Real World Futures

Conference shows how to be your own disruptive influence

Date: 21 October 2016

THE tools to make technology disruption an asset, not a liability, for our jobs and businesses were laid out during the course of the Real World Futures conference at QUT on October 19.

The conference, Disruptive Influences – What To Do With Them, was the major event on this year’s Real World Futures calendar which has already featured five public events.

The line-up of speakers was chosen carefully to illuminate the Real World Futures themes of future working, future thinking and future living.

It started with keynote speakers David Thodey (chair of CSIRO and Jobs NSW) and Professor Thomas Davenport (Babson College, MIT and Harvard) speaking separately and then in conversation about the challenges to work created by new technology.

They each agreed new public policy was needed for the issues the workforce of the future would face.

Professor Davenport spoke on the themes of his latest co-written book, Only Humans Need Apply, which advocates the value of machines augmenting, rather than replacing, human work in the 2020s. He says knowledge industry workers have five choices:

  1. Stepping Up – moving above automated systems to develop more big-picture insights and decisions too unstructured for computers or robots to make;
  2. Stepping Aside – Moving to non-decision work that computers aren’t good at (such as selling or motivation);
  3. Stepping In _ Engaging with the automated decision to understand, monitor and improve them;
  4. Stepping Narrowly _ Finding a specialty area of your profession so narrow that no one is trying to automate it;
  5. Stepping Forward – Developing the new systems and technologies that support intelligent machine decisions.

“If you are convinced, as we are, that human strengths will continue to enable humans to produce economic value, and to be paid for that value, there is no reason to forcibly decouple work from income. Instead the focus of government action should be on job creation,” he says.

The second session of the conference on responses featured the head of CBA’s innovation centres, Ms Tiziana Bianco, and the Chief Customer Officer of Australia Post (and QUT alumnus) Ms Christine Corbett.

Both spoke about the challenges of innovation in big, established enterprises. Ms Bianco said the bank, in creating its innovation centres, had decided to put innovation at the heart of its business.

Ms Corbett said Australia Post had little choice but to innovate during a period when its traditional delivery services were under threat from every front.

Both indicated that becoming central to developing digital identities was an important part of their future.

And Ms Bianco had some free advice for politicians struggling with the innovation message – simply replace the word innovation with growth to be better understood.

The third session, The Skills Needs, heard QUT’s Distinguished Professor Stuart Cunningham and the Foundation for Young Australians Ms Jan Owen, talk about the varied skills young people needed in what would most likely be “portfolio” careers.

Professor Cunningham drew on recent research work to demonstrate even technical enterprises needed a blend of technical and creative skills.

Ms Owen cited FYA’s own research which showed problem solving, digital literacy, resilience, collaboration and global citizenship were among the most important skills young people would need in the future.

A lunchtime panel, moderated by QUT’s Dr Peter Beven, gave four case studies of disruption and how it was dealt with. Watch out tomorrow if you are interested for a separate story on this.

And after lunch QUT’s Professors Michael Rosemann and Suzi Derbyshire shook some brain cells in the room by demonstrating, then challenging, participants to identify opportunities.

The PWC Chair in Digital Economy and QUT Professor Marek Kowalkiewicz closed with further challenges to conventional thought and what seemed like an encouragement: May we all live in interesting times.

Indeed we do.

Videos from the conference will be on the site next week and slides are here.

- David Fagan, Director, Corporate Transition

Content sourced from QUT News Web Service.

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