I just read a really interesting article on the McKinsey’s website ‘Artificial Intelligence meets the C-suite’, where some leading business academics discuss the implications of rapidly advancing artificial intelligence on conventional organisational structures run by senior executives. http://www.mckinsey.com/Insights/Strategy/Artificial_intelligence_meets_the_C-suite?cid=mckq50-eml-alt-mkq-mck-oth-1409
Rather than review the article, instead, here are some follow-on points to consider.
- In a future World influenced, if not dominated by AI and hyper-competition, will the strategic goal of capturing ‘sustainable competitive advantage’ instead become ‘maintain competitive advantage’, with advantage mostly gained by using data and cutting-edge analytical techniques?
- Will most future companies become more like MI5/MI6 – gathering and analysing data comprising most of the work and then acting in very specific ways, once insight is gained?
- With the rise of AI, will a growth job for human managers be to spend increasingly more time making judgements about whether to develop & deploy staff, versus commission AI to create/deliver products & services?
- Will next-generation, business process reengineering (BPR) instead become AI BPR?
- With the rise of AI, will ‘efficiency in limited-scope environments’ dominate over ‘inefficiency in wide-scope environments’, causing entrepreneurs to move their business models into that space? Some examples:
- to base their business model on data expertise (and rapidly go where the data takes them), not (staff) domain expertise,
- to simplify (value chain) negotiations,
- to simplify the challenge of motivating & leading staff,
- to simplify the need to gain political consensus,
- to balance internal data analysis (on costs, internal resources & activities) with external data analysis (on markets).
The evolution of jobs through history:
- In service, pieceworker or indentured serf,
- Salaried job for life,
- Series of ‘permanent’ roles,
- Portfolio of concurrent contracts for own clients,
- Portfolio of digital money machines,
The new consumer entertainment business model – houses are information deltas that data streams flow into.
Today’s career advice – work for minimum wage, until you can devise and start up a sustainable money machine of your own.
Today’s complex supply chain is tomorrow’s drone journey – drone deliveries of 3D printer raw materials e.g. from the oil fields to the biodegradable/recyclable plates & utensils that you print out for your dining table…
Premium quality universities may preserve blended learning (and blended research) techniques for their creative interaction value. Meanwhile, Massively Open Online Course (MOOC) providers are likely to try to emulate pure digital retailers, offering their client-base modular learning products for personal up-skilling and continuous professional development (CPD).
Should premium quality universities partner with MOOC providers to offer premium university-branded online learning modules and what kind of demand might emerge?
Regardless of how fast the ‘long tail of higher education demand’ emerges, represented incidentally by supply not just demand, student demand for elite undergrad and graduate programmes will likely remain strong. It’s perceived value comes in helping those students differentiate themselves in the workplace and use premium university content to aid workplace performance.
However, as MOOC providers ‘fatten’ the thickness of the long tail by progressively offering affordable, modularised courses, globally accessible, in multiple languages and able to be studied at a time convenient to the student, premium quality STEM universities need to think more about the post- qualification needs of engineers, doctors and scientists for continuous professional development. Premium STEM universities would also be wise to think about how much of that emerging demand to capture themselves. The set of post-qualification needs could be represented in two dimensions; career seniority skills and career breadth skills.
The faster new professional fields emerge due to global innovation, the harder it becomes for any employee (highly talented or not) to plot a linear career progression that preserves their marketability (embrace sufficient career breadth for what is required). Or have an effective grip over newly-emergent fields that support the organisation’s core mission (enabling them to then achieve hierarchical seniority).
Career seniority skills include; training in budget, project, process and operations management, change management, information & service quality management, business strategy & marketing. Techniques might include; using simulations for planning, improving communication flows and learning risk management practices.
Career breadth skills include; spending time understanding allied innovations and research breakthroughs that have some bearing on the person’s area of greatest experience. For example, for an ambitious doctor going from a large specialist NHS Trust into a small private practice, it may be advantageous to broaden their knowledge of medical imaging techniques and image interpretation.
MOOC’s threat to low quality universities
Unlike for the premium quality university programmes that rely on creative interaction value, MOOC providers can be expected to sooner or later out-compete the low quality universities who can only offer simple lecture-style content of a standardised nature. Such universities have a significant physical cost structure to support, while MOOC providers offer their customers a vastly cheaper price for at worst, the same academic content and (virtual) study group experience.
How can premium quality universities understand market CPD needs better?
A key question to ask might be what step changes will talented and ambitious graduates need to make for their career progression and how can we position to match those needs?
Premium quality universities are arguably in pole position to communicate the value of specific knowledge and problem-solving skills to employers that drives CPD demand back to themselves.
Some business schools already do this well in providing bespoke onsite training courses of short duration to the employees nominated by their client. Therefore, what scope is there to maximise this demand opportunity, not with bespoke organisational courses, but with customised sector training, centred on the generic step changes?
On a related note, could the excess capacity of expensive university research kit (High Powered Laser machines, Wind Tunnels, Wave Tanks, MRI Scanners, High resolution/high speed digital cameras, Big Data Centres) be used in such CPD training courses, perhaps via a fieldtrip visit to the university campus?
If so, two other benefits might arise – with greater ongoing demand, the equipment resources could be scaled up to capture economies of scale for the university. And secondly, the effectiveness of alumni fundraising might rise – offering more CPD courses widens the potential alumni base and for returning alumni, reaffirms the bond with their original institution, which hopefully translates into greater donations.
I read an interesting preview on the ‘Recruitment Grapevine’ website, based on a recent London Business School survey of Generation Y work attitudes.
In it, the London Business School says 90% of Generation Y employees do not plan on staying with one employer for more than five years – with 37% planning to stay less than two years.
Richard Hytner, Adjunct Associate Professor of Marketing at London Business School says that “The job market can respond by better casting people to very specific projects, very specific assignments, very specific opportunities – multiple opportunities – in order to keep talent developed, stretched and hungry.”
Does this mean in the skilled labour market that we’re moving increasingly to project jobs that involve people working on multiple projects concurrently and on a stream of projects in sequence?
Will job agencies that operate in the skilled labour market, evolve into brokers between project tender issuance and project tender submissions?
Will Gen Y (generation cynical/generation rent) manage their own careers as a portfolio of income streams (involving client project work that is less than five years long, possibly from multiple concurrent clients), rather than as one ‘permanent role’ salary from a ‘permanent’ employer?
Lastly, will many future white collar management jobs evolve into project management roles instead?
If change gets in the way of common sense, it probably isn’t progress.
Career management is a journey through a series of business case jungles.
Molotov cocktails use information and logic to carry anger, petrol, glass and a burning taper to their destination, to effect change. Management cocktails use information and logic to carry passion and organisational resources to their destination, to effect change. If it’s the right sort of change, the stakeholders get to enjoy a cocktail together afterwards.
Career management used to mean following a linear journey from technical skill to organisational leadership. If the career landscape now sprouts new skill needs in all directions, how linear can that progression actually become?
The most reliable and empowering form of career management is entrepreneurship. If you happen to work with one large organisation as your dominant client, it won’t hurt to diversify your ‘product range’ for other market needs.
Education and self improvement are the silent couriers delivering self-confidence and pride through your post box. How else will you make any sense of the World?
Teachers are like route guides not tour guides. When you graduate school, the route ahead will need plenty of skills to navigate a journey of safety, but with its own adventure…
Career plans start with looking outside yourself. Before you choose an apprenticeship or university course, think about future trends. Will electric engines take over anytime soon? Will inexpensive machines cut, style and weave our hair in five year’s time? If everyone’s going the same career way, be a creative maverick, but upskill early…