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Future of work: Revolution in remote work and automation

11 November, 2020

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This podcast was originally aired on 11 November, 2020

Bill Jensen

Future of work: Revolution in remote work and automation

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As part of our Thought Leaders Voice podcast series we are thrilled to be in a conversation with Bill Jensen: on ‘Future of work: Revolution in remote work and AI” These are testing times for CMO’s & leaders as they steer their organizations through to calmer waters amidst the global healthcare & economic crisis.

Join the conversation to access actionable advice shared in an incredibly insightful way. As ‘Mr. Simplicity’, Bill makes it EASIER for organisations and their teams to do great work — doubling their productivity. As a global thought leader on the future of work, he makes it EASIER for businesses to leap into tomorrow.

His clientele includes the likes of American Express, Bank of America, BBC, Chevron, GE, Genentech, Gulfstream, IBM, Philips Lighting, SAP, Shell, US Navy SEALS, Walt Disney World, World Bank and more.

Bill has spent the past 30 years studying how work gets done. Over 1,000,000 interviewed and surveyed. He has his ears to the ground, listening to the hum of daily To Dos, and his eyes to the future, watching for what comes next. He’s an IBM Futurist, and has conducted high-impact ‘future of work’ research for multiple technology giants.

Key Takeaways

  • How simplicity can help us achieve better results, and how it creates and transfers value throughout our organization.
  • What is the impact of the revolution of automation and remote work on leaders, employees, customers, and companies — and what organizations can do now to stay in front of this revolution?
  • How will automation define the future of work with the rise of automation and intelligent technologies such as robots, AI, machine learning and others?
  • How will the change come in waves, waves that include currently unrealized technologies?
  • One of the questions you want people to ask themselves, if there is one question is, or statement is I am accountable for ‘... fill in the blank’. What should people be thinking of to get to their answer to that question of how to ‘fill in the blank’ I am accountable for? Is there any one particular answer for that?

Full Transcript of Podcast with Bill Jensen

Andrew Newby: Hello everyone. My name is Andrew Newby and I'm hosting a series of iResearch services podcasts over the coming weeks. These are intended to educate senior level marketers or thought leaders as to how to address some of the more challenging and exciting issues facing them currently. Our topic today is that of the future of work and the revolution in automation and remote working. With that, I have great pleasure in welcoming today's guest expert, bill Jensen, CEO of the Jensen group. Global speaker thought leader best-selling author futurist, and self-proclaimed simpleton. Bill has worked with organizations ranging from the BBC, Bank of America, Walt Disney, and the World Bank right through to of all organizations, The US Navy seals are impressive. Bill shows how simplicity can help achieve better results for organizations and how that simplicity principle, crates and transfers value throughout an organization. Bill's latest book "The Day Tomorrow Said, No", it's a leadership book that puts full center of the conversation about our future and the future of that specifically. Is a fable that is fact-based. It uses actual trends and data to drive both the storyline and readers, understanding about what we need to do today to adjust tomorrow that everyone can share in. Bill Jensen, Bill. Welcome, and thank you very much for sharing your insights with our listeners.

Bill Jensen: Andrew, thank you for having me. Thrilled to be with you.

Andrew Newby: Absolute pleasure. An absolute pleasure. Just to start off. Can you give our listeners your thoughts on what they should, the main takeaways from the day tomorrow said no? It seems to be already clearly to me in a call to justice.

Bill Jensen: Absolutely. I called for global justice for all of our people who work everywhere around the globe. I've been practicing in change and train change management and organizational transformation and leadership development for 35 years now. And one of my biggest frustrations is getting through to leaders about how we need to change that so many people are being left behind. They keep advocating for their "A" level players, but "B" or "C" level players who, you know, teammates who could be awesome if they got the right support, could write training. We're constantly being left an economics and how capitalism is driven that we're just leaving so many people behind so much so that leading economists now say we're heading to an economy that's going to be, there's no, middle-class, we're heading towards a future where there's no middle class. It's going to be the bottom 60% and the top 40%, at least the way we're currently heading, we need to change that. So, the fable was to give a wakeup call that we are leaving so many people behind. And what was fascinating to me today, just as I saw from the editor of fortune magazine, put a post that said the future of work, you know, it's for academics, it's for futurists, but CEOs didn't really have to worry about it. They just had to have their technology up to date. And he said, no, there's now with COVID-19, we're realizing how many people were left behind how many people could work from home at didn't have to work in offices. So, the central tenant of the book is to provide that wake-up call. And I wrote it in a fable set up so that everybody I've tested this down to grade school level, everybody from grade school to middle school, to high school, to university level to C suite people and middle managers can all use it as a tool to have different kinds of conversations about where we're going in the future.

Andrew Newby: Right. So, can you give an example or just some sense of how, you know, the opportunities or the rules rather for income sort of gain just opportunity and success are rigged against the majority of people in the workforce?

Bill Jensen: Well, I use COVID-19 as a current example we all had to go virtual. We all had to work from our homes. Who can work from our homes? You and me and marketers all the marketeers and we're knowledge workers. We can go virtual. What about the janitor? What about the lunch counter person? What about the sanitation worker? There are people anywhere, depending on your economy, anywhere between 40 to 60% of us that really had to go to a physical place of work or do something physical. We couldn't do it remotely. In the next room my girlfriend is virtual teaching right now, and yet she's teaching grade school kids and they squirm in their seats. They're ready to jump out and they're not ready for virtual teaching. They need to warm bodies to hug and bump into and rub up against and, you know, just power around with. So, the opportunities COVID-19 pointed out to us, how many of us are still struggling in this knowledge and service work economy? Many of us are doing great. Don't get me wrong. Many of the marketeers that are listening, many of those CIO, CMOs they're doing great, but we're all dependent on those lunch counter peoples, the sanitation people, the, you know, all the blue collar [inaudible 06:07] bus and they are really getting screwed over right now.

Andrew Newby: Right. You, mentioned you cited a study you're involved in whereby three and four workers see the future of work, pushing them to their call the outer limits beyond their capacity. What does that mean in practice? Why is that such a big challenge?

Bill Jensen: There are two data points I want to share with you that one and another one means three quarters of us are pushed to our outer limits. I've worked in HR that's, US speak, HR in UK speak you know, for 35 years. And we have gotten rid of all the layers of the administration. You know, everybody is delayered as much as we can. There's no, you know, management layers are taken away in one way that's efficiency. That's good but what we, what we've been pushing on to the limit is people more and more and more stuff just keeps coming at us and what happened, the internet and all our technology tools are absolutely amazing. They do amazing things for us. People can, a doctor can operate halfway around the world, virtually on a body that you know, does never even seen physically... is, we are in constant overload? The entire globe has 24 seven access to us. You know, emails, texts, you know, all the apps that we use, everybody can keep bombarding us. So, and we also suffer many of us from what's called FOMO, the fear of missing out. The thing that's why everybody is so overloaded. It's a problem with the work and the work load, and that we keep shoving more and more and more stuff at people, but it's also personal and individual.

The one thing I want, all of your listeners, viewers to remember is the number 1,440 and that is the number of minutes in every day. Nobody gets more than that. Nobody gets 1441, and yet we keep cramming hours and days and weeks’ worth of crap that comes at everybody. And we're all of us. The CMOs, especially are vying for people's attention. The most precious assets that every individual has is their time and their attention. So why everybody is so overloaded that 75% of their out there, they can't figure out nobody taught them. How do we ignore stuff? How to truly prioritize stuff? What's urgent and what has to be paid to and what can be let go of? And even our teammates send us emails. Lots of our texts and emails and chat spaces and meetings can be ignored, should be ignored, but we weren't taught how to organize all the stuff that out. How to, as Marshall McLuhan said, how to separate signal from noise? So that's a whole new learning set that we need to learn. What's really important? So, the overload, the 75% is just so much coming at us and very few of us have the skills to do that. But there's another data point I want to mention if I may, Andrew, that prompted the book that I wrote the data tomorrow said, no. I've asked thousands of people around the globe. Can you achieve your dreams where you currently work? Now, it came up with a percentage that said, yes. Let me ask you, Andrew, what would you guess globally? All different kinds of work, you know, frontline workers, middle managers, CEOs. What percentage out of a hundred people, what number do you think would say, yes, I can achieve my dreams where I work. What percentage?

Andrew Newby: 10%.

Bill Jensen: N%? What is?

Andrew Newby: 10.

Bill Jensen: What number? 10, 10, actually you are spot on. It was 9.8%, but think about...

Andrew Newby: I have been very pessimistic.

Bill Jensen: We're joking about pessimism but think about that. Only one in 10 of us in every workplace believes that we can achieve our dreams, where we currently work.

Andrew Newby: It's shocking.

Bill Jensen: It's shocking and we have to change that part it's not just the economic thing. It's I have a dream. Can I achieve my dream? Part of it is economic. Part of it is social economic. Part of is a racial. Part of it is immigrants. Part of it is technology. It's a mix of a whole bunch of stuff but what it comes down to, and this is why I wrote the book "the day tomorrow said, no", the title came from the fact that I created three characters today, the current time tomorrow, the future, and the other character is little one or the future workforce. And the title comes from the fact of an insight, what's called in storytelling and inciting moment where tomorrow refuse to take the handoff from today. No, no, I'm not taking the hand off. I'm not going to let you go into the future because you're letting 8 billion people fail because only 10% of them can achieve their dreams. So, it was the loss of dreams that prompted this story. So, it goes from there and it talks about how we can fix things.

Andrew Newby: So, you write about the three B's. Are you a believer? Are you a breaker or are you a builder? Can you elaborate what you mean by those terms because they seem the same?

Bill Jensen: Sure. Builder is the most obvious. That's what we're all doing. We're all supposed to execute. Do, do, do, do, give me a checklist, go get it done. Those are builders that's most of us.

Andrew Newby: [Cross-Talking12:14] today.

Bill Jensen: Yes. The breakers are the innovators. They're the Steve Jobs. They are who was, you know, the Paramount for all of us, the marketing God, he was not a technologist but he saw he had a vision and he pulled together different tools. You know, everybody from Elon Musk to Steve Jobs, to whoever is out there creating things that will completely change and revolutionize how we work, how we play you know, how we get things done. So, the breakers are the innovators. We need a lot more of those. Most of us, most organizations say we're going to innovate. We're going to win by innovating. But really what they mean is innovate within the box that we give you that is predictable profitability. We're not really going to break the rules. We're not really going to innovate. So, we need a lot more breakers. And the believers, I want you to think any of you, no matter what country you're in, look around you and look at how many protests are going on around you with COVID-19 and what's going on around society. The believers are not just the ones who say, I believe in my team, ra-ra team. I believe, you know, if we're the blue and the yellow team, what kind of be blue and yellow. I bleed blue and yellow, whatever it is. Yes, those are the believers, the teammates that passionately believe in the team goal, the organization's goal. Then they put their self behind it. Those are believers, but also the believers are the ones in the streets right now, protesting because things are not fair for all people.

So, we need to create more space for the democratization of everybody's voice within organizations. Most organizations say, yeah, yeah, you can give us feedback, but you know, we're not going to really do anything with it. We need to be able to have our believers who believe, I believe in this company, I believe in this product but you need to do something a little differently so I can be my best or my teammates can be their best. We usually don't listen to those voices. So, the believers are the ones we need to listen to most passionately right now. And the breakers are the ones who will be the innovators. And what I did with the book is I, my intro, you called me a simpleton that comes from my first book, "Simplicity". What I've been known for over three decades is simplifying complex things down to very easy, to understand, easy to do chunks. So, what I've done in this book is taken all work across the globe. It doesn't matter what your title is. You can be a health care worker. You can be a marketeer; you can be a construction worker. It doesn't matter, all work visually, or some combination of a believer breaker or builder. That's all work across the globe fits in those three categories and that's where that comes from,

Andrew Newby: Right? So, you write elsewhere about the ideology of comfort and other tyranny of custom. So, do we need, iconoclasts the people say, we can do this and you say this can't be done, but I can say this can be done. People perceive things slightly differently from other people. Your Steve jobs example, or are we just talking anyone can be a believer or a breaker or a builder?

Bill Jensen: We do need both. We need everybody to be more for everyone to feel safe, to innovate. When I've done cultural change efforts and I've gone deep in organizations, and I've lived with them for three months, six months, two years, several years. What I've found is every individual has in them a spark of innovation and creativity. It's been squashed out of them. You know, look at any two-year-old, you know, every two-year-old. And I ask why, why, why do we do this? And knows how to break the rules and knows how to do things differently and create, you know, every five-year-old knows how to do that. But as we get to 10, 20, 30 years old, it all gets squashed out of us. So, every individual, we do need everybody feeling the comfort and the safety to be able to take risks and they don't have to be huge risks. You know, I have lots of people that say, I can't not go to that meeting because my boss will ding me if I don't go to the meeting, even though it's a waste of time. So risk-taking can just be not going to a meeting and preserving more of your 1440. So, the answer to your question is both. We need everybody to feel more comfortable taking risks and innovating but we also do need a core class of the iconoclasts. And what COVID-19 has taught us is unfortunately, most of our iconoclasts that are rule breakers are white male technologists. We need more diversity, global diversity, gender, race, age all different kinds of diversity in there. So, the iconoclasts need to be, if we could, if I could ask for one change in the next decade, it would be that our iconoclasts are far, far, far more diverse than we are right now.

Andrew Newby: Right? One of the questions you want people to ask themselves, if there is one question is, or statement is I am accountable for fill in the blank. What should people be thinking of to get to their answer to that question of how to fill in the blank I am accountable for? Is there any one particular answer we're just...

Bill Jensen: There is.

Andrew Newby: ... I think people should be thinking about it.

Bill Jensen: There is, but let me go one step before your question. All religions have and it doesn't matter what you believe or don't believe the all religions have a variation of the golden rule, treat other people the way I would like to be treated, be kind to others. Love, love is a universal thing and that goes to a time marketeer are very guilty of this. We try to use other people's, the only way we get our work done is we use a portion of someone else's life to get our work done. So be kind, respectful of other people. Well, what I'm accountable for the question in the book is what am I doing to make the world a better place? What am I doing to make my neighbor feel safer? What am I doing to help my teammates piece better? So, the accountable goes beyond personal accountability. It's what am I accountable for? That's bigger than me. That's greater than me. That benefits more people than me or my kind. So, in the book, that's the conclusion, it asks all of us to ask I'm accountable for what? Once you realize that we're leaving too many people behind what is, so that's the action that comes out of this book. So, okay. So, what are you going to do? What are you going to do about it? And that is the answer for each individual reader of this book. I can only pose the question. It's not my right or my place to impose what the answer is, but it is my job to provoke, to be the iconoclasts that says, no, we have to start taking whether it's global warming, whether it's healthcare, you know, any issue on any front that all of us experience, somebody else needs your help. Who is it besides, you know, the product or service or company that you serve?

Andrew Newby: And this ties in with the bigger picture of the rise of automation, intelligent technologies, AI, machine learning, and so on all becomes part of that debate about what we do to minimize the lot of those left behind but to your...

Bill Jensen: Question on automation. May I jump in here? Because we had a pre-conference to plan this. I wanted to mention one thing, you know, there was an example from a couple years ago. The oldest running AI system that we know of commercially was originally called Saber. It was developed by American airlines and it's now universally used around the globe, but it's artificial intelligence, running airline reservations. So that determines your seat is cheaper than mine or your seat is more expensive than mine. Even though we bought them two seconds apart. A couple of years ago, United airlines had an instance where they were, they had too many people on the plane and nobody would volunteer to get off. So, the computer AI picked, somebody said, you that seat there, you're going to get out what happened to be a doctor and he had to be a certain place. So, I said, no, I'm not getting out. So, they called security. You know, the flight attendants couldn't deal with him. Security couldn't deal with them. They couldn't get them off. They had security, airport security ended up dragging him down the aisle, banging his head against the seats, got all bloodied. It was on all sorts of social media United Airlines stock tanked for a bit. And why did this happen? Because a computer is now the boss, the computer said you, the AI system said that guy must go no flight attendant or no pilot stepped in and said, Hey, what if we offered you a thousand bucks? How about 10,000? How about a hundred thousand with somebody volunteer to get off? The humanity, what we need to be careful of is our systems are being programmed because it's much more efficient to take people out of the equation. Our systems are being programmed more and more by artificial intelligence to make us do things more and more of the viewers that you have, their bosses are not going to be humans. They're going to be machines, AI telling us what to do. So, we need to be careful to inject humanity into all of these systems.

Andrew Newby: Yeah. I mean the, the airline in question could have simply just bribed, just wave $10,000 in front of everyone on the plane.

Bill Jensen: Somebody would've gotten off, but no, we had to have the computer telling us what to do.

Andrew Newby: Right. So, you, I mean, this comes down to something else that you sort of deal with in your work about a facet of something else. You're taking marketing principles inside a company and learning to communicate properly, which is the biggest problem for many companies.

Bill Jensen: A lot of marketing principles. If I may again use my simpleton hat super simplifying what we do. We learn how to leverage and utilize people's time and attention to make a profit, to get a product sold, to get a service sold, to get an event to happen. We are masters at using people's time and attention. That is a powerful, powerful tool but like all tools it's two-sided are we going to use it for good or are we going to use it for evil? So yes, we're able to capture people's attention better than the average person. What I do is I bring that inside. And when I teach that inside companies, it's like, okay, here's marketing one-O-one. How to write an email, how to write a text, how to run a meeting so that you capture people's attention instantly instead of just going by an itemized checklist, know how to capture people's attention in a meeting or a text or an email, but there's the other side of that don't waste their time stop CC-ing everybody because the, you know, the universal use of CC. Tell me if you know, the acronym? It's really CYA. What is CYA? Really the real reason we're seeing other people is so there's a record somewhere that we did something, but they didn't really need their time wasted, which is doing that because it's political. So, what I teach people inside of organizations, yes, I teach them some marketing one-O-one principles about how to leverage and use and capitalize people's time and attention that's important. But also, with that, as Spider-Man or as uncle Ben said to Spiderman, you know, "with great power comes great responsibility". The marketeers that are out there have this amazing tool to capture and leverage people's time and attention with that amazing power comes great responsibility. Are we, if people's time and attention are their most precious asset, are we making sure we're using people's time properly and where that comes from me why I'm so passionate about this? Why I get pissed if we're not doing it? Why get happy if we are? It all comes down, I'll be super quick about this, but it's a personal story for me. It's the death of my mom.

And what happened is they, the night she was dying, they lost her in the hospital for 40 minutes. They sent her in one direction and us as the family and another and 40 minutes, nobody knew nobody was with her. She was dying alone and thankfully we did get together before she passed. But I realized not at that moment, but probably a year later after the grieving process, it's settled down, dammit, that hospital stole 40 of the last minutes that I would ever get with my mom. So, I am a passionate, tenacious advocate for being more and more respectful of people's time and attention. Yes, use that knowledge that we have to capture their time and attention but make sure that we use it wisely. Make sure we're also serving a greater good. Incoming back to the question you asked me, I will ask all of your viewers and listeners. What are you accountable for when it comes to the greater good of how we use people's time and attention beyond selling a product or service? What are you accountable for? That's the question I'd like to leave with all of your viewers.

Andrew Newby: Yeah. Thank you. It's a great question. So, I guess the learning to communicate properly is you're getting in other people's shoes of emphasizing and just simply looking from the point of view of the person receiving the message, as sort of cultural creed occur sort of call to action that you're talking about.

Bill Jensen: Everything I've been doing that I've dedicated my life's work to is, would come down to one word and that's empathy. Being able to put ourselves in the other person's shoes and marketeers do that. There's a new term. You know, in the last few years, it's become in Vogue, it's called design thinking. And the essence of design thinking is empathy. It's being able to understand the other person, how they use your product or service fully. But again, let's go beyond what we're selling when we profit from. How do we truly have empathy for that working single mom? I'll give you an example of, I was a keynote at one of the world's largest enterprise software companies. They run, this is like the master software that runs everything in the company and I'll keep it anonymous so I don't get in trouble. But the CFO was there talking about, look at this, isn't this cool, you know, we can't tell right now, if we have too many people on vacation, look at this with the turn of this button, you can make sure people are not on vacation when you need them not to be and that horrified me, that felt like big brother. So, I threw away half of my slides and I said, wait a second, let me tell you about something about one of your employees. One of your employees is probably a single mom. Who's probably has three kids, probably for three years she's been planning this trip to Disney world. This has been, she's been slogging away in the middle of your organization and she's been planning this trip to Disney world for three years and suddenly you turn that knob and Disney world goes away. How do you think she feels about your organization, your software? What does that make her feel? So, empathy is more than just, well, our stakeholder says they need this so we can design it a certain way. It really means how are we leveraging everything we do uses a portion of someone else's life. Am I truly being accountable for how I use that portion of someone else's life by truly being respectful? Am I truly being empathetic?

Andrew Newby: It's not just down to allowing remote working or flexible working though those are realities for many people. So, you're re-advocating it's just a change of the way we think and relate to our fellow humans.

Bill Jensen: Exactly. It's the transactional steps of remote learning, et cetera, are baby steps. The real big steps are trust. You know, remote learning is, you know, instead of watching you at your desk at CC-ing everybody, it's about trust. It's about empathy. It's about its emotional connections, it's EQ you know, emotional intelligence, a lot more has to be built in and not just that you understand, but that empathy for that person. Even when we did remote learning before COVID-19 and we were doing it globally, you know, somebody on the other side of the world would have to wake up at 3:00 AM. You know, I often have meetings with somebody in India, I'm in the US you know, it's, they are 3:00 AM. So sorry for keeping you up. No, no I'm used to it. But we need to be much more empathetic in putting ourselves in the other person's shoes when we are remote learning. So, it's not just, did we get the work done? It's can that person achieve their dreams the way we currently work? Can they have a life? Are they truly not just empowered within your organization, within your way of making a profit? Are they empowered to run their life the way they need to run it with the way you've set up your work? So, it goes way beyond just remote learning and remote working.

Andrew Newby: And if you were doing a sort of lift pitch, I'm not asking you for like 20 seconds. But so, what would, you know, if you talked to the hard nose CEO about, okay, well, everyone's happy and nice, fulfill, but so what does that mean for my bottom line? What is the sort of, what be the concrete results that such an organization that breaks down barriers in the way you described? What does that do to bottom line and the agility or whatever of the company, the way it interacts with clients?

Bill Jensen: Give you two answers. The one you asked is agility and innovation and creativity. These things allow you to bring the whole person to work so you don't need this stuff. If all you're worried about is efficiency. But if you're worried about innovation, creativity change, you are allowing the whole person to be there. So, the lift pitch is always about innovation or ability to personal agility, not just ability but how I create that lift pitch is I created, I don't have to say a damn thing. What I do is when I'm in change consulting, one of my best consulting assignments that I ever do that has the most success is I asked the senior team to do a frontline worker job for a day. So, if you're a chief marketing officer, go do the programmer's job for a day, go do the delivery person's job for the day. So, I once did this with a global retailer that I can't say and I took the CFO, the chief financial officer, the guy that's in charge of all the money. And I asked him to be cashier for today. He didn't last a full day, less than a half a day. And he said, oh my God, I can't believe how hard it is to make money in this company. And yet he's in charge of the money. He had no empathy for what it was like to stand at a cash register where all the Excel spreadsheets eventually added up to him. All he saw was Excel spreadsheets. So again, the best lift pitch, it's not a pitch. It's asking the senior team to have true empathy and do the toughest job in their organization for a day. Suddenly they become all aware and they create their own lift pitch. I don't need to say a thing.

Andrew Newby: Brilliant. Bill, thank you so much for your time and insights. It's been absolutely fascinating talking to you.

Bill Jensen: I'd love to thank you, Andrew.

Andrew Newby: Thank you.

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