As I've been exploring the future of work over the last couple of years, I've come to realise just how massive the disruption is - so why aren't more businesses concerned? Perhaps it's as William Gibson said "The future is already here - it's just not evenly distributed".
Have a look at some of the current disruptions -
Automated Technologies - people 'Google' information - that's just a fact. It's available 24/7 and on your mobile device. And since Google bought AlphaGo (it beat the world's best Go player last year), it's now into machine learning. So why would I make an appointment to see a professional, and pay for their overheads, when I can just 'Google'? In fact, as Google learns, it will give faster, more accurate information than a human. Have you noticed that you can now ask questions to search in Google rather than just typing in key words?
Or, I could pay a small monthly subscription and get access to an AI (artificial intelligence) platform. Did you see Ailira on the ABC's 'The AI Race'? It accurately answered a tax law question, written in natural language, in 30 seconds. Also look at Juro, eBrevia, for AI in contracts, Luminance to help you understand legal documents, and you can even negotiate your own contracts with Synergist. Wouldn't these be handy for business owners?!
Staying with the legal example, I can access any number of crowdsourced (or outsourced) law firms and access many legal specialists for a set fee - have a look at LegalVision, LawPath, LawBot, AussieLegal.com.au, Lexoo. It's nice to know what I'm up for before I commit to the service rather than worry about the invoice later.
Globalisation - crowdsourcing (and outsourcing) lets me connect with businesses anywhere in the world, at any time - many allow you to set your own price. You've probably already used UpWorks, Flickr, and Airtasker. The online marketplace has become a significant way people are buying and selling 24/7. So as a business owner, I need to be in this space. And why wouldn't I? Most of the hack work is being done by AI, leaving me free to find more clients - and provide more services. Collaborative consumption is on the rise. I can partner with other business to provide a wider offering of services and create a business ecosystem.
I just need to access some advice to find out my new partnering arrangements and my new business model!
I'm connected and am networking globally. My data ecosystem (ie my system of capturing, storing, searching, sharing, and curating my data) is in the cloud. Cybersecurity and information privacy, although valid challenges for businesses, are necessary to stay in business. And would you really consider going back to storing your data on a server, or worse in filing cabinets? The question now becomes - why do I need an office, and pay all those overheads? Why should my clients?
Your Situation - on the rise then is the mobile economy. People can work wherever and whenever they want, giving potentially, a better work-life balance (although if some clients reside in different time locations!).
The notion of 'employees' is also changing. Many millennials, and many other workers prefer a different working life than the typical 9 to 5 (and I think the environment would appreciate the benefits too!). The gig economy is on the rise, and baby boomers are retiring. So what's happening to all the knowledge capital held by a business? Is it being stored in some file in the cloud? Who knows it's there, and how is it being value-added? Today's modern workplace learner wants to share, collaborate, and microlearn, when, where, and how it suits them. They want ready access to information from any device. So, learning ecosystems within businesses are also on the rise, embedding learning within the business-as-usual rather than a separate external training event.
And, with the increase in regulation and compliance, workplace learning is starting to focus on performance outcomes, rather than on learning outcomes. The traditional, structured classroom event has been shown to have a very poor transfer rate, and elearning has almost had its day too. Research by Towards Maturity and SAI Global suggests that most people find compliance training (typically delivered through elearning) boring and easily outdated. On the rise is social and collaborative learning, where learning is shared and curated among anyone in the business, usually on an enterprise network system (ESN), such as Yammer, Slack, and yes - even Facebook groups. Some tools, like Ideocial can enable groups to compete against each other's innovative ideas.
I feel I've only scraped the surface of the disruptors 'out there'. Disruptions are permeating every aspect of business, and yet I still hear people say things like "I've been doing tax law for 18 years, there's no way AI can do that". But it already has! Or I hear people say "I'm up on the disruptions, all my data is stored in the cloud". But that's not a disruptor - that's just moving data from one location (ie a server) to another (ie the cloud).
And the one most likely to guarantee that a business will be extinct within 5 years (probably less) is when I hear people say things like “People who Google advice are not my clients.”. I wonder if they consider how many times they themselves use Google for advice or information! Today’s clients are savvier in their selection of a service because they have done prior research – they may even know more about your product’s or service’s position in the marketplace than you do. And Google has a name for it – ZMOT – Zero Moment of Truth.
Perhaps there will always be people who will deny the existence of the disruptors. You only have to look at the famous quotes from some earlier disbelievers - IBM Chairman and CEO Thomas J. Watson famously said in 1943, “There is a world market for about five computers.”. And 20th Century Films giant Daryl Zanuck said in 1946, “Television won’t be able to hold on to any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.”.
Is this a case of wisdom with hindsight? Or maybe we just need to accept that there will always be leaders - and there will always reactors. Which one do you want to be?