned-obsolescence-of-tech  When the job is repeated or carried out merely as “tasks”, without any additional added value, workers become obsolete over time. In fact, the same workers if they also expect higher wages with time (and rightfully so to meet their growing personal needs), they can be replaced with junior employees at lower wages but with the same skills as required by the job. Perhaps Jeff Bezos and Amazon realized this basic business economics along with all others – both the workers as well as the employers. Sadly the success of Bezos in using this strategy would appear to be much more aggressive and hence far more financially successful. But, let any worker who is guided to believe Jeff Bezos as the only or primary villain is being misguided by NYT and its article. Instead every worker and indeed all students from middle school onwards have to constantly gain new skills and add value through such new skills, to remain indispensable for the employers. Absence of this broader perspective and hence a change in our way of thinking – from task oriented to holistic or solution oriented – dominates every facet of the challenges imposed on us that we face today. For additional details see: https://stimsinstitute.com/2020/11/22/commentary-on-american-factory/   and https://stimsinstitute.com/2016/05/23/do-americans-really-miss-the-unions/

Lack of upward mobility in jobs for hourly workers is another Trojan horse created by the evolution in the relentless application of Digital Solutions. Let us be clear. No one should be anti-Technology. That will be like burying one’s head in the sand. It will also be like standing in the ocean beach waiting for the waves to subside! It is not wise, prudent or even feasible. But, we need to understand the impermeable layers in jobs created by Digital Technology (DT) innovations. Every worker in Amazon warehouse uses tools enabled by DT. But, they have very little knowledge, education or even awareness of how these tools or solutions are created. They are created by a whole different set of coders (IT workers). We see a high employee turnover in the High Tech. sector companies as well as at Amazon! https://gethppy.com/employee-engagement/can-tech-industry-solve-employee-tenure-problem The point is this: No one at any job can expect to climb the ladders of the organization as we used to do in the 50s and 60s. Following are couple of illustrations to describe the traditional work and its separation into impermeable layers. We also see the consequence of that in the wealth and its distribution.

Then what is the answer? As long as labor is getting rewarded for what we do as human beings, we can gain such rewards only through our physical efforts (Amazon ware house jobs), managing and manipulating information (IT jobs) or creative use of our brain to constantly conceive and implement solutions of added value to the employers or whoever is paying the wages! In other words it is not doing what you are asked to do (task oriented). Instead figuring out what you need to do and making it happen and getting paid for it (solution oriented). For details, see this short video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SvZb-qmjakY

The ability to be relentlessly innovative through System Thinking and Transformational Skills may be good pathway for some people and for some period of time. But, what happens to the millions who cannot climb on to this small boat for their success and survival? You can see this question raised and the answer at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uJxLXBgQZi4  

As individuals each of us have a need to constantly learn and fine tune our skills and use them relentlessly to build and implement a stream of new solutions. For details: https://stimsinstitute.com/20151207books/  Such personal effort for self-betterment must go far beyond seeking free college education or merely higher degrees in task oriented education from the archaic and obsolete teachers, schools and colleges in our educational system. At the same time there should be concerted effort to use the wealth gained by those through DT Applications.  Wealth tax, higher tax rates for ultra-rich, progressive tax on non-wage income, and minimum corporate tax as resources to build the infrastructure and meet basic needs of the population left behind by DT revolution must be our collective social goal.

Our nature as humans is to think and reflect. Such reasoning leads to objective analysis of data and observations. This in turn leads to identification of the problem and its possible solutions while keeping our bias and ignorance in check. It leads to enhanced knowledge and awareness of our ignorance and bias. Again we seek new knowledge leading to better solutions and its implementation. We benefit from the results (rewards) and we share such benefits through the results of our solutions. The journey continues. DT can be a useful tool in this journey.

People like Jeff Bezos, Donald Trump and many others will come and go. They may succeed temporarily thanks to DT applications, which can be a bow yoke that ties down individuals and society as cattle used to plow the field, no matter what we do and in any field of activity. It requires us to resort to reasoning and comprehension first to escape the shackles of DT and its negative effects, while gaining from its positives and beneficial effects. The future of human as an egalitarian society depends on that.