Larger trends impacting business growth (for good and bad)


In my most recent two posts, I discussed results of the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) 2018 Future of Jobs report. Well, guess what? I am not done!

That’s because the WEF report is massive, and I can’t do it justice in one or two posts. While I’ve already covered 1) how the report predicts artificial intelligence (AI) will result in a net growth of jobs by 2022, and 2) how workers can stay relevant in the future economy, this post focuses on the larger trends that WEF predicts AI will have — positively and negatively — on businesses through 2022.

Here are the top 10, for good and bad:

Future of Jobs Survey Trends

Future of Jobs Survey Trends

As you can see, WEF sees most of the positive drivers of business growth in the next few years coming from continued advancements in emerging technologies, particularly artificial intelligence (AI), big data, the mobile internet, and cloud.

However, I’d say the WEF makes some shaky assumptions about national economic growth, education trends, and expansion of the middle classes, none of which are as linear as technological progress. We can only hope for the best.

On the negative side, WEF sees a number of business growth inhibitors, including two that are technology-specific: an increase in cyber threats (a virtual certainty), and advances in AI.

How can “advances in AI” end up on both the positive and negative lists? The report doesn’t directly address why AI could have a negative impact on business growth, but I’d say the WEF is alluding to how AI, as a disruptive force, will cause some businesses and industries to shrink or even vanish, along with jobs. Sure, AI and other technologies may create 133 million jobs by 2022, but 75 million jobs may be lost. There are human, social, and economic costs to that.

“Some workers are experiencing rapidly expanding opportunities in a variety of new and emerging job roles, while others are experiencing a rapidly declining outlook in a range of job roles traditionally considered ‘safe bets’ and gateways to a lifetime career,” the WEF report says.

Technology is increasingly accelerating the pace of change across businesses, industries, economies, and nations, to the point where it is beginning to overwhelm our capacity to adapt. Managing this change in a way that benefits not just businesses, but people and our larger societies around the world will be a formidable challenge. But failure to meet this challenge could result in economic and social turmoil.

“Opportunities for new and emerging technologies to drive inclusive economic and business growth over the 2018–2022 period are manifold, yet concrete and viable mechanisms for preparing the global labour market—thereby enabling employers to better leverage these opportunities across industries and regions—remain elusive,” WEF writes. “A mindset of agile learning on the part of both company leaders and workers will be needed, starting with an ability to reimagine the routines and limits of today’s jobs as part of a comprehensive workforce strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

It’s a tall order. But if we can collectively pull it off — that is, escaping the “routines and limits of today’s jobs” — imagine how much more value we can get out of a re-energized, refocused workforce.

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