The most important issue we face as a society.
We are moving from a world of separation and disconnection into a joined up and collaborative world. Slowly.
The technologies of communication, connection and collaboration are connecting up individuals, companies, regions and even countries. Slowly.
Interconnection offers an additional power to the “power of one”. It offers the power of “shared value”.
If you are not familiar with shared value, watch Michael Porter, Harvard Business School – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jesEa_-Pgp8
Professor Porter has been promoting the concept of shared value since 2011, and the lights are finally going on.
What role should business have in society? In a joined up world, business can no longer just do its old thing. It has to do a new thing. It has to accept, contribute to and reinforce its place in support of every healthy and connected region, state, country and society. To help fix things. To find better ways to do things. To differentiate. To do strategy. And to make profit.
Together we can fix anything, by doing things differently. Because through connectivity, we can magnify and multiply the “power of one”.
We can transform disconnection into interconnection, separation into collaboration, and selfishness into sharing. The digital revolution is joining everything up. We just need to align our minds and our actions with the new opportunity.
Every day, there is ever more connection, collaboration and integration of devices and networks, and ultimately the human beings that use them. Us.
Which could be a good thing and should be a good thing. If we manage it well.
For we are moving from a world of limitation, separation, isolation and disconnection into one where we potentially can marshal our collective skills to solve just about any issue we want, if we can work collaboratively to do that.
But we are still structured according to the previous revolution – the industrial revolution – with its all its departments, and offices and divisions and siloes.
With constrained, “frog stuck in the well” thinking, short termism, command and control, and many doubts and fears about what collaboration means.
We live in uncertain times. Work as we used to know it is transforming. Careers are dead. Good jobs are really hard to find. And many jobs on offer are part time, freelance, contract and insecure.
Even academia, government, corporate and professional services are steadily shifting into contractual insecurity.
So how easy is it for our children to navigate this new world of work? When I left school, a million years ago, there were jobs everywhere. Good jobs too. Careers.
Not so today.
And the very concept of work is under threat, from a host of disruptive technologies designed to replace people. The apologists don’t accept that of course, “These technologies will enhance what we do, don’t worry.”
Yes, they will enhance us right out the door and onto the street.
And we already have too many people living on the street in Australia, without adding more to their number.
How did we allow this to happen, I wonder? How do we walk down the pavements in town without looking at the people sitting in shop doorways and under bridges? Pass by on the other side.
I have been talking to lots of CEOs and senior manager about the EDToolbox, which is our response to the future of work and jobs for students, parents, teachers and schools.
And interestingly, I get two responses in every discussion.
A personal response, “Yes, I am worried about this, I have two teenage children”.
And a professional response “Yes, we are concerned about this issue as a business. We wonder how it is going to affect us and what we can do about it”.
Both personal and professional are connected of course. And reflect recognition of the issue.
In a joined up world, the traditional Porter’s model of relationships gets put on steroids.
Our familiar, small solar system of relationships – us, customer, supplier, complementary business and competitor gets connected to other solar systems, galaxies and universes of relationships, just because of connectivity.
Yet we don’t seem to have the operational framework or experience to leverage this new paradigm, for us to be able to pick up and run with the new networked, collaborative opportunity.
Daily, we are confronted by the downside of extended network relationships…the ones that we don’t want.
Every time we get yet another scam call from India explaining how the Tax Office/Telstra/Microsoft/Internet Service Provider/Bank or other organisation wants our private information or to take control of our computer, the message is clear.
Cyber attacks, Phishing. Living in the new world is challenging.
AI. Robots. Blockchain. Global warming. Fake news. Manipulated job statistics. Increasing household debt. A school curriculum focused on the 20thcentury. Diminishing access to water. Pollution. Waste. Inequality. Migration. Terrorism. Ageism. Racism. And so on.
We face these issues, threats and challenges every day. They challenge what we are and what we do.
And most of us define ourselves in this way.
“Who are you? Where are you from? What do you do?
So who are you if you don’t do anything? If you “can’t” do anything?
If you are “too old” to do anything? Or too “inexperienced” to do anything?
It can get scary when you don’t fit in.
Education used to be about preparing people for a role in life…a job. People had an aim, a target in life…”I want to do this when I grow up” or “I want to be this”.
In a world where jobs are disappearing (50% under threat), and contractual conditions are changing at the same time, those life targets are dissolving and evolving before our eyes.
Economists don’t seem to understand that robots REPLACE, that software REPLACES, that automation REPLACES not displaces.
“1”s and “0”s invisibly deliver change across wires and wireless, operating like hungry termites chewing timber in a traditional Australian weatherboard house.
Nothing seems to be happening, until the house falls down.
Almost 20% unemployment and underemployment!
The continual impacts of robotisation, software and automation increase productivity, but push down wages, push up underemployment and unemployment and increase household debt.
In Australia, 4.5 million jobs are threatened over the next ten years.
Threatened,…but job elimination will take time. This is a slow game of musical chairs. So we have time. We have time to push back. Time to manage the threat.
For there will be fewer jobs. And there will be less job security. And more invisible people. People with no obvious role in society, who don’t do anything.
Not because they don’t want to. But, because the opportunities to perform a meaningful role have evaporated and disappeared.
Those people may end up on the street. Some will. They may end up couch surfing. Staying with friends and parents. End up in hospital. Or in prison. And that is not what we want.
Unemployment is a problem that undermines society, identity, self-respect, confidence and meaning. Unemployment acts like an illness, sapping strength and motivation.
That is why work is important. And why lack of work is a problem. And it really doesn’t matter if a politician claims that unemployment is 5%, or 10%. It is what the net result of unemployment, underemployment, people given up trying and “can’t give a #@$& any more” adds up to.
The picture of people living on the street, standing in queues for soup in the night, or relying on charities for food and clothing paints a stark picture.
It is a public statement of societal failure. The inability of politicians to perform.
The future of work and jobs is a big issue.
And we are not ready for it.
We cannot combat the challenges facing us if we continue to act alone. As individuals. Of course, individuals have power, but power is magnified through collaboration and sharing.
Teams can do what no individual can manage alone. We witness this in sport every weekend. We witness this in orchestras, dance groups and bands. In the best businesses and organisations.
The flair and artistry of individuals is enhanced and magnified by the support of others.
We face some big challenges. And those challenges are for all of us.
We can no longer ask, “What is government doing to fix (insert your problem here)?” We have to consider what we can do. As an individual, as a business, or as an organisation of any kind.
We have to collaborate and view the challenges holistically. Because, the challenges are interconnected, and the tools we have at our disposal are interconnected as well.
We can all do something. We can all offer something. We can all help.
We now just have to align our thinking accordingly. The Rubik’s cube, can be manipulated into 43,252,003,274,489, 856,000 combinations.
We have to begin to recognise the power of shared value. 1 + 1 doesn’t just have to make 2. It can make 11.
The more we collaborate across multiple dimensions the more we can maximise the value of sharing. Sharing value in our regions. Between regions. In our businesses.
In our sector. In our cluster, Between our sectors. Between large, medium and small businesses. Between universities, businesses and TAFES.
Organised logically, knowledge and opportunity can be channelled usefully.
Working together we can orchestrate serendipity. “Oh, you’re doing that and we are doing this, together we could do something new, something even better.”
The RED Toolbox – https://theredtoolbox.org was created to support a very simple strategy – the need to spread our economic base wider than just “dirt, meat, wheat and education”.
We have many more resources and capabilities than that.
Let us focus on all of Australia’s productive industries – agriculture, creative industry, defence, ICT, manufacturing, medical and health, METS, smart trades and tourism.
The showcase in the RED Toolbox presents 5,400 of our best of breed manufacturers, producers and services to the world. More to add as well.
These are the industries in Australia that offer opportunities to add value (through design, branding, applied research and marketing).
So let us connect these industries and businesses with university research and with design and advertising agencies in a more structured and deliberate way.
For these are the industries that offer us opportunities to engage with markets overseas – export. And opportunities to share knowledge and understanding.
We are not the only country facing drought, problems with pollution, energy and environment. We have developed skills and solutions that are of interest to many.
We should connect to every major overseas market and to all the minor ones too, allowing Australian businesses to talk directly with organisations in other countries without having to jump on a plane. That can come later.
The RED Toolbox has a “six dimensional framework – regions, sectors, issues, export, projects and events, with one focus – Australia’s productive industries.
It is a response to a growing recognition of “shared value”. Not just here, but all over the world.
Wales for example, now has an Office of the Future Generations. Positive, big picture thinking – made real. Well done, Wales.
What about every country having an Office of the Future Generations?
Imagine 195 countries, each with an office focused on the future generations. With us all considering the same problems and challenges that Australia faces.
Just think where that might lead.