Survival of the Flexible

We’re all familiar with the phrase ‘survival of the fittest’ which is liberally applied to many areas of life when discussing competition. As we look to the future, it’s likely to be a case of survival of the flexible, especially in the workplace.

We’re not talking yoga classes here, it’s about adaptability to the rapid pace of change.

Until very recently, we’ve had a reasonably steady order of things. One goes to school, studies hard and gets good grades. Subjects are chosen to support the likely career choices of the students or lean towards areas they excel and enjoy learning.

For the most part, it’s been working admirably and it if it isn’t broken, why fix it?

Change is upon us, not least of all in the form of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Automation itself is nothing new, with robots a common sight in factories for many years. However, automation is moving into our daily lives at a rapid pace and often in a stealthy manner.

If you go to an airport these days, you’re likely to be pointed towards automated check-in and baggage weighing and tagging kiosk. This reduces the number of ground staff required to process passengers.

In our supermarkets (and many small convenience stores), self-service kiosks have been available for years, reducing the need to cashiers. We also have the option to scan our products as they go into the trolley to speed up the checking out and packing process.

What’s been interesting to note is that in many areas, staff are simply redeployed rather than cut. However, it may not always be that way. The use of AI is also not restricted to blue collar jobs. It’s something that is alive and well in the finance and legal sectors and we’re about to see a rise of the machines in healthcare.

The future is as exciting as it is unknown. There are jobs today that didn’t exist even a few years ago, and it’s likely this will continue, as recognised roles pass from humans to AI and automation.

As we look forward then, it’s likely that the job for life theory is long dead.

Why the need for flexibility and adaptability? What we’ve seen so far is that there are many job roles that are easy to automate. An article by The London Business School described a ‘hollowing out of the middle’. You can see that article here.

It describes how jobs are automated, with the displaced workers not having the skills to move up in complexity of role. Their only option is to settle for lower jobs where they are clearly overqualified, earning less and probably none too happy about it.

So, what can one do in these fast-changing times?

I believe the short answer is to continue to work to be the best you can be. To gain the benefits of education and to be as best-placed as possible for all eventualities.

Forewarned is forearmed and this has never been more appropriate for our children. My job, not only as a tutor, but as a parent of three children, is to prepare them for a variety of potential careers and outcomes.

It’s often said that where there is change there is opportunity. The future will continue to be very bright for those prepared to adapt quickly to the change around them.

I believe that in the very near future, survival of the flexible will prove to be true.