THE ROBOTS ARE COMING!
Depending on your personality type, your appetite for risk and popular opinion of the people that surround you, your reaction to this statement will either be one of excitement or one of absolute terror.
The future is often described as an insurmountable obstacle racing towards us at a frightening speed.
We are however not as unprepared as we might think, even when we take into account trend predictions made by futurists. Developments over the past decade have already provided us with guidelines and structures to prepare for the future.
All we need now is a shift in mind set.
Disruption as base for vision
When we set the direction for the future we need to have a basic understanding of the innovations that are predicted to disrupt the industries we operate in and rely on.
With social media enabling the instantaneous sharing of ideas and discoveries, keeping our finger on the pulse of innovation is easier and cheaper than ever. In most instances it is not even necessary to understand the intricate details of all the innovations; a broad awareness will help guide leadership decisions toward setting a direction that is less likely to be surprised by disruption.
An honest look at what our world may be like in the future will enable us to focus on what is necessary to keep fulfilling the purpose of our effort.
We need to have a clear purpose for our efforts combined with a firm understanding of innovations that will have an impact on those efforts.
The purpose of an organisation can no longer be merely self-serving. Society demands that all organisations set a direction for responsible effort in the triple context of profit, people, and planet.
Sustainability as a habit
Sustainability is a term often used interchangeably between the continued existence of an organisation and the environmental impact of a product.
It should however be used as combination of the two and adopt the King IV Report on Good Governance description of “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs”.
This description refers not only to the responsible use of existing limited natural resources, but also to the investment needed into alternative materials and methods that will reduce the negative environmental impact from decisions made by previous generations.
We need to consider how each decision we make now - as individuals, communities or organisations - will change the quality of life of our children and their children's children.
We must also understand that future generations will not live in the world that we know now. A change from automation by machines programmed by humans to robots that function on their own through artificial intelligence, is merely one of the changes that is no longer a prediction, but already a reality.
Communication as a hard skill
It is therefore necessary to ensure that we do not merely build our awareness of potential disruption, but that we also share it with others and prepare them for it.
Change management programmes and the communication plans that go with them has become a specialised function, but it seems to have little impact where disruption is concerned.
The problem with change management is that it is a linear process, while disruption is known for change that has changed by the time you deal with it.
Effective communication that attempts to prepare teams for disruption is barred by human nature that triggers an automatic resistive response once we're faced with something new and unfamiliar.
We need to distinguish between communicating change and communicating crisis by training our teams to form a habit of seeing disruption as an opportunity, not a threat.
To achieve this we need to stop delegating communication to marketing teams as a support function. We need to retrain our workforces to develop communication capabilities as a core skill, as that is predicted to become our saving grace for when the robots do come.