Automated and Outsourced

As a result of economic changes, some workers are getting left behind, reports the New York Times:

For the last two years, the weak economy has provided an opportunity for employers to do what they would have done anyway: dismiss millions of people — like file clerks, ticket agents and autoworkers — who were displaced by technological advances and international trade.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I don’t believe that it’s any longer a question of whether standardized work will be outsourced or automated, but when. How much time do we have to prepare people for the new revolution? Any scenario that I consider – peak oil, global warming; globalization; Asian dominance – still requires that the developed world’s workforce deals with more complexity and even chaos. We need to skill-up for emergent and novel practices and that means a completely different mindset toward work.

But our schooling and training systems are backward-looking systems, based on what has worked in the past, and don’t help to develop the new skills necessary for the networked workplace.

We cannot leave these people behind. As the need for creativity in the workplace increases, organizations must give  serious thought to what work needs to get done and how we can prepare people for it. As Gary Hamel described at the Spigit Customer Summit, traditional (industrial) employee traits of Intellect, Diligence & Obedience are becoming commodities (going to the lowest bidder). The networked, creative economy requires independent and interdependent workers (more like theatre productions) with the following traits that cannot be commoditized:

  • Initiative
  • Creativity
  • Passion

This brings into question the rationale for practices such as:

  • Mass training with standard performance objectives for everyone.
  • Predominantly full-time, salaried employment (few options for part-time work at the control of the worker).
  • Standard HR policies.
  • Banning access to online social networks at work.


7 Responses to “Automated and Outsourced”

  1. Howard

    I agree on he need for up-skilling, but cost cutting is so much easier than to employ the imagination needed to create and manage an economic platform designed for independent and interdependent workers.

  2. Martijn Linssen

    I couldn’t agree more Harold – but it’s a frightening thing to see the two sketches together; it in fact renders education useless – unless you want to become a machine or move to a outsourcing country

    In I sketch the squeeze between Social and Cloud, where Social creates a lot of work for complicated human processes (I consider complication an unnecessary add-on to complexity) so there is hope, I think

    But, in the meantime, the simple tasks will get automated, if they’re any static they’ll disappear in the infrastructural layer of the Cloud.
    The hard-to-automate but static, labour-intensive repetitive tasks will be outsourced (with the dynamic tasks, among which i count core-business or business-critical processes, to stay “at home”)
    Chaotic is what we’ll initially see in Social, where SCRM looks like the first fish to take the bait

    And yes, our education system will have to change too. I’m starting to wonder why everything has to so radically change now: organisations, massmedia, educations. Not that I regret it, but how massive is this movement? Aren’t we redefining Human Everything as we know it?

    • Harold Jarche

      My understanding of why everything is changing now is because we have finally connected almost everybody and every thing together. Networks, especially enormous global ones, change everything. We are +150 years into the electric age, as described by Innis & McLuhan, and change will come even faster now.


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