By Curt Carlson
Last night i4j and SVForum had an interactive discussion on, “Innovation for Jobs: Disrupting Unemployment“(click the link to see the program) It was fascinating. Robin Farmanfarmaian, David Nordfors, and John Hagel gave opening comments to set the stage. John made excellent comments about how our mindset and institutions must innovate as well as our technology. Robin, as always, was the most charming and articulate host. David’s comments were about the huge amount of underutilized human potential and how new companies are needed to utilize it.
gave a rapid-fire list of transformational innovations that will be increasingly disruptive. They will come at a rate that will be disconcerting to society. Society will not effectively adapt fast enough.
The poster child for these disruptions is driverless cars, which can eliminate between 6-10 million middle class jobs. Uber, for example, is creating a large number independent contractors out of the established taxi business, but obviously their goal is to run a fleet of driverless cars. These cares will be smaller, cheaper, cleaner, and run non-stop (in-between quick battery charges). The taxi driver jobs will go away but the value to society will go up enormously.
Curiously, as this evolves, car industry revenue per capita may go down for the same reason — smaller cars shared across society. That has been one of the themes of this group: societal value is going up enormously but the value of many companies will go down. GDP, for example, doesn’t capture this value.
Vivek keep up this theme to remind us of the magnitude of what we are facing. That is critically important. Some in the audience found this highly disturbing, as they should. Chris Brown was more positive about our ability to adapt and argued that these changes will take longer than suggested. But everyone agreed they are happening.
I focused on my normal themes: we must do much better at innovation, US global competitiveness must improve, we should be attracting the best talent from around the world, and poor educational performance is our biggest weakness. All of these areas are under our control and we now have examples about how major advances can be made. Viveck pointed out that I was just making things worse by speeding up the innovation cycle! That is partially true. The goal is to add to the world’s prosperity and create more meaningful jobs.
David then ran a session with the audience to see how many were engaged in companies to help people develop new skills, form new initiatives by gathering kindred spirits, and match people with new opportunities. It was a revelation that there were so many teams involved in these kinds of activities.
Many thanks to the team that put this together.
Curtis R. Carlson, Ph.D.
Founder and CEO, Practice of Innovation
Former President and CEO of SRI International, 1998-2014