Friday Faves is our weekly blog series highlighting a few select pieces from the REG team’s reading lists. You can catch up on past Friday Faves on the archive

What will the world of work look like in 2035

Anne says: This week I’ve been exploring a selection of essays from the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) in the UK. If you’re not familiar with their work – I’d encourage you to put some time aside to discover some of the other research and insight projects. (They also do a series of animated videos that are excellent!)

The piece I’d like to highlight this week relates to their modelling of future work by 2035. There are some pertinent findings that contradict many of the mainstream claims. The first insight: Don’t believe the hype! This relates to claims about automation, robots, and AI taking our jobs and they suggest that these claims:

“…offer little that is useful to the debate on the human and cultural phenomenon that is the future of work.”

Their criticisms of current research and their related outcomes/claims is the narrow focus on the technology itself (and exaggerated predictions), rather than the broader societal issues. To counterbalance these issues, they used a process called morphological analysis (wonderful term – follow the link for explanations of the methodology) to address the problems with existing research. To do this, they used scenarios, all plausible, and all with their own opportunities and challenges. The outcome? 4 scenarios: big tech economy, precision economy,  exodus economy, and empathy economy. Together, they create a powerful lens to view the future of work and steps we could be implementing or preparing for now.

Here’s a brief overview of each:

  1. Big Tech economy
    Think rapid pace advancements in technology – significant improvements in productivity set against high unemployment, off-shore outsourcing and technology behemoths.
    Not really a positive scenario – but resonates in a time where we’re starting to understand the power of large tech companies on our lives.
  2. Precision economy
    Based on data collected from IoT (internet of things), devices, surveillance systems, AI all evaluating progress, rating systems for workers – a hyper-connected society.
    To me, this scenario is a lot, lot closer than 2035! And we’re hurtling into it, by not challenging enough who owns our data.
  3. Exodus economy
    Market crashes, austerity measures, co-operatives, poverty level wages, move to self-sufficiency, alternative living arrangements.
  4. Empathy economy
    Responsible stewardship – while technology advances at the rapid rates, so does our awareness of the impacts. People actually care about each other.
    This is my personal fave scenario – however, to be effective it needs a dose of the others to ensure we develop the necessary levels of empathy to maintain cohesive, civil societies.

The article concludes with the appropriate question: Are we ready?
The answer (spoiler alert) is a straightforward, No! There’s a focus on UK politics here, yes even Brexit gets a mention. However, the concern is our politicians (globally – not just the UK) who are just not prepared to address these issues.

So – what can we do?
There are some key points that are more relevant to UK politics, however, the message is to bring together expert practitioners and politicians (if we can drag their attention away from polls and elections for long enough). Their research is ongoing and intends to build out these next steps – but, it is clear – we need to start preparing now if we are to create the positive aspects of the scenarios.

If you want to read the entire report or explore more of the topics covered in their research – visit the Future of Work centre.


Stop Letting Modern Distractions Steal Your Attention

Helen says: It’s a fast-paced world we live in – we are highly accessible via our devices and daily we are exposed to and consume unprecedented levels of information. Research is showing that in our need to keep connected and on top of information, we are not only lowering our productivity and creativity, but we are also experiencing higher levels of stress. And we’re seeing more and more articles about digital distraction – Anne posted on this topic recently, as well. If frequently checking notifications, switching between tasks due to interruptions, multi-tasking and not really giving focused attention sounds familiar to you, read on. Unfortunately, some of these observations resonate with me, but there is an upside: we can reclaim a healthier online/offline life balance.

Catherine Price, author of “How to break up with your phone” is quoted in the article:

If you want to think deeply or have any sort of creative insight, you must give your brain breathing room… It’s not wise to always be in “intake mode,” which is what can happen when mindlessly scrolling through emails and social media feeds. To form long-term memories, you need to create new pathways in the brain, a process easily disrupted by distraction… Sadly, our smartphones are built to distract us.

Unplugging from our devices is the key message – we need to get comfortable with being unreachable for a period of time and this article gives some tips on how to approach this. However, to unplug is easier said than done so if a total blackout is not for you, Forbes Coaches Council provides some other strategies that may help reduce distractions in the workplace.

If being able to really focus on a problem without interruption and allowing your mind the time to wander can result in reduced fatigue, improved productivity and a greater sense of calm in your day – these tips may be well worth a try.


This hospital uses drones to fly blood samples between buildings

Joel says: As we can all probably agree, one of the worst parts about getting any kind of illness is waiting for the official results to come in after undergoing a blood test. Or any kind of test really. The results often take hours, sometimes days to come back due to either having to wait for specific Doctors to come on shift or if samples need to be analysed externally specimens are often batched together and transported once daily. But it appears the process might be soon getting a swift change-up thanks to our speedy little flying friends. Drones.

Last year I wrote a Friday Fave’s piece about drones being tested for transporting human organs between places and now a hospital in North Carolina has continued along that same line of testing and begun transporting blood samples between their medical park and their main hospital.

The blood samples are taken to the drone launchpad, stored in a secured box which is then attached to the drone and flown away. The testing is really small scale for now with the vials of blood only travelling around half a kilometre and remaining within view for the operators but if the tests go well we could only assume that tests will grow in scale and then potentially be rolled out to hospitals all around the world.

I know it would be quite welcome in my area. My local hospital resorts to a bike messenger between hospitals for after hours urgent pathology. Drones seem a tad more efficient there. (wink)


2019 Trends by Myers-Briggs – What of the millennials?

Jakkii says: My piece this week covers a broader range of 2019 trends, however, while the whole report is well worth a read, inspired by Stowe Boyd‘s workfutures newsletter this week I want to focus in on millennials. There remains contention over when this ‘generation’ begins – and whether Xennials are actually a thing – but pick a year of birth from 1980 onwards to 2000 and you’re pretty much talking about someone who fits into the generation of millennials, also known as Gen Y. When you think about just how old the oldest Gen Ys are, it should immediately become obvious why it’s totally bizarre that as recently as last year conference speakers were still talking about how to handle millennials in the workplace. Not only are the eldest millennials rapidly approaching 40, but they are also now the largest generational cohort in the workforce, worldwide.

So, why do we care? To be honest, I’m not really sure, because for some reason once we got to millennials, the first “digital natives” to enter the workforce, it seemed that people started to freak out about how to ‘handle’ them. The cynic in me assumes that someone, somewhere, figured they could make a lot of money by writing about how different millennials are, how much they’d disrupt the workplace, and then sell their services to manage it all.

The thing is, yes, the society we live in shapes who we are, what we learn, what we value, how we perceive things (and what our biases are), and what we expect. But each ‘generation’ doesn’t live in a vacuum – Gen X and the Baby Boomers didn’t stop changing along with the world just because they’re older. And millennials don’t have a magic forcefield around them that stops them from being, well, people. A collective of individuals for whom broad-sweeping generalisations rarely hold true, especially as they age – just as they didn’t hold so true for the generations before them.

I’m hardly the first person to decry this obsession with claiming millennials are ‘oh so different’, either – way back in 2012 a piece appeared in strategy+business called ‘Five Millennial Myths‘ that sought to dispel five common stereotypes about millennials with data.

Myth #1: Millennials don’t want to be told what to do
Myth #2: Millennials lack organizational loyalty
Myth #3: Millennials aren’t interested in their work
Myth #4: Millennials are motivated by perks and high pay
Myth #5: Millennials want more work–life balance

In reviewing the list above, you’d be forgiven for thinking the article was written far more recently, as these aren’t uncommon comments about millennials made over the years. Indeed, IBM published an infographic from research into the “real story” of millennials in the workforce in 2015. Take a look at the myths their data dispelled, 3 years after the strategy+business piece was published:

Myth #1: Millennials’ career goals and expectations are different from those of older generations
Myth #2: Millennials want constant acclaim and think everyone on the team should get a trophy
Myth #3: Millennials are digital addicts who want to do everything online
Myth #4: Millennials, unlike their older colleagues, can’t make a decision without first inviting everyone to weigh in
Myth #5: Millennials are more likely than others to jump ship if a job doesn’t fulfill their passions

These are more specific, yet related to the myths from the 2012 article. It should be noted that some research conducted around 2014-2015 did find some differences of millennials to other generations, by and large millennials are pretty similar to their older counterparts in what motivates them at work, what they expect from work, and their desire for work-life balance.

One central finding: the millennials had similar patterns of communication — using mobile devices, communications apps, collaboration tools, and face-to-face meetings, for example — but they were less ambivalent about them than other demographic groups. The younger you are, it seems, the more willing you are to invest time and energy into new tools and techniques that promise higher degrees of productivity and connection

The recently released Myers-Briggs research report “People first for organizational fitness” that touched on millennials discusses this earlier research (and that academic research, in turn, finds similar results) and agrees – beyond being the first “digital natives”, millennials aren’t so different, after all.

What does all this tell us? Firstly, we should be very careful about mythmaking and our role in its development and spread. Secondly, we should be wary as we move into the new era of conference sessions and articles around Gen Z, both by not overlooking the pitfalls of generalisations and by not neglecting the impact our existing workforce and organisations will have on the incoming Gen Z employees in return. Finally, it’s important we assess generalisations with a critical eye and while we consider how such general trends might impact our organisations and the future of work, we must remember that each person who makes up the cohort of Gen Z is an individual with their own personal strengths and weaknesses that are not defined by a broad sweep applied to their ‘generation.’

The Myers-Briggs report went on to consider whether we should group people by age, instead of by generation, and found:

Even 2,500 years ago Socrates observed, “The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise”, and these differences may well have been talked (or grunted) about when our ancestors first stood upright on the African savannah. As we get older, we tend to differ from our younger selves.

And when older people look at today’s youth, it’s those younger selves that they see. The values and mores of society will change across the years, but the underlying structure of human personality seems to be remarkably constant. Knowing that the differences are less about generations and more about age makes it much easier to see how people can work together productively.

We are no longer talking about monolithic generations, fixed in their behavior. We are looking at individuals, each at a different stage in their lives, making it easier for both them and us to flex behavior and work together. Some honest reflection on what we were like when we were younger, or where we might be heading when we get older, might help us to understand other ‘generations’ better

Yes! Data and understanding of the actual people you employ, and not a global cohort which may or may not be representative of your employees, is key to making effective decisions to support, enable and empower your employees – of all generations – in the digital workplace and into the future of work. Applying a little empathy – and taking off those rose-coloured glasses – just might help us all work better together.


This week in social media

Politics, democracy and regulation

Privacy and data

Society and culture

Cybersecurity and safety

Extremism and hate speech

Moderation and misinformation

Marketing and advertising


Sydney Business Insights – The Future This Week Podcast

This weekthe five conversations at the heart of #BreakUpBigTech. Sandra Peter (Sydney Business Insights) and Kai Riemer (Digital Disruption Research Group) meet once a week to put their own spin on news that is impacting the future of business in The Future, This Week.

00:45 – Google fined again for anti-competitive practices

08:25 – Facebook stifling innovation and competition

12:41 – Content pollution on Facebook and YouTube

The stories this week: 

The EU hits Google with a third billion-dollar fine. So what?

Can we to fix big tech without breaking it up

We’re asking the wrong questions of YouTube and Facebook

Other stories we bring up: 

Our previous conversation around #breakupbigtech

Our previous discussion of Spotify creating create “hits”

How Spotify playlists create fake artists

Spotify files complaint against Apple

Facebook no longer uses age, gender, race bias in ad targeting

Apple’s news service conditions face backlash from publishers

Lina Khan takes on Amazon in Antitrust dispute

Our previous discussion of the fiduciary moat of Apple and Amazon

The fiduciary advantage of Apple and Amazon

Our previous discussion of platform monopolies

Beto O’Rourke wants Bigtech regulated


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