Future of Work: Great Jobs As A Service. The Worker is the Customer

David Nordfors is CEO of the IIIJ Foundation, and co-founder and co-chair of the Innovation 4 Jobs Summit.  Producer: Martin Wasserman

David explains the provocative idea behind the i4j Summit 2017.

From the worker’s point of view, a job is a service for earning a living.  Every worker wants a good service, but it is difficult to find. People will bribe and pull strings to get a job that is not great, because there is a shortage of them. Not much different from buying an automobile in the Soviet Union. Nowadays, Russians can buy any car they want, provided they earn enough to buy one. People need to earn in order to spend, that’s the problem.

If we think about a job as a service, then the earner/worker is the customer and the employer is the service provider. A good provider offers earners better work than they can arrange themselves, with better income, benefits, stability, interesting things to do together with good people, whereof some become friends

Seen as a service market, how is the labor market performing today? Not good, the customers are not happy. The good news is: the world’s largest service market is ready to be disrupted by innovative new models for better satisfying the customers needs and wants. How large is the market opportunity for this? Huge! Here is an estimate:

5B people are of working age. 3B are working. Most of them want a job that earns them a living. 1.3B have one. Only 13% are engaged. Almost nobody has a job that fits them. Humanity creates a $100T world economy, running at a fraction of its capacity. If everybody had a job that fitted them, everyone would be much happier and humanity would be creating many times more value than today.

Increasing smartphone penetration and new infrastructures like cloud computing and big data analytics can make tailored jobs for every person on earth a reality. We are at the beginning of a revolution in strengths finding, education, matchmaking, HR and the creation of opportunities in a long-tail labor market.

Imagine the 3B working people getting jobs they love, capitalizing on their unique skills, talents and passions, being matched in teams with people they enjoy working with, doing meaningful work. How much more value would they create than the unhappy mismatched workforce we have today? A doubling of value creation is for sure far below the real number, but already that adds $100T value to the world. If the job providers would charge 20% commission on the incomes people earned through their services, this would be $40T in revenues. Innovation for good jobs as a service is a narrative that opens the door to truly mind-boggling growth markets, where companies will compete to leverage the value of people. The low-hanging fruit: the most undervalued people.

At the i4j Summit, entrepreneurs, funders, educators, policymakers and other leaders from the innovation-for-jobs ecosystem will be talking shop around the business of disrupting unemployment.


David Nordfors

David Nordfors is CEO and co-founder of IIIJ and the chair of the i4j Summit. He was previously co-founder and Executive Director of the Center for Innovation and Communication at Stanford University. He was one of the World Economic Forum Innovation 100 in 2009, and has served on WEF Global Agenda Councils. He serves on advisory boards of the Poynter Institute, Discern Investment Analytics and Black & Veatch. He is an adjunct professor at IDC Herzliya in Israel, a visiting professor at Tallinn University, the Tecnologico de Monterrey, and the Deutsche Welle Akademie. He was advisor to the Director General at VINNOVA, the Swedish Agency for Innovation Systems, where he co-initiated the national Swedish Incubator System and set up a bi-national R&D fund between Sweden and Israel for mobile applications. He was Director of Research Funding of the Knowledge Foundation, KK-stiftelsen, administering an endowment of $300MUSD, building a funding framework underwriting over a hundred innovation initiatives between universities and industry. He initiated and headed the first hearing about the Internet to be held by the Swedish Parliament. He has a Ph.D. in physics from the Uppsala University and did his postdoc in Theoretical Chemistry in Heidelberg, Germany.