When globally recognized futurist Ross Dawson spoke at the Charles B. Wang Center on October 23, 2017, he presented insights and observations about the world that lies ahead of us, as well as a glimpse into the future of the job market.
The special lecture, “Leadership for the Future of Work,” was made possible by the Undergraduate and Graduate Student organizations, and was attended by faculty, students, staff and people from the surrounding community.
Dawson is a keynote speaker and acclaimed writer on topics related to technology, leadership and employment. He has delivered speeches for nationally recognized brands such as Coca-Cola, Google, ING, and Procter & Gamble, and has spoken in 29 countries across six different continents.
“The ability to learn, learning how to learn, being better at learning: this is fundamental,” Dawson said. “[People] will not be able to succeed unless they can do this.”
Along with his speaking career, he is also the CEO and chief futurist of the R7 group of companies, a combination of marketing and innovation firm Rh7thm and multiple startups.
During his lecture, Dawson asserted that rapidly developing technology will make routine manual labor obsolete and non-routine manual labor will soon follow. The jobs of the future, therefore, will be cognitive focused, meaning jobs that require deductive reasoning as well as human emotion and empathy.
He spoke about how data is growing exponentially and that it behooves us to better understand that data if we are to make effective decisions. That will be the job of data professionals who are educated in mining, analyzing and interpreting data.
“We need to change the nature of work. We need to change the structure of work,” he said.
The only certainty about the future, he added, is that the changes to how we go about most things are going to be dramatic. In turn, one key element of survival will be adaptability — how we respond to that change.
“We must become deeper and deeper experts,” he said. “We must go deeper and deeper.”
Universities that fail to keep up with the changes will be challenged on many levels, Dawson said. Shaping their brand is key to how institutions of higher education will survive.
“I think we will see that many universities will be challenged. So the brand and reputation of a university is paramount. It is how it is seen. And every brand has multiple facets,” he said.
That brand is not only built on how a university shapes its messaging and portrays itself, he added, but it is also born of the character and successes of its graduates. “I find it extraordinary how employers around the world continue to say that the graduates that they hire aren’t ready for work and they have to put them through their own training program,” he said. “So there is a massive opportunity there.”
There is also opportunity in leveraging people power to drive technologies, Dawson believes. He said that the fundamental differences between humans and machines will play a role in designing future jobs, and that to prosper businesses and institutions will need to recognize the intrinsic value of our humanity, something machines can’t offer.
The most employable people in the future, he said, will be those who have several areas of expertise, who can pivot from one knowledge base to another seamlessly and apply that knowledge to their services. And if we can learn to collaborate with artificial intelligence, we act as a link to all that is great about computers and humanity, he said.
“Dual expertise is truly unique and distinctive,” Dawson said.
Towards the end of his talk, Dawson cited examples of jobs he said will be important in the future:
An interface designer designs the way in which people interact with a computer or service. Their job is to make using a computer as intuitive as possible, “designing interfaces between technologies and humans,” according to Dawson.
Emotional Experience Expert
“If you look at the world of business and marketing, customer experience is the most commonly used word of the moment. We need to create better experiences for people to come to us … and this requires abilities in not just understanding humans and their emotional response, but also what are the technologies, what are the tools, in order to create an effective experience for an individual,” Dawson said.
This job is to assist people and organizations in making decisions and anticipating the potential outcomes. Dawson explains it as “analyzing and supporting decisions in an increasingly complex world.”
Data Insights Miner
This person would discover patterns and relationships in data to help people make better business decisions, and “be able to take data and be able to mine that data for insights and apply the breadth of human capability.”
Remote Robotics Operator
This person would monitor and operate robots remotely, making sure that they accomplish their tasks.
Personal Reputation Manager
This job would entail managing someone’s personal brand in the same way there are people that manage company brands today. This person would manage someone’s digital footprint and virtual reputation.
— Joshua Pietzold