Author - Orbit

What Could Employment Look Like in 2040?

Recently, my neighbour and future-enthusiast, Ashish Joshi, shared an example of how new technology like 3D printing could impact jobs. He quotes a scenario where you walk into a shoe store, put your feet on a scanner and the digital blueprint of your feet and data of bones and muscle structure is passed to a computing device which selects the material and design and using a 3D printer, prints a set of shoes! Such a scenario almost renders many aspects of manufacturing, brands, storage, logistics and supply chain redundant. 3D printing of houses is already a reality. Imagine a future where 3D printing of entire buildings is an affordable technology. What would happen to the construction business and the millions it employs?

It isn’t only 3D printing. Things are changing faster than ever before. Self-driven cars, internet via hot-air balloons, hyperloop and electric sports cars! We live in times many had never even imagined while growing up. I found myself dwelling upon how entirely different the future of employment may be by the year 2040. Here’s what it might look like:

  1. Employee health checks via fitness trackersand other wearable technology. Data on sleep, blood pressure and exercise could be used by organisations (or health professionals) to check with employees why they haven’t been sleeping well of late… Is it a work issue or a personal one; and whether they could do anything do help? Big data meets healthcare meets HR!

Privacy and legal implications could be potential roadblocks but it remains to be seen whether these will also change along with our world.

  1. Neural scans for hiring. We’re  already using psychometrics pretty effectively and in the future scans of the brain could suggest talent in certain areas. This could influence hiring, replace IQ tests, help us spot genius much earlier in schools, influence careers, reduce struggles occurring from unsuitable academic or career choices.
  1. Business travel could become entirely redundant. Technology that enables life-like video-conference environments may replace the need to travel. Remote teams may not feel that remote anymore. Think Telepresence or augmented reality meets social media!

This would mean employees spend less time on the road and spend more time with family. Could this mean new things for the aviation and the hospitality industry and for those who are employed there?

  1. The above technology may impact classroom training as well. Current e-learning and MOOC technology offers poor alternatives to the human interaction that participants desire in workshops but this could be quite different in 2040. Once again, technologies such as Tele-presence, augmented reality and social media may blend together to provide a cogent answer to this challenge. My friend Jatin Panchal, a robotics and automation enthusiast, also points to the emergence of technologies such as Sixth Sense that could revolutionize education.
  1. Learning consultants in 2040 may get gigs only if they are globally acknowledged domain-experts as technology will shrink distances and costs, enabling greater access to bonafide experts.
  1. Large scale Job Disruption will have taken place: With automation and robotics set to replace many jobs, the fear that many people may find their old job extinct is real. Job disruption has happened before and it is going to happen again. See this excellent report from the World Economic Forum to understand what kind of job disruption has already taken place.

What could new jobs look like in 2040?

Some suggest that creative work (that computers cannot currently replicate) will be the jobs of the future. However, we already have software that can create music and write jokes. How quickly such software may compete with (if not replace) musicians and comedians remains to be seen.

Sustainability is already assuming very high importance for countries and businesses. In the future, it will be de rigueur. Legal / regulatory compliance advisers, environmentalists / carbon advisers could become essential roles for all companies.

Assuming that most things urban will be automated (think driverless cars, computerized flight, robot-run customer care, self-service kiosks) what will human beings occupy themselves with? Could it be art? Or will more and more humans shift to places where urbanization and automation still hasn’t reached? Will we see a sharper global divide between advanced, urban dwellers and relatively backward semi-urban dwellers?

Or will we see human beings move towards professions that robots may not be able to perform? Medical professionals, care givers, counsellors, artists and performers – could these be the careers of the future? Does this mean that our education must change from school upwards in order to prepare for a future like this? What does this mean for HR professionals of the future? These thoughts and the work of people like Brunello Cucinelli and Liz Ryan suggest that our school curricula may need to focus a lot more on the humanities than it does today.

Ashish points to the move away from full time to part time work and the imminent replacement of permanent employment with on-demand specialized workers / consultants. HR will need to build new models and new capabilities for engaging and paying the workforce of the future.

The aforesaid report from the WEF clearly states that governments, education and businesses have to “put talent development and future workforce strategy front and centre to their growth” in order to survive the coming disruption. This is great news for the HR and L&D fraternity. The CHRO will be as prized an asset as the CFO soon and many of the issues that they raise will get an eager hearing. We may see Chief Learning Officers and CHROs finally ascend to the CEO chair.

Alternatively, in a scenario where most jobs are done by robots and computers, could we see a future where the “Human Resource” department is a very small one? A highly specialised, much evolved one for sure, given the nature of the few workers who will still inhabit the workspace.

What other changes do you visualize in the 2040 workplace?

Whether you are an organisation or an individual, what are you doing to remain relevant in the workplace of the future? What steps must we take to prepare our kids for this future?

This is a discussion that will evolve. Do share your views in the comments section.

Personal Leadership: Using My Strengths to Achieve Peak Performance

In the corporate world the word “Personal Leadership” is a new lingo to use. Personal leadership is growing the leader within YOU. When you practice personal leadership traits, you lead from inside out. Therefore, I thought of penning down some real life practices of an Icon who rewrote the game of boxing, which earned him the name of “The Greatest”.

Muhammad Ali was crowned “Sportsman of the Century” by Sports Illustrated and “Sports Personality of the Century” by the BBC. Ali began training when he was just 12 years old and at the age of 22, he already had won the world heavyweight championship in 1964. Ali remains the only three-time lineal World Heavyweight Champion.

Ali’s golden principle for personal leadership: Identify-Attain Mastery-Reinvent

  • Identifying your personal boxing style:

Corporate world is a world of cut throat competition and it is a world where you need to know what you are good at. What is your strength, your own boxing style and how to use this strength repeatedly in your battles?

Ali did it very efficiently in his entire professional career; he had an unorthodox boxing style for a heavyweight, his catchphrase “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” won him many laurels. Ali relied early in his career on his superior hand speed, superb reflexes and constant movement, dancing and circling opponents, lashing out with quick unpredictable angles. His footwork was so strong that it was extremely difficult for opponents to cut down the ring and corner Ali against the ropes. You too identify your personal style and fight your battle in your own way.

  • Attain Mastery

Today the world is looking for a combination of “Jack of all trades and Master of ONE”. It is very important to grow and attain self-mastery or signature style.

Darrell Foster, who trained Will Smith for the movie Ali, said: “Ali’s signature punches were the left jab and the overhand right. But there were at least six different ways Ali used to jab. Most popularly known as ‘snake lick,’ – a jab like a cobra striking and rapid-fire jab – three to five jabs in succession rapidly fired at opponents’ eyes to create a blur in his face.” He attained mastery in his style and pinned his opponents. Hence, it is important to focus and strengthen your strength to attain mastery.

  • Reinvent your style

Reinvent your style and use it again to be relevant. Ali became a different fighter after the three and half year layoff. This physical change led to the “rope-a-dope” strategy, where Ali would lie back on the ropes, cover up to protect himself and conserve energy, and tempt opponents to punch themselves out. Of his later career, Arthur Mercante said: “Ali knew all the tricks. He was the best fighter I ever saw in terms of clinching. Most guys are just in there fighting, but Ali had a sense of everything that was happening, almost as though he was sitting at ringside analyzing the fight while he fought it.” This helped him stay on the top of his league throughout.

Now, introspect what is your personal style? Are you focusing and strengthening enough, because Personal Leadership is not a training it’s a trait that has to be acquired and used over a period of time to attain mastery.

Possibility Thinking – A Sine Qua Non

I would like to start my blog with a famous story of two salesmen who were sent to Africa by a shoe manufacturing company. Both reach Africa to explore the market opportunities. Surprisingly, both present divergent perspectives on their market research findings, when they speak to their managers.While one excitedly looked at the opportunities the continent offered for developing the shoe business, the other one cribbed about the lack of opportunities, as no one wore shoes! For him, it was impossible to sell an unknown product to such customers. So here, one saw possibility while the other didn’t.

  • ‘Possibility thinking’ goes beyond ‘Positive Thinking’.

Whenever we hit the end of the road, we generally say, “I am stuck, what do I do now, to get out of this situation?” We begin to feel like victims. However, if we use possibility thinking, the same situation can have innumerable solutions.


Possibility thinking is a simple practice – which I call ‘Walking Talking’ meditation. We need to prime our brain to use possibility thinking every moment e.g. when watching a TV show, I look at those aspects of the show which I can correlate to my outer world and question myself, how can this correlation help me improve my overall quality of life or to solve a problem that I face every now and then.

  • How possibility thinking benefited my friend?

Not only do I use possibility thinking extensively in my own life, but I also influence my family and friends to apply it at all times. Though, the concept is so simple to use, very few use it. It can be used as a self coaching tool and also an effective instrument for leaders to help their peers and juniors to break out of the rut.But for doing that we need to have a good amount of knowledge to connect the dots to culminate the random thoughts into possibility thinking.  This way, it becomes our new way of life.

My dear friend who is an educationist was once narrating an incident about her mobile data possibility thinking story. Her usual internet usage is restricted to wi-fi which is easily available in her office and home. But on few occasions, when she couldn’t book a cab, she realized that it was important for her to have at least a basic mobile data pack. On enquiry, her telecom service provider offered her the cheapest Rs. 150 data plan which in her case was of no use.

She wanted a data plan which offered her flexibility and convenience of using it whenever she needed. With this question in mind, she went to the store.To her surprise, after little resistance, the customer care eventually offered her a reshuffle plan which allowed her to use internet only when she needed it. Though some part of her data plan still remains unutilized, but she is happy. She had found a possibility!

  • Seasoned professionals also forget this simple practice:

On the professional front, I met a Senior Human Resource professional of a leading MNC in Mumbai. She was really frustrated with her new junior who was taking undue credit for work done by her. My coaching session started with me asking a very basic question, “What actions have you taken to resolve this issue?”

As she was going through an emotional turmoil, her thinking had become foggy. She had got into victim mode! She had not thought of any possible steps to resolve the issue. I then asked her, “Do you send status updates of the work you are doing to your boss?” I never expected the answer to be in negative, especially from a seasoned human resource professional like her. As she was not updating her boss regularly about her contributions; her boss obviously ignored her work in the organisation.

  • Task master to a friend:

A senior auditor who works with one of my clients was labelled as a fault finder by his colleagues. After my session on possibility thinking; instead of finding faults he actually teamed up with procurement team to find alternate fruit vendors to save on the organisational expenditure on procuring and servicing fruits to employees. He initiated this just to test the efficiency of the concept, but both he and the organisation were eventually benefited because of this exercise. People see him differently now – A fault finder converted to a solution provider.

In a nutshell, we can say, “Possibility thinking is a tool which when effectively inculcated in our day today life will definitely help us to get out of the rut and think creatively.  We will always feel motivated and thus see enhancement in our overall quality of life.”

How to Stand Out Among Your Peers

We inhabit a very crowded marketplace. Products, companies and people are all struggling to be noticed. The paradox is that people are taught that they must constantly try to fit in. Yet, there are so many people who do the same job that you do, dress the way you do, speak the same way, work in the same fashion. If you continue to do everything just the same as others, how will you be noticed?

My personal view on this is that a life spent trying to fit in is a life wasted. No one has the same genetic make-up and experiences as you. This particular mix makes you a little different from others. So if you’ve ever felt different from others, it’s probably because you were meant to be different!

(In this post, we are not talking about working off our rough edges to become well socialized. We are talking about allowing the best in us to be seen by the world.)

Ignoring your personality in order to fit in isn’t easy. Remember, you are attempting to go against your neural wiring. You expend at least twice as much energy to go against your natural wiring. Expending this much energy in order to get something done goes against the principles of energy efficiency and Lean.

Suggestions that you need to go against your neural wiring may stem from the mistaken assumption that there is only one way to get something done. Moreover, it is hard to keep it up in the long term. Your system will go back to its default at every opportunity. So unless you’re trying to give up a harmful habit like smoking, it just isn’t worth the effort.

When I was a young manager, many people advised me to be a tough taskmaster. I tried it initially and got some results. Eventually, I went back to my default style – genial and considerate. I continued to get results. Additionally, my warm approach got me noticed. One day my second-level manager walked up to me and asked me if I’d be willing to take on a struggling employee. He told me that I was the only one he could come to with a request like that and was, therefore, the struggling employee’s last hope. I had been noticed as a people-developer. So I took the employee on, turned his performance around, and cemented my reputation. This employee eventually grew into a manager’s role himself!

Also, contrary to the usual “keep your boss happy” advice, I made it a point to push my bosses on issues I believed were important. My boss at one of India’s most admired companies was sometimes exasperated with me and undoubtedly confided in her manager. Her manager seemed to like my work and he knew that I expected as much as I gave. Once, his boss the CEO, invited all of us managers for an interaction. The CEO nodded and smiled as each manager introduced himself or herself. When it was my turn, he said “I know who you are”. How’s that for standing out?

I didn’t get noticed by fitting in. I didn’t build my reputation by conforming to someone else’s idea of how I should work. Neither can you.

Embrace what makes you different (and if you don’t know what makes you different, I will help you discover it).

Here’s a hat tip to those who have reinforced this belief in me through their words and their work:

Donald Clifton, Marcus Buckingham and Martin Seligman – for initiating the Strengths movement.

Liz Ryan – for helping me see that one can build a solid business without toeing any outmoded lines.

Vishwas Parchure – for helping me see how much individuality deserves to be respected and cherished.