It is the year 2040. You wake up to the soothing sounds of the Commodores; the choice of song was determined by a combination of your calendar and today’s weather forecast. You yawn and stretch your arms out wide, before heading over to the bathroom where your toothbrush is presented to you. The water comes on automatically, set to your favourite temperature and strength. You enter the kitchen, where the kettle just finishes boiling and tea is being made. Collapsing into your chair, your robot assistant, Edison (named after your favourite inventor), wanders over to tell you there are no new alerts from around the world worth knowing about. Every day really is “easy like Sunday morning” and there is absolutely nothing to do.
Whilst the above image may have felt somewhat farfetched a decade or so ago, today many of the technologies mentioned are already underway or perhaps even fast approaching maturity. The effectiveness and accuracy of these tools will only grow stronger by the day, as more people use them and consequently feed them with more data.
In recent years, entrepreneur after entrepreneur have built up their digital start-ups, dedicated to solving the modern individuals’ hectic day-to-day routine - focusing on delivering simplicity, convenience and most importantly saving time. Think the Ubers and the Deliveroos of our world - and they are still popping up here and there, attempting to disrupt traditional business models with their newfound digital platforms.
Eventually, these use cases will run out. The robots will be taking over. Then, what was previously an obvious blueprint for business success will no longer be relevant. We will have too much time on our hands - and not much to fill it.
The foundations are already in place for filling people’s ever increasing spare time, with an assortment of social media, on-demand video and mind numbing app game options out there. Clearly, the increasing levels of such choice suggests some truth in the theory. Were we actually that busy in the first place? Or, has “busy-ness” just become a cultural badge of honour – a measure of your status on the latest social platform?
Today, many businesses we speak to are still finding it difficult initially to prove the future value of their internal digitalisation projects beyond time and cost. Project KPIs are often centred on “process time saved”, “hours saved”, “FTE saved”. Not much attention has been focused on what the freed up time is going to be used for – the “what’s next”? Perhaps it is too difficult to quantify future benefits beyond cost. Or perhaps the current environment has simply caused businesses to focus solely on cost savings only.
Frequently then, these projects do not quite get going. Or they stagnate, once the lower hanging fruits have been picked and the large savings opportunities consumed. It then becomes a bit of a waiting game, until a relatively senior leader is brave enough to launch head first into the digital transformation project without the necessary “future proof” - battling between investment cost vs leadership support vs technological proficiency vs has anyone else even done it yet?!
Some people may have long assumed that technological development and human productivity is one long ascending journey to the moon. However, with the introduction of robots that can work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year - at high speed and 100% accuracy – mass disruption to the working environment is clearly just a matter of time. People’s daily timetables and even broader career lifecycles, will start breaking up into smaller bespoke chunks. Gaps in their CVs will be classified as “self-exploration” or “time for a change” - masking the very fact that the career changes were perhaps forced upon them, due to their particular skillset no longer being required.
Businesses therefore need to avoid falling into this transitionary black hole, where freed up employee hours may be met with limited output and lots of “meetings”, “training”, and “idle time” – followed gradually by headcount reduction. Instead, we should work with those affected on the ground, proactively identifying how upcoming spare time could turn into revenue generating opportunities to grow your business.
Robots are very much here to stay. However, we are likely some time away from being completely replaced. The image at the start of this article may well be unavoidable. What is avoidable is making sure that it does not become a fair representation for all of us, every single day.
The next entrepreneurial boom may well be in “the time fillers”, but let’s not just waste our time waiting...
What is your view on the future of work? How do you think new technologies will change and impact on our lives? Do you have a clear view of how new technologies could help drive your business forward? To discuss any of these topics or for a more general chat, please get in touch.