Brace yourself for “explosion of creative destruction”, says Friedman to business events professionals

EXPECT an explosion of creative destruction AC (After Covid), said Tom Friedman, author and New York Times columnist at the opening of PCMA Convening Leaders 2021 today.

Calling it
“incredibly exciting and destabilising”, he said this would happen because
“never have more people had available to them cheap tools of innovation”. More
people too have access to high-powered computing through the cloud “for
pennies” and “money is almost free”.

“So, oh my
goodness, we are going to see an explosion of innovation that will be creative
destruction on steroids. There will be so many new things and the old is going
to go out faster than ever.”

Well, the events industry of which PCMA (Professional Convention Management Association) is champion has certainly seen its fair share of creative destruction in 2020, and its Convening Leaders 2021 is an example of how it’s adapted to a changed world where physical events have become as rare as the white rhinoceros.

Singapore is headlined as the Global Broadcast Centre, with a physical Main Stage happening at Marina Bay Sands, alongside a virtual programme spread out over four days, and delegates can tune in anytime from anywhere – an omni-channel experience.

Expect an explosion of creative destruction AC (After Covid), said Tom Friedman.

Friedman was speaking from his home, against a virtual backdrop of snowy mountains and lake, to an audience of about 300 delegates who were gathered at the Marina Bay Sands and a few thousand on live stream.

What would have been a four-day trip to speak at an event in Singapore has become a 45-minute gig for Friedman – he confesses he likes that plus it gives him more reach but says he does miss being there as well because as a journalist, “if you don’t go, you don’t know.”

Life span of skills will shrink

Touching on
“new things” in the workplace, he said the life span of skills will shrink.
“The usefulness of what you know today will become obsolete faster due to how
fast the pace of change is accelerating.”

When he
wrote “The World Is Flat” in 2005, he said, Facebook didn’t exist, Twitter was
a sound, 4G was a parking place, Big Data was a rap star and Skype was a
typographical error.

The steam
engine, which first appeared in 1700, was the dominant tech for 100 years which
meant three generations worked with the same main tech. Then came combustion
tech and 2.5 generations worked with that same tool. Today, there can be up to
40 generations of tools in one generation of workers.

Referring
to himself, he began his career in 1979 on the typewriter and since then he’s
worked with countless different tools.

As change accelerates, the half life of skills gets shorter and what that is doing is blowing apart a system of education to work that developed with the industrial revolution. You went to school, you went to work 9-5, job and work were considered the same thing. These binaries have been blown apart by digitization and pace of change.

From in-case learning to in-time learning; be problem finders

Education
has evolved from in-case learning (universities and schools) to in-time
learning available at organisations such as IBM and Infosys, which is building
a 100-acre campus in Indianapolis.

He sees a
future where there will be a coalition between academic institutions and places
of in-time learning, citing a partnership between Northeastern University and
IBM. “They are interested in skills, not degrees. Infosys is hiring people who
are problem finders, not problem solvers.”

In the old industrial model, governments educated, private sector employed. Now businesses have to be employers and educators at the same time. No longer is it learn, work, retire; now it’s learn, work, learn, work, learn, work …

“Companies
are becoming platforms with some jobs in offices done by employees, other jobs
by employees and other work, projects, farmed out to gig workers.

“In a platform some of us have jobs, all of us have work. We need to make sure we have portable health care, pensions and lifelong learning systems to support that kind of workplace.”

Managing this creative deconstruction will throw up political, social and economic challenges. One key challenge the world is facing with Covid-19 is having leaders who don’t understand natural systems, he noted, when asked the question of how leaders should respond to Covid-19.

Citing President Trump, he said, “Trump understands markets but you can’t manage a virus through a market lens” and unfortunately, he said there are very few leaders who are imbued with a natural lens.

In fact,
Friedman opened his speech with a tribute to nature with a church song. Singing
“he’s got the whole world in his hands”, he said, right now “nature’s got the
world in her hands” and “she rewards the most adaptive”.

She will ask three questions, he said. Are you humble? Are you coordinated in your response? Have you built your adaptation strategy around chemistry, biology or physics? “If you have built your strategy around politics, ideology and electoral votes, she will hurt you,” he said.

Featured image: Main stage at Marina Bay Sands’ Global Broadcast Centre – venue of PCMA Convening Leaders 2021

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