We have seen a pandemic, massive job losses in tech, and rapid advances in AI in the past few years.
"The sheer scope of what's shifting and unknown is simultaneously awe-inspiring and downright daunting," said April Rinne in her book Flux: 8 Superpowers for Thriving in Constant Change.
Constant change is our new normal. Despite the challenges of living in a world of constant change, there are also opportunities to capitalize on the disruption if we can learn to see it as an opportunity for growth.
Paradigm Shifts Occur at the Intersection of Innovations
Technology is a series of Jenga blocks that build on top of each other. And each Jenga block is necessary for the next jenga block to exist, but we can't predict what will happen ahead of time, but we always have to be asking, "What does this new tool allow me to do over and over and over and over again." – Julien Smith, The Unmistakable Creative
When a paradigm shift occurs, the intersection of innovations makes things possible that weren't before.
In the late 90s, building a website took thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours. Today, anybody can build one in less than an hour for less than $10.00
The combination of the commercial web browser and online payment processing made e-commerce possible. The combination of the iPhone + location made billions more dollars in innovation possible, leading to companies like Lyft, Uber, and Doordash.
In the next few years, we'll witness the intersection of different technologies from the past 25 years. In a few short years, AI, graphic design, and content creation tools have become cheaper, easier to use, and more accessible to the average person.
There's one question you should ask yourself if you want to capitalize on paradigm shifts:
What does this make possible that wasn't before?
1. The Merger of Human and Artificial Intelligence
But those who ask critical questions to generate insight, develop specialized knowledge, and use artificial intelligence to complement their creativity will thrive.
Critical thinking gives humans a competitive advantage over machines. If you rely solely on AI tools instead of using your critical thinking and creativity, you may not have the skills needed to stay marketable in a changing world and risk losing your job to technology.
I use Mem's Smart Write and Edit feature to turn podcast transcripts into social media content. But AI can't replace the value-producing activities only humans can do, like conducting interviews. Use AI to supplement your abilities, not replace them.
As my friend Clay Hebert said in the following tweet
Canva didn’t eliminate graphic designers overnight.
Zapier didn’t eliminate millions of jobs overnight.
AI copy tools won’t eliminate copywriters overnight.
But be honest. Assess your skills.
If you’re average, your days are numbered.
Or get replaced.
Ultimately, the merger of human and artificial intelligence will free us up to do what we do best: Imagine, invent, innovate and create.
In our interview on The Unmistakable Creative Tim Klein said, "Labor economists have known for about 80 years that anything that involves a pattern or a process or repeatable actions, anything that can just be done in the same way over and over again, will eventually be automated by technology." In 2023, we'll see a dramatic increase in the use of technology to automate repetitive tasks.
A fundamental economic principle is that the Division of Labor Increases Output.
This great increase in the quantity of work, which, in consequence of the division of labor, the same number of people are capable of performing, is owing to three different circumstances; first, to the increase of dexterity in every particular workman; secondly, to the saving of the time which is commonly lost in passing from one species of work to another; and, lastly, to the invention of a great number of machines which facilitate and abridge labor, and enable one man to do the work of many. -Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations
Today, we divide labor between humans and technology. Tasks like scheduling meetings, editing content, and transferring information between tools can and should be automated.
- Automate tasks where minimal human intervention is required
- Automate tasks where the content changes, but the process doesn't
Tools like Zapier make it possible to connect thousands of apps and automate tasks that would take a lot of time to do manually. Automating tasks gives individuals and organizations a competitive edge.
3. Curation of Content and Consolidation of Tools
My former business partner Brian used to say, "As content becomes more infinite, curation becomes more valuable." That was four years ago, and the volume of content that's produced every day continues to rise. Companies like The Hustle, Morning Brew, and The Skimm have all built multimillion-dollar businesses by curating content for their subscribers.
Even though relying on curators can save us time, the more we depend on them for the content we consume, the more likely we are to be influenced by confirmation bias. To make sure we consume media responsibly, we need to question the source of information and ask ourselves critical questions.
Many of the productivity and design apps from the past three years have consolidated the functionality of multiple tools (e.g., Notion, Canva, Mem). Any company whose product is a feature of another will face an existential threat.
4. Tools Will Become Easier to Learn and Use
The tools for creation have never been more easily gotten. They've never been cheaper, they've never been better, they've never been as diverse, and they truly make things more accessible. If you want to make something like a book, movie, or song, some of the tools to do that are just about free. – Kevin Kelly, The Unmistakable Creative
20 years ago, if you had an idea but lacked the technical knowledge to bring it to life, you were out of luck. But the gap between creativity and technology is nearly non-existent.
As Scott Belsky wrote in his article Creating in the Era of Creative Confidence," From free web-based tools with templates that help conquer the fear of the blank screen to powerful generative artificial intelligence that conjures up anything from a text prompt, expressing yourself creatively no longer requires climbing creativity’s notoriously steep learning curve
The tools we have at our disposal have become easier to learn and use, making it possible to go from idea to execution in hours.
- Canva makes it easy to do things that would be hard and time-consuming with the Adobe Creative Cloud.
- Audio editing tools like Descript make it possible for one person to create the same quality of content as a large team.
The easier it is to use technology, the more people will use it and the more creative ways they'll find to use it. Technical knowledge is becoming less important as the gap between creativity and technology narrows.
Any individual with unlimited resourcefulness and imagination will have the same power as any organization with unlimited resources, and limited imagination
5. Projects Will Replace Jobs
"For any company, today, having a permanent, full-time workforce is fraught with growing peril as employees fail to keep their skills up to date, resulting in personnel in need of management. In our fast-changing global and Internet-driven marketplace, increasingly desperate organizations are turning to external and temporary workforces to fill their expertise," said author Salim Ismail in his book Exponential Organizations.
Job security is a myth. The day of spending one's entire career in one job and climbing the ladder of vertical achievement is over.
Jobs that are eliminated in a recession don't come back because Economies evolve, not recover, from recessions. Projects will soon replace jobs as our primary way to earn an income.
However, there are two interdependent conditions that must be met for projects to replace jobs completely.
Access to Opportunities for Individuals and Skilled Labor for Organizations
Instead of full-time employees, organizations will use on-demand workforces. In the same way that George Clooney and Brad Pitt recruited individuals with specific skill sets to rob a casino in Ocean's Eleven, organizations will need to build temporary teams of people who are the best at what they do.
In his book Deep Work, Cal Newport said that there would be 3 Groups of People Who Thrive in the New Economy.
- People Who Can Work With Intelligent Machines: We can use technology to entertain and distract ourselves. Or we can use it to educate ourselves and become a person who makes things. The latter not only makes us more likely to thrive but creating is more fulfilling than consuming.
- Superstars: People who thrive don't settle for mediocrity. They are committed to becoming the best in their fields. Exceptional people commit to mastery and outcomes.
- Owners: When you have access to capital, not only can you use it to build things, but you can use it to help others build things and share in the profits. You can fuel success with labor or capital. And the right kind of labor will give you the kind of capital to fuel other parts of your career with capital.
Individuals will have no choice but to learn how to work with intelligent machines, become superstars in their field, and take ownership of every aspect of their careers.
Social Safety Nets
This will be the biggest challenge for political leaders. Individuals will need the support of a social safety net to provide a cushion between projects. This could include universal basic income, a guaranteed minimum wage, or other forms of social assistance.
Such measures would provide individuals with financial stability and peace of mind as they transition from one project to the next. In addition, governments should invest in social programs that provide access to education and training so that individuals have the skills and knowledge to take advantage of the opportunities that come with a project-based approach to work.
The Advantages of a Project-Based Approach to Work
When people lose their jobs, they may face financial hardship and difficulty finding new work. And a project-based approach could be an antidote.
- First, it prevents people from depending on one source for their livelihood.
- Second, it enables people to work on projects with positive externalities and build skills that they can transfer to other projects.
- Third, it gives people autonomy. And autonomy makes people more creative, productive, and relaxed.
With consistent access to projects that allow people to earn an income, they'll no longer live to work but work to live. Organizations can reduce costs and work with the best people for a project by using a project-based approach.
6. Career Portfolios Will Replace Resumes
Even if you love your job, even if you're good at it, even if you'd like to do it forever, if someone else gives you a job, that job can be taken away. The whole point of a portfolio is to grow and evolve it over time. No one can ever take your portfolio from you. It is yours, you're responsible for it, but it is yours. And it allows you to craft a professional identity that speaks to you. – April Rinne, The Unmistakable Creative
When I graduated from business school in 2009, one thing became quite clear to me. A Resume isn't tangible evidence of skills. And almost nobody finds their dream job by submitting resumes to job boards.
Venture capitalist Chris Sacca said in a commencement speech, "your GPA only matters to people who have no other reason to find you interesting." The same is true of a resume.
This will have a significant effect on the future of work.
As projects replace jobs, career portfolios will replace resumes. Portfolios and bodies of work give people a reason to find you interesting, showcase tangible evidence of your skills, and see who you are beyond the bullet points on your resume. Your career portfolio doesn't need to be something you create for an audience. It just needs to showcase tangible evidence of your skills.
The combination of these trends will lead to the elimination of many jobs while simultaneously maximizing human productivity and output to higher levels than at any other time in history.
The potential implications
20 years ago, none of us could imagine a world in which we could
- Push a button and have a car show up to take us anywhere we want to go
- Stay at a stranger's home instead of a hotel almost anywhere in the world
- Write two sentences and have all the copy for a website in 30 seconds
What sounded like science fiction in the past becomes our new reality in the future. "Ideas about the future can be useful because they help us prepare for a challenge before it happens; or because they give us time to try to prevent a crisis; or because they open our minds and inspire us to make changes in our lives and communities today," said author Jane McGonigal in her book Imaginable: How to See The Future Coming.
If you want to prepare for the future, there are 4 things worth considering.
- Learn how you can leverage AI to complement your abilities
- Develop skills that make you marketable in a rapidly changing world
- Build a body of work and a career portfolio
- Try to create something with every new tool in your arsenal
We can't predict the future, but we can prepare for it by anticipating what it might look like.
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