By Hal Reid, Guest Alumni Writer (Class of 1971)
In a short period of time, some of you will graduate and have to get a J-O-B. When attending graduations of my own, my five children, and family members, one phrase is always said: “You are the Future.” However, this is referring to the entire class, not necessarily you in particular.
What is important to your future is assessing how events, trends and viewpoints will impact it; and your ability to assess what is happening or going to happen in order to maximize your position next week, next year or over the next several decades.
While there are things that you can’t control and events that may overwhelm you, it is wise to look at some of the future possibilities when you consider the jobs you will be taking, your career and the way you shape your life. Most of these possibilities are not major issues of Foreign Policy, politics, tariffs or any of those, and may appear pretty inconsequential at the time. Yet they will impact the way you work, live, plan for the future, and many other things in your life; and therefore they will affect your future
I have created three topic headings that it may be wise to include in your understanding of what you are doing and what is happening in the world. Remember that change is usually subtle and can happen before you know it, but the signs are always there in advance.
Retail and Business Trends
Here in Glendale the retail environment looks pretty good; except for the semi-dead shopping center across the street of campus that never quite got off the ground. Big box stores like K-Mart and Toys-R-Us are gone, and several others are probably on their way out as well. It was more than competition that caused their downfall; it was changing trends, often poor management, and not really having a grasp on the future.
On the other hand, stunning success in business usually comes for those who can move the fastest and innovate the quickest, and therefore are not huge, bureaucratic entities. Do you invest your career with Bland Industries or Mover and Shaker Inc? Business is moving faster and becoming more competitive, so in order for you to keep up, think sideways, anticipate, and explore the minutia of the situation, you need to think about trends.
The current model for retail success is Amazon, eBay or Alibaba. Perfect for automation and little human interaction. Not Nordstrom’s, but maybe that’s OK. Retail is becoming like the DMV, except with faster delivery.
Several years ago, it seemed to me that there were two categories of workers developing: those who had corporate jobs and those who worked at home. Those who had corporate jobs knew that they were probably on a three-year cycle, and therefore didn’t really want to own things like houses, cars or furniture. Their motivation was to hold cash and rent. Those that worked from home would soon feather the nest and only need a new computer or two every few years.
This would impact the ability to manage these folks. A three-year cycle for the corporate worker means little company loyalty, and they are always looking for the next job. Working from home doesn’t build a lot of office camaraderie either. This may also be true for office sharing, and for both type of workers; the new paradigm creates an interesting environment for their management.
Loyalty and support for the company is salient only for a special few at corporate headquarters. Motivating employees becomes like selling the company to its own employees, and the concept of inclusion must span divergent work groups who may never meet.
This is already the case for management, and the person running the show now has to be all things to all people. The greatest motivator is “The Cause.” But, it can never be defined in detail, or the salience disappears, as does the allegiance to it. But it might be the way to span the distance between employees.
Is the future building different forms of organization beyond contractors, regular workers and automation? One would be wise to know these things, or at least have thought about them. Your future will be in the middle of it all.
One other point is the division of the entity into dynamic and static. Most businesses have departments just like any other business: HR, logistics, operations, facility management, for example. All static in nature. The only things new in are regulations in HR and the quest for Corporate Social Responsibility.
The other part of the business is dynamic. Marketing, new product development, and strategic planning are examples of the dynamic parts of business. Where do you want to be? Where are the trends and indicators of change, and is there something different on the horizon? Think out of the box and maybe you will be the first to know.
It isn’t the big tech that will really change your life. It will be little things that are bigger than they seem. The technology that is headlining today is automation, AI, big data, Business Intelligence, wireless connectivity and voice driven computer interfaces.
In my day, it was Location Intelligence. Everything is somewhere, and we should be able to map these things, create thematics about relevant data, and then model the retail space for sales, market share and potential performance. For your future, you need to be able to do the same thing in virtual geography, which is the mapping of relationships. You may be tight with a Professor or co-worker. How will that play out over time, and what other relationships are connected to yours. You need a visual of LinkedIn that is dynamic and goes beyond status postings by other people. You must also understand the temporal nature of relationships,you wont know it when that friend of yours that always has a job for you gets fired. If you map and can understand your relationships, you will know where you are in real space.
While your personal Location Intelligence will allow you to keep track of where you are, you need to see the trends and not overlook the obvious.
A big part of everybody’s life is their cell phone. The reality is that you have some weird thing on your belt or in your pocket that you’re afraid to drop and that tanks out at a critical point.
Voice recognition for almost all connectivity is almost there. Alexa does it today, but many people are still typing or poking some lame keyboard on your phone or tablet. How about if you just thought what you wanted to type? Hmmm…. That would take some conditioning and need a serious backspace or delete gizmo.
Soon there may be implants, are you ready?
The point is that there are aspects of technology that we are handed and expected to accept. Think beyond the obvious because, in spite of how things appear at first, the shine always dulls.
Know where you are in real and virtual space. Know what and who really matters, their durability over time, and what may be coming down the road that could change your reality.
Hopefully, this has caused you to think in some different directions. My point is that you as an individual are indeed the future if you embrace that parts of the future that have merit, and see through the parts that don’t. Always think outside the box and ask “What if?”