The Future of Work in a Connected World

Future Workers

Today, Sandy Kurtzig will be a panelist at Fortune Brainstorm Tech in Aspen, Colorado. Her panel will talk about the future of work and, more specifically, what humans will be doing ten years from now. I helped with her research and came up with some interesting conclusions (or educated guesses!)

Jacob Morgan writes a lot on this topic. In a recent article in Forbes, he says there are five trends shaping the future of work:

  • New behaviors: People expect to find information easily, and share it.
  • Mobility: Most people in the world use smart mobile phones.
  • Millennials: By 2020, 50% of the workforce will be millennails, and they have new expectations for technology and the workplace.
  • Technology: We will have lot more data at our fingertips—partly a result of the internet of things.
  • Globalization: People will be working in a world without boundaries.

All these trends are informed by the power of technology. Fortune reports that “Today’s systems, as awesomely powerful as they are, will be 100% more awesomely powerful in two years. In a decade they’ll be 32 times more powerful.”

Where does that leave us, and what will humans be doing ten years from now?

Here are my random thoughts:

Even though there will be more robots and high-powered computers to take over at least some of the work that all professionals do (even lawyers and doctors!), humans will have to supply the knowledge to feed the machines. As a result, humans will become more and more specialized in their fields. (The raw data they use will be richer and more accessible as computers get more powerful, and software such as big data analytics and natural search becomes more sophisticated.)

On a related note, even though robots and computers may generate most of the information we need, there will still be a demand for human interaction for some fields. For example, people will still probably demand that a human delivers a diagnosis, as opposed to a machine. (That said, Kurzweil predicts that computers will begin to develop emotions…) Human “interventionists” will need to have a sophisticated understanding of their domain and, depending on the field, training in psychology.


We will need humans to continue to develop the technology! Their technology skills will need to become increasingly specialized—from developing robots to Kurzweil’s nanobots, which will connect our brain to the cloud to radically enhance the information at our disposal. The most successful technologists will have the creativity and imagination to anticipate our needs.

On a related note, as computers get more and more sophisticated, there will be an increasing need for technologists to work alongside people who specialize in the user experience. UX and UI design will become more and more critical. (The millennials will also demand that technology be as intuitive as possible.)

As the planet becomes smaller, most products will need to be multi-cultural or localized as soon as they are available. As a result, many employees will need to adapt a multi-cultural understanding of their domains, and know foreign languages. We may also see the rise of “localization experts” for certain industries.

There will be an increasing need for a new kind of CIO—the Chief Innovation Officer. That individual will have a deep knowledge of technology and how it can improve both the business and the workplace.

We’ll see the rise of a Chief Resource Officer (or VP of Enablement), who will understand how to wed talent requirements with technology, to make sure that people are working as efficiently as possible. The CRO will also understand the requirements of the changing workplace, which will include more contractors supporting the company from different parts of the world.

Are you ready?!



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