10 Insights emanating from i4j 2016 conference

Brian Rashid summarises 10 insights that came from the i4j conference –

David Nordfors, Vint Cerf and Robin Starbuck Farmanfarmaian prepared and facilitated for 2 brilliant days of innovation – a collection of 100+ top thought-leaders, activists, entrepreneurs, policy makers, executives and more. 

This will be a rolling stone that will build and add massive values in ways that nobody thought possible…. And Australia is privileged to play a part! 

1. “Senior” Entrepreneurs are a booming economy. 

Thirty-four million 50-plus year olds in the U.S. alone want to create a business of their own. This creates the opportunities to build experience incubators in organizations such as Ernst & Young’s EMEIA (Europe, Middle East, India and Africa). Companies, such as Ernst & Young, have made it a top 2016 strategic priority to design and implement cross-generational incubators. These incubators bring together Millennials with seniors so each group can bring their expertise, learn from the other and create value in the new economy

2. Women represent the largest global economy. 

The numbers alone are astounding. By 2025, women will constitute $32.8 trillion of global spending. In 2015, women constituted $16 trillion in global spending. $9 trillion of untapped spending is capped due to gender inequality and disaggregate economic influence. The women based economy is twice that as China and India, combined. One billion women will enter the workforce in the next decade, and 2 million new small businesses will be owned by women in that time. Whether it’s a Women Based Economy (check out Tracy Saville and myswirl.com), HackforHer (Christina Chen) or Supercritical Human Elevated [SHE] Economy (Monique Morrow’s piece as a co-author of the book,  i4J Disrupting Unemployment), the vision is to create an Internet of Women, an inspired collaborative platform of job creators for our global economy – built for “her,” where participation transcends gender and aspires for authentic inclusion. Can we not imagine developing the Internet of Women platform to create a world in which gainful employment is divided 50:50 amongst men and women and where there is parity for all?  Can we imagine restoring the missing element, those women who are poverty stricken and marginalized globally to double productivity? We can if we dare.

3. Companies are looking for talent. Forty percent of U.S. Companies cannot find qualified workers. This creates a huge market for organizations (both for-profit, nonprofit, government and startups) to develop skills training. Imagine the possibilities for nonprofits to become profitable, for profits to expand, and government to fund activities that lead to the enhancement of the critical, yet missing skills sets that companies are desperate to employ.

4. Schools need to update their curriculums. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we had 5.4 million job openings and 7.9 million people who were unemployed (5%). So clearly there is a gap. The lecture model is the most frequently used model in 80% of the classrooms today worldwide. It was developed at the beginning of the 1900s to produce factory workers who follow directions well. Today we need students who can think and prepare for a world that is constantly changing. The one size fits all delivery is setting us up for a crisis (see no. 3 above as proof). Instead, we will move into an algorithmic approach to learning that is focused on you, the student.

5. Special needs no longer have to be a handicap. People who have difficulties getting jobs because of special conditions, might be helped by modern information technology to get good jobs. Think databases that correlate special conditions with special abilities. There is a company in Germany, for example, that hires blind people to conduct breast exams in an effort to detect breast cancer. The logic here is blind people have a heightened sense of touch and are more likely to rely on this skill to diagnose more accurately. Very important work.

6. Technology can turn nonprofits into for profit businesses. Most nonprofits rely on philanthropic dollars and grants to exist. If you take a peak at no. 3 above, you’ll see that companies are looking for talent they can’t find. So, why not partner with companies, or even better, banks to pay their customers to use the nonprofit’s services. I have written about this before, but here is the idea again. A bank wants new customers. They should offer their new customers a free 10-week skill set building training at a nonprofit like Samaschool. Samaschool, currently a nonprofit doing amazing data driven work to help prepare low income individuals find meaningful and sustainable work, could partner with a bank. Here is the win-win-win. The bank gets new customers who are going to invest with the bank for life. The more the customers can compete for good jobs, the more money they make. The more money they make, the more they invest, take out loans for home ownership, and so on. Customers win because they are now developing skills that help them do meaningful work and make a living. Nonprofits win because they don’t have to beg and plead for grants, can pay their staff higher wages, and expand in ways they want (which all happens when the banks purchase the courses for their new clients, as opposed to Samaschool relying on grants to offer courses).

7. The one page proposal. A few years ago Patrick Riley, author of the One-Page Proposal got a phone call from a homeless woman. She was calling from the public library because she could place free calls from the local branch. She showered there, too. One day, she came across the book, One-Page Proposal. She called the author of the book from the library and she asked if he could help her create her own one page proposal to the bank. She explained that she sleeps in the ATM alcove at night, and no one cleans it. She wanted the one page proposal to ask the bank to clean the alcove. Patrick helped her, they wrote a one page proposal, and sent it to the bank. The bank did not clean the alcove, but they did something even better. They hired her to clean it. Then they gave her a promotion. She currently runs the cleaning service for a number of banks in the area, and employees a few people. This woman in Memphis is representative of a huge rise of free agents (800 million worldwide, 55 million in the U.S.). The one page proposal allows people to create jobs for themselves based on their own skill sets. It opens the opportunity to create a new job around a new idea, in addition to existing jobs. Patrick also told us that companies use the one pager model as a challenge to potential employees. For example, if Xerox is facing a problem, they request a one page proposal about different solutions, and will hire from there. It also allows companies to eliminate the HR representatives and focus on the direct hiring manager to people relationship.


8. Upwork on the rise. Upwork, (O-desk and Elance joined forces and created Upwork) has done over $1 billion in sales from clients, over four million clients, 10 million freelancers and over 2,900 categories of work in the last few years. These are not just small projects. Some last several months and even years making it more than just a gig economy. If you have a computer and internet signal, you can hire or work using Upwork. A world of talent is one click away. This is both for doing things at a cheaper price, as well as finding new things one had not thought of doing previously.

9. Linkedin is innovating for its users. One of the co-founders of LinkedIn came to the i4j Summit. He shared that employers have a desperate need for healthcare, advanced manufacturing, and energy (specifically IT) talent. He also announced that on March 14, LinkedIn in partnership with the Markle Foundation, is releasing a program that enables employers to point students to some of the programs and jobs looking to fill these roles. Linkedin is always thinking through ways to guide job-seekers. This is one more example.

10. Making things could make you money, and solve key manufacturing problems. The maker movement is a popular one, and people are making a living creating cool things. But that’s only a small part of the potential for the democratization of technology in these circles. As traditional manufacturing jobs decline, and we run out of resources, contemporary maker technologies can support localized manufacturing. 3D printers allow me to draw out a prosthetic arm in the United States and print it in Africa. 3d printers allow me to design a prosthetic hand in South Africa, print it in the United States, and then collaborate remotely with Iceland by emailing design files back and forth. With nearly 3000 community workshops (Fab Labs, makerspaces, etc) and hundreds of Maker Faires worldwide, Makers hope to bring all hands on deck to solve local problems on a global scale. Cool.

I could make a list of 30 things I learned. AI and algorithms are making it easier for both job seekers and companies to find each other. That’s exciting, too, but is only the start. As we look even further into the future of work, what kind of ecosystems could we imagine where people create new jobs, ones that have never been considered before. 20 years ago, asking for money to build an app would have resulted in you being laughed out of the room. The average salary for this job today is over $100k.

Maybe that’s the test. When people laugh, we’re on the right track. I don’t know. But whether I am laughing about ideas or not, I do know one thing:

The future of work puts a smile on my face, and that feels like a good place to start.

Brian Rashid is a professional speaker on the leadership, innovation, and the future of work. Email him: connect@brianrashid.com.

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