“Frank the robot control tablet” by Angus Gratton is licensed under CC BY 2.0
If a robot can do your job, then let it have it. PHOTO: Angus Gratton

If a machine takes your job, consider it a favor.

"It means your job probably sucked," futurist, technologist and author Brian David Johnson said during a Think Tank by Adobe on the Future of Work last week. 

Six thought leaders participated in the live-streamed debate from San Jose, Calif., held to define work and how it will transform in the coming years.

Johnson joined Arizona State University as Futurist in Residence last year at the Center for Science and the Imagination and as a Professor of Practice in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society. He formerly worked at Intel, where he became the corporation’s first futurist in 2009.

Frankie James, managing director of General Motor's Advanced Technology Silicon Valley Office; Kate Kendall founder and CEO of CloudPeeps; San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo; Jeff Vijungco, vice president of global talent, technology and insights at Adobe joined Johnson on the panel moderator Alan Lepofsky, vice president and principal analyst Constellation Research.

Map Your Future

So if a robot takes your job, it means you can step away from predictable, mundane tasks to stretch your mind on an opportunity that is arguably more interesting and satisfying — and possibly generates a bigger paycheck.

That can't happen, of course, without your participation.

Panelists, left to right: Jeff Vijungco, Frankie James, Sam Liccardo, Alan Lepofsky, Kate Kendall and Brian David Johnson
Panelists, left to right: Jeff Vijungco, Frankie James, Sam Liccardo, Alan Lepofsky, Kate Kendall and Brian David Johnson.PHOTO: Adobe

Workers who want to thrive in the workplace of the future need to bring two things to the table: credibility, which Vijungco defined as a "super power in a functional area," and deployability, which he defined as "willingness to be called on for anything at any time."

Employers, Vijungco said, have to offer employees more than a healthy balance sheet. Workers want to work for companies with reputations for excellence and leadership in everything from products to talent management. They also have to be physically in a desirable place.

According to Liccardo, millennials are "choosing where they want to live before who they want to work for." Workers are no longer willing to move to an undesirable location just to get a job; today they move where they want to spend time, generally urban areas that offer a palette full of aesthetic, artistic and social opportunities.

Perceptive employers are moving to those areas to attract and retain top talent, even in high cost-of-living places like San Francisco. For all the talk of working in virtual spaces, location still matters, Liccardo said.

The Modern Workplace

The panelists echoed the sentiments of other thought leaders in the digital workplace, including Paul Miller, CEO and founder of strategic partner and boutique consultancy Digital Workplace Group (DWG).

Technology is redesigning the working world but persistent connection, access and information means there are few hidden places where leaders can remain isolated, distant or detached, Miller said.

"Running alongside the technology is a societal, demographic and global shift from work as pure income to work as also providing meaning — doing good in the world. I have called this a digital work ethic as part of a digital renaissance in work," Miller said.

This June, DWG will partner with Simpler Media Group (SMG) Inc. — the parent company of CMSWire and producer of the DX Summit — to produce a unique new conference, Digital Workplace Experience (#DWEXP17). 

The three-day event will bring influential digital workplace practitioners and technology innovators together to present solutions, strategies and best practices to a global audience. Andrea Brant, group manager for digital communications at Adobe, is one one the confirmed speakers.

Paycheck or Passion

Money is no longer the number one motivator for potential employees, Kendall said.

Liccardo pointed out that Silicon Valley is full of workers who labor day in and day out at startups without knowing if they will ever see a paycheck. They want, to quote Steve Jobs, a chance to "put a dent in the universe."

Of course, employees sometimes abandon those lofty goals when challenged by the realities of a family and a mortgage.

But for many people, time is more important than money. They want time with their families, time to take care of their health, time to solve a problem that they don't get a paycheck for, Lepofsky said.

Vijungco said everyone is asking for more time, even indirectly when they complain about too many meetings or long commutes.

Your Future Workplace

So what is the future of work? Is it living where you want, indulging a passion, solving problems that will make the world a better place and earn a decent living in the process?

The panelists answered with an optimistic "yes." But it won't happen without personal accountability, Johnson said.

He argued that we all have to ask ourselves two questions:

  1. What is the future that we want?
  2. What is the future that we want to avoid?

Once we answer those questions, we have to take the microsteps toward our goals. And that's the key, according to Lepofsky.

"What differentiates us (from robots) is that we evolve," he said.

(Interested in learning more about the challenges and opportunities impacting the new digital worlds where we work? Join us for Digital Workplace Experience June 19 to 21 at the Radisson Blu Aqua hotel in Chicago. Simpler Media Group, Inc., publisher of CMSWire and creator of DX Summit, and boutique consultancy Digital Workplace Group (DWG) are working as strategic partners to present #DWEXP17.)