The future of work & learning to be human, again

Having recently partnered with Wolff Olins, they asked me to give an inkling of what it’s like to be viewing the world from where I sit. As Chief Learning Officer and Head of the Corporate Academy at Daimler, what does the future of work look like? I presented my thoughts at a breakfast event last month, and offered to share them here as well.   

In a nutshell, I am getting the sense that corporate learning professionals, like myself, will have to re-invent what they do and how they do it, and fast. The days when we could claim exclusive access to what people should know are over, if indeed they ever existed.

The good news is that learning as such seems to increase in importance. If we are empathetic and skilled at helping people cut through the clutter, we may have a role to play.

As a data driven person, I tend to seek consolation from facts. Education and learning have always been important sources of competitive advantage for individuals, organisations, sectors and nations in a marketplace. It seems unlikely that recent developments will render this relationship irrelevant, although I admit that the commoditization of content means that the balance of power is shifting.

Obviously, predicting the future of work is tricky territoryJ. M. Keynes expected a future of ‘technological unemployment’ in the 30’s, but the 15 hour work week he predicted failed to materialize, at least for me. However, most of us expect that changes to almost any role, not just those directly affected by automation, will be substantial and rapid.

Technology, in particular AI and automation, fuelled by higher levels of data integration from multiple sources, will require that we re-imagine any professional role, at increasingly short intervals, and rapidly address the skill and competency gaps that emerge.

As we navigate our way through these opportunities, learning will determine not only whether we respond quickly enough to changing requirements. Just as importantly, it will enable us to decide whether the resulting changes are actually the ones we want. I don’t think lack of information will be the limiting factor. Quite the reverse. It will be relevance of information, consensus building, true meaning, and the development of identity that will be more difficult.

We as learning professionals may be able to add value by creating the space in which such processes can take place.

At Daimler, we’ve just come to the end of the first MOOC in our history, a Massive Open Online Course, entitled ‘Leadership 2020 Live’. In a global conversation, transcending the boundaries of time zones, geographies, divisions, and hierarchy, a community of 27,500 leaders have been invited to discussand jointly createthe future of leadership.

Beyond the immediate content itself, it has been a humbling experience to see how a community has emerged, generating additional content as they went along, andmore importantlyextending their individual and our collective repertoire.

The bottom line for me is that, while technology will be a driving force behind many of the changes that are imminent or taking place, the future of work will be no less social nor less human than in the past. With all of this in mind, I believe my role will be to help make the world a more social and human place, not despite of but because of new technology.

Written by Oliver Fischer, Chief Learning Officer and Head of the Corporate Academy at Daimler

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