It’s no secret that the Fourth Industrial Revolution is upturning old processes and ushering in new forms of automation. But harnessing the ability of technology is only the first step. Organisational change is necessary to underpin the success of digital transformation brought about from these technologies, and leadership is crucial in paving the way of this organisational change.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is being fueled by a collision of new, intelligent technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain and the Internet of Things. The internet is now pervasive and for many, as fundamental as water. The Economist Intelligence Unit forecasts that Australia will have an internet penetration rate of 94% in 2018, with broadband access at 34%.

What makes this Industrial Revolution different from the previous three is the rate of change and the scope of its effect. One specific impact for businesses is the rate at which customer expectations are consequently changing. As a result, companies need to respond at a quicker pace.


Delivering with data  


The Fourth Industrial Revolution is also creating a wealth of data wherein lies insights for creating better experiences for both customers and employees. At the same time, we are in an AI spring, where through breakthrough algorithms (that feed on this new abundance of data) AI is quickly becoming the ‘new electricity’ which businesses can’t do without. Companies today need to leverage this new technology to quickly extract insights from their data and construct ‘intelligent experiences’ for their customers and employees.

The recommended approach requires three steps:

  1. Connect all your sources of data to create richer context – combine the data within the various parts of your business (sales, service, marketing, etc.) with external sources such as social and location.

  2. Analyse this reservoir of data using AI algorithms that are now available to companies as a service (removing the need to develop and maintain this technology internally).

  3. Act – this is the most powerful step. Once you have found insights from steps 1 and 2, you need a platform that allows you to transmit it to the right person, at the right time. Insight now flows to the user when they need it most.

Today, through technologies like Salesforce Einstein, you can deliver intelligent experiences to your sales, service and marketing teams who can, in turn, transform the way they interact with customers.



Will AI take over our jobs?


The AI spring has also fostered fears of job loss through automation. History, from the previous three Industrial Revolutions, tells us differently. Yet, the implications of the Fourth Industrial Revolution cannot be underestimated and must be prepared for with intention.  

At the recent Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) reunion, the President of MIT addressed this topic. He said something powerful: “It is less about the future of work and more about the work of the future.”

Work in the future will continue to exist. However, the nature of that work is going to change. What we’ve seen in every major industrial revolution is that some jobs go away but more importantly, many new jobs come into existence.

Back in 1999, if we looked into the future, we wouldn’t have thought jobs like social media consultants, data scientists or ride-share drivers would have existed. Yet, the Economist Intelligence Unit report identified that the demand for data scientists will increase by 28% by 2020.

It's important that leaders consider:

  1. How quickly new jobs are going to come into the market.

  2. How quickly old jobs are going to disappear from the market.

This will inform whether there will be a skills shortage or a job shortage in the future.


Creating employees of the future


Building the workforce of the future is less about jobs per se and more about skills. When we think about the jobs exposed to disruption, they’re work involving repetitive tasks – anything that can be replaced by an algorithm or automated process. The jobs less exposed are those that involve creativity, critical thinking, understanding the human condition, empathy and leadership.

As such, leaders need to empower employees to take control of their future careers and develop the necessary skills to be successful in the new world. They need to create a culture within organisations where employees are encouraged to learn and have the space to develop these skills.

Leaders themselves need to adopt a ‘beginner’s mind’, so they’re questioning the status quo. In times of disruption, business models and the way businesses interact with customers come under pressure. By having a beginner’s mindset, leaders take an inquisitive view of the business, questioning how to perform a task better or tackle a problem differently.

American futurist and author, Alvin Toffler, once famously said: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

This applies not only to individuals, but more importantly to organisations as a whole.

Download the Economist Intelligence Unit Report: Navigating The Fourth Industrial Revolution: Is All Change Good? to learn more about how the Fourth Industrial Revolution impacts organisational change.