6 theses about the next economy

95 theses

In 2017 we celebrate the 500 year anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 theses.

95 theses

Intrinsify.me, the network for happy working people, will collect 95 theses on the next economy at the upcoming Wevent. Mark Poppenborg started the effort with 12 theses. I want to support this effort and add 6 theses, which are either a twist of Mark’s theses or add a new perspective. Some of them might be provocative, some far out and some might never happen this way.

#1 – Higher diversity of working models

This thesis is similar to Mark’s thesis #2. Let me add a different cause. Digitization and machines will supersede parts of our jobs. Over the next few years more and more routine tasks (e.g. analyzing data, controlling, time tracking, …) will be automated. This means that the same amount of work can be done with fewer humans. While many see this as threat, I see it as an opportunity. Let’s assume value is created by five people today and 40 % of the work can be automated. Some companies will cut staff down to three persons. But there are alternatives. Two of them might work as a tandem, as you can see at tandemploy. Another person might use the opportunity to work part time and start a sideline business. Others might pursue a career as solopreneur and just support the company on a consulting basis. Diversity of people, enhanced skillsets and better utilization of work time will translate into economic success. I’m convinced we’ll see more people using these models and new models emerge. And I hope work laws will be adjusted to support this.

#2 – Remote work will be the new normal

Digital technologies enable to work anywhere and anytime already today. As I wrote in an earlier post, there are multiple benefits of remote work. More and more people will enjoy these benefits and work remotely. Some reduce their pain points (e.g. commute), some do it because they witnessed improvements in value creation (e.g. by diversity). Remote work comes natural for digital natives. They are early in their career today, but will lead and shape workplaces in the coming workplaces. I also know many Boomers and Generation X people, who are getting used to the respective technologies and enjoy the benefits. Virtual and augmented reality will further reduce obstacles of today’s technology (e.g. video conferencing) and user experience will be like co-located work. Remote work will get the new normal.

#3 – Boundary between work and private life continues to blur

I see two reasons for this thesis. One reason are markets and customers. Pressure to innovate and disruptive value creation („Wertschöpfung der Ausnahme“) require increased flexibility. In the past it was enough to attend a two day seminar from 9 to 5 to build some new knowledge. Today you need to join a virtual design thinking session with your peers on another continent in order to deliver value to your customers and stay ahead of competition. You might prepare in the morning, spend the afternoon with family and friends and join the session with peers in the evening.

Another reason is our own desire for more flexibility. We might want to improve our private life and spend time with our kids or friends throughout the day. Or we adjust tasks at work to our own rhythm. I have a hard time to digest a business book in the office, so I’m reading it in the evening on my sofa. Is this work or private life?

#4 – Globalization will reach the next maturity level

If you look at recent developments you might think globalization has come to an end. We experience nationalistic leaders, increased number of border controls (very annoying when you travel from Austria to Bavaria) and some countries even want to create new walls. However digital revolution and the rise of machines will move us into a new area of globalization. While the economy of many developing countries is still fueled by offshoring, this might soon come to an end. Machines and algorithms offer even cheaper labor. I don’t think that this necessarily leads to a fall of the developing countries. My favorite example is China. Many people still associate China with a work bench and see it as a copy cat. But more and more innovations originate from China and companies like Tencent outperform their Silicon Valley based competitors. If you want to learn more, I recommend t3n issue 48 about China.

#5 – Education will be taken over by private sector

I can fully subscribe to Mark’s thesis #10 about education. Education doesn’t prepare kids and students for complexity and disruptive value creation. He claims that „it will  be increasingly difficult for the economy to cope with the shortcomings of the educational system“. I don’t believe that ministries of education are willing to change. So my thesis is that education will be taken over by the private sector. I base this thesis on a few data points:

  1. Private service providers (e.g. edX, Udacity, …) deliver university courses to people around the world.
  2. Another alternative to universities are academies like Shiftschool. While private options also existed before, they mainly focused on knowledge like traditional universities. The new alternatives focus on mastery of digital skills and prepare you to cope with complexity.
  3. Microsoft supports Code your life, Calliope teaches kids electronics and embedded programming and not to forget the TI Innovator from my company. These are just three examples of many, where companies started to attack the shortcomings of the public education system.

I don’t want to say that education will be fully taken over by the private sector, but I think the rise of private engagement in education can’t be neglected. Mark is correct that alternative schools like Montessori and Sudbury are still „nichy“. I send my two boys to a Montessori school and see how much better they are prepared for the next economy. I’m sure these schools will be on the rise as soon as companies start to notice this as well.

#6 – Cooperation will outperform competition

I don’t have much data points for this thesis yet, but am very confident about it. Let me share two aspects that support my view.

As Mark states in thesis #7, companies are less dependent on knowledge and more dependent on the skills of their employees. However, some skillsets are scarce and are quickly evolving. Professionally I deal with IoT (Internet of Things). An important skill is to secure embedded code. For many companies this is a skillset gap, developing the skillset takes time and new security breaches continuously pop up. In the past you competed about the talents. In the future cooperations with vendors, third parties and finally competitors might be the only economic way out.

Another aspect is the pressure to innovate (see Mark’s thesis #12). Again IoT serves as an example. Customers are looking for the best overall solution. One company has the best sensor. Another company has the best cloud solution. Cooperation is the fastest way to deliver the best overall solution. Cooperation of two different industries also means diversity, which fuels further innovation. Think about IKEA cooperating with Amazon to integrate Alexa into your wardrobe.

Over to you

Which are the theses you support? Where do you witness examples in your environment? Where do you disagree? What are your theses? Let me know in the comments or via the various social channels.

In case you also want to contribute to the 95 theses, feel free to write your own blog post, participate in the blog parade and/or join Wevent #33. More details can be found here.