At the end of 2018, I have taken the time to rest my mind and contemplate what 2019 and the following years will hold. The Christmas period now seems to be the only annual reprieve to do a little forward-thinking, to reflect and consider the future; the future of the markets and that of businesses of course, but also that of those who make up this commercial ecosystem whose foundations seem to me, to be increasingly uncertain.
It will not have escaped your notice that the pace of enterprises is accelerating and with it the pressure on managers and employees. Productivity and the so-called “short-termism” have become inseparable from the race for performance, which is characterised by the unprecedented volatility in the markets on the one hand, and by a generalised movement of human beings towards a compartmentalisation of their tasks on the other. The multiplication of mobile terminals, hyper-connectivity, enslaves human beings, who like to believe that the parallelisation of their tasks will allow them to catch up with the crazy pace imposed by firms.
As I am also a victim of this demonic and degrading race, it is opportunities represented by a new need that I would like to talk about in my post today. I will begin by addressing what we are all short of, time, and then explain how our desire for hyper-productivity and hyper-connectivity has produced the opposite effects. Finally, I will discuss the 3 factors that are essential to guarantee our “employability”, that is to say, our ability to keep a job and find a place for ourselves in the world of work of tomorrow.
- Time is what we are all lacking
- Our brains are over-stimulated
- 3 factors that will influence the jobs of the future
Jacques Attali’s prophetic book “A Brief History of the Future” clearly shows that technological progress can bring everything in ever-increasing quantities, except time. Time is the rarest commodity available to human beings. This rarity is inscribed in the very transience of the human being, in the ephemeral nature of life. It is, therefore, not surprising that we are becoming overwhelmed by the multiple connections made possible by the virtualisation of relationships.
If medical advances make it possible to extend life, it is unlikely that the conditions at the end of life will be conducive to the productivity required by society. Productive time is, therefore, an almost unalterable factor that pushes us to want to achieve more and more in the least amount of time possible.
The capitalist society pushes human being to do more and more within the same time frame. Like a production line, we are witnessing mechanisation of thought. The various technological applications and gadgets we are surrounded by divide our productive time into small units and push us to fill them. Our behaviours are changing. Disabled by technology, we become unable to use our cognitive abilities properly and are reduced to performing tasks with limited additional value. The creative effort becomes out of reach. The uniqueness of the human being, his brain, is lost in an abyss of meaninglessness.
In the field of advertising, it was customary to say that the consumer was subjected to 4000 advertising stimuli every day. That was many years ago, before the advent of the Internet and the smartphone. These stimuli, fixed in their form (posters, magazines,) only provoked a reaction when they were first seen. The brain retained this extraordinary opportunity to lose interest, thereby preserving the integrity of our cognitive faculties.
If the Internet has changed the game, it is the smartphones that have put an end to our concentration. Mobile notifications, in particular, are a daunting trap. These traps have characteristics that prevent us from disposing of them
- They can change shape: sometimes visually, they can become vibration or sound, preventing our brain from ignoring these low value-added distractions
- they can change frequency: unforeseeable, notifications are an adversary that our minds cannot fight. How can you avoid paying attention to a stimulus that you are unable to adjust to?
Notifications tire the brain, continually soliciting it without the latter being able to take turns on the cerebellum. The telencephalon, the seat of conscious thought, discharges onto the cerebellum for habitual actions, thus keeping energy for the most complex cognitive processes. The result is that we find it more and more difficult to concentrate, to perform complex tasks, to resist the need to distract ourselves by compulsively looking at our smartphones.
- about 60: the number of mobile notifications received each day
- 23 minutes and 15 seconds: the time needed to re-focus after being distracted by a notification.
Under the pretext of productivity, the latter has been reduced to a shambles because of the incessant and uncontrollable distractions that technology offers us. The smartphone encouraging multitasking, the notifications that disrupt our concentration are as much an enemy to fight against to give our brain back the freedom to think and create. Creation is the very essence of man and perhaps the only part of man that cannot be alienated by technology. Since human beings have invented artificial intelligence, artificial intelligence being the fruit of human knowledge and creativity, it can never replace a man in his ability to create the unique, in his ability to make quantum leaps forward. Creativity must be protected, safeguarded. That is why I am convinced that the great winners of tomorrow will be those who succeed in maintaining their creative capacity intact. To maintain our creative capacity will be possible through the convergence of 3 factors:
Ability to concentrate
Disconnection will play a significant role here. The ability to resist digital temptations will have to be learned, and I am convinced that this represents a great business opportunity. Everything has yet to be made: courses in digital self-control, control and monitoring technologies to positively “nudge” behaviour. Isolation techniques, liberation from the confines of technology will provide an opportunity for a new class of enterprise to reinvent creativity and find, in the negative aspects of progress, a unique growth opportunity with those who have understood that creativity will constitute a critical factor in tomorrow’s employability.
Regarding business experience, more than ever before, it will be of particular interest to employers in the future to recruit those whose business experience will be rich in knowledge acquired in different fields and sectors. The time for hiring profiles from a given segment is over (at least for positions of responsibility). There is an urgent need to “make connections” between sectors of activity, between disciplines, which a more straightforward career can no longer satisfy. The future will be for the company’s nomads (freelancers and consultants in particular) who will be able, thanks to their combined experience, to create and innovate by borrowing elements of innovation from other sectors of activity and then connecting them once again.
The ability to be curious
I note with dismay that the willingness to confront the new, to learn new skills, remains marginal in our society. Certainly, the Internet is a window on the world. However, are we looking at the totality of what we are given to see? The danger of filter bubbles is permanent, and our gaze inevitably leads us to what we already know, and even worse to the degrading entertainment that turns in a loop and makes us waste the most precious of resources: time. To be able to stimulate curiosity, the jobs of tomorrow will be reserved in priority for those who succeed in demonstrating their capacity for surprise and their propensity to remain curious. Nomadism, study trips, tangible evidence of this curiosity (blogs, videos, podcasts) will be valued by employers who will tomorrow be looking for talent in increasingly diverse forms.
3 characteristics will be the cement of tomorrow’s employment:
- Concentration: the ability to resist digital temptations to regain the productivity of yesteryear.
- Transversal skills: the ability to demonstrate professional careers across various trades and sectors.
- Curiosity: the ability to learn continuously.