The future challenges of work

Bijgewerkt op: 29 apr. 2021

Do you have any idea of how the world will look like in 20 years? How do you picture the future challenges in these particularly uncertain times? Do you feel well prepared to take the best business decisions for the future?

We have asked Raphaël Thys, futurist, to enlighten us about the assets that will make the difference. With

more than 20 years of experience in the digital products industry, future thinking and user experience, Raphaël Thys helps organisations to project 20 years ahead and find disruptive, resilient and sustainable development for their activities.

Read along with us and get a glimpse of the future…

How will the world look like in 20 years?

The Swiss futurist Gerd Leonhard said “The world will change more in the 20 coming years than it has in the last 300.” This means that 2040 will be more different than 2020 was different from the 18th century. The spectrum of scenarios and possibilities is wide but one thing is certain: we will live in an extremely changing world with powerful unpredictable events.

We are already in what we call a "VUCA world" (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous). In the upcoming future, the disruption will be permanent, whether it is technological, environmental, geopolitical or social.

How will companies be able to stand out in the future?

To stand out from the crowd, I envision 3 essential components for businesses:

1. Extreme adaptability: this means being able to create a new product in 3 months for instance or to switch completely from a distribution channel or business model to another in a very short period of time. Resilience is the new innovation!

2. Radical transparency: we are going through a crisis of trust towards users and customers who are now being better informed and paradoxically drowned in an ocean of information and noise. To rebuild trust, companies will have to publicly show results, announce real intentions and stop hiding facts.

3. Contribution to the society as a whole: today, every company capitalises on sustainability. We will have to go beyond that and go into what we call the "good" for the environment and for people. The definition of the company has changed. The notion of profit will no longer be central but will be considered as one of the tools that allows companies to reach a mission that is beneficial for the wider society…which will create value and consequently profit!

What kind of leadership will be successful?

Companies will have to be able to operate in an extremely changing world. In order to achieve this, leaders need to be ready to respond to unpredictable situations by keeping the company’s mission in mind: "What is the purpose of my organisation and how can it bring a solution or added value to the current situation?”

The good leaders will be the ones who are able to find the right balance between a strong position and agility along the journey. Just like climbing a wall, they will have to find a solid grip before attacking on the next one. Then, they should move quickly, pivot, change axis depending on the unexpected events of the system.

How, in the current crisis context, can companies reinvent themselves and be resilient in the short term?

Companies can be resilient by having a digital mindset… But be careful ! What we call the “digital transformation” is not about digitalising all existing business activities and bringing more technologies in our ways of working. It is more about reinventing oneself and switching to a new business model, a new digital culture that will be more efficient and that will bring added value to the business ecosystem.

The companies that are resilient are the ones that are well prepared to a wide range of extreme possibilities. Even if the various scenarios you have imagined will totally differ from the future reality, some bits and pieces will be accurate. Think about the elite unit of the special forces. They are ready to face any extreme situation that seems unrealistic but could happen nevertheless.

What will communications look like in the future?

In the 80s, the challenges of communication were to release valuable information. Today, the main challenge is to manage the information overload. In 20 years, many messages will not even reach our attention because they will be filtered by our "digital counterpart". There will be machine-to-machine communications, machine-to-human communications and human-to-human communications. The role of communication will remain the same (raise awareness) but the ways of doing it will be very different.

What kind of socio-political frictions will we observe in Belgium?

Belgium is a small country with a complex structure. This means that the country will be easily impacted by external factors. In a country like Belgium, we will have to be particularly adaptable. The current situation of the sanitary crisis is showing us that our institutions are not adapted to crisis management and to the management of unforeseen events. We are witnessing a series of tensions between the rapid progress of the external environment, our institutional framework, industries and technology... We will have to manage this better in the future to ensure greater agility since the intensity, complexity and rapidity of change is only accelerating.

What types of jobs will be most in demand?

We will still live in a technical, complex world. Therefore, engineers, technicians, scientists and all the professions with deep knowledge and a specific expertise will continue to be important and demanded.

But we will also be more in search of “generalist integrators” who are capable of applying components from one particular field to another in order to create added value without inventing something totally new. A bit like a Steve Jobs who was a creative genius at the time!

What types of skills will be most in demand?

As previously mentioned, technical skills will remain crucial. There is no doubt that technology will do more and more for us and knowledge will be more automated. But soft skills will also become increasingly valuable. The machine will replace the human in 'doing' but never in 'being'. Our thinking and our exchanges with other people cannot be replaced by a machine and will therefore become something fundamental. The human will still play a crucial role in the company of the future: anything that cannot be automatised will become extremely valuable.

The best way to ensure a sustainable future for your business is to be well prepared for the unpredictability. Imagine all possible scenarios and be ready to adapt quickly. The sanitary crisis has already given us a taste of this. The year 2020 gave us no choice but to adapt strongly and quickly. In the space of a few months, every company had to make great progress in terms of working processes, digitalisation and communications.

Dealing with and responding to the communications challenges created by the COVID-19 crisis is a major challenge for businesses. It requires speed, adaptability and creativity. We, at Interel Belgium, are here to help you and your teams go through this period of uncertainty and ensure a bright future. Read more about how we can help with internal communications, crisis communication, Public Affairs or Public Relations.

If you require assistance, please contact us!