Is Your Business Prepared for the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’

If you’ve watched any of the Democratic presidential debates, you might have heard candidate and entrepreneur Andrew Yang – you know, the guy with the $1,000 per month guaranteed income plan – talk about something called the “Fourth Industrial Revolution.”   This is a recognition that technology is imploding and changing everything about our lives.

4th-Industrial-Revolution-300x225In describing the ways social media and technology have redefined communication, in 2009 journalist Graeme Wood said that  “Change has never happened this fast before, and it will never be this slow again.”  

Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum, coined the phrase “fourth industrial revolution” in his 2016 best seller.  This is techie-speak for disruptive technologies and trends like robotics, artificial intelligence, virtual reality and the Internet of Things – i.e. everyday devices like doorbells and thermostats that you can control remotely – that are changing how we live and work.  This Fourth Industrial Revolution is bringing together digital, physical and biological systems.  It will open up our minds to all kinds of new things:  Mobile supercomputing; Artificially-intelligent robots; Self-driving cars; Neuro-technological brain enhancements; Genetic editing.  We can see the evidence of these revolutionary changes all around us – and it’s happening faster and faster.

But change is scary – it makes us uncomfortable.  This merging of techs – digital, physical and biological – won’t change what we are doing … buy it will change us according to Klaus Schwab.  But we resist changes to our approaches to our way of life.  Just think how difficult it was to start using email to communicate and to give up our fax machines.  Yet we adapted, and we have moved onwards.  And that adaptation is what leaders must face in order to keep their businesses moving forward and to survie.

The advent of these disruptive technologies and their effects on the business world require a new form of leadership that puts aside the old school carrot and stick, fear and control approach, in favor of finding a moral compass, ethical choices and responsibilities, and other values from the old school, like trust and respect.

To survive and thrive as we enter the Fourth Industrial Revolution, effective leaders need to see their organizations as dynamic entities, increase their self-awareness and reduce blind spots, and better understand their teams and how to motivate them, drawing upon research in areas like social neuroscience and its relationship with employee engagement.

Leaders need to consider the right mix of people-related qualities like culture, relationships and individuals themselves, as well as process-related qualities such as strategy, systems and resources, and the interplay among all these factors—both how they work now, and how they could work better.

If a company has a strong culture and work ethic but a high level of burnout, for example, managers need to analyze how to find the optimal balance, and then methodically plot the steps to get there.

To transform a company to a more high-performing mindset and more successful end result, leaders need to realize that the central issue of employee engagement must take center stage – and not be sloughed off as the “soft stuff” or something to be dealt with if there’s time.

Instead of a lifeless, reluctant or controlled mindset among employees, companies can build one that’s enthusiastic, or even limitless.  Instead of an apathetic, stagnant or merely orderly culture, based on fear, blame and hierarchy, organizations are better off with teamwork, collaboration and inspiration.   In this way, employees and their leaders move from being isolated, disengaged, overwhelmed or micromanaged, to a strong sense of purpose and passion for their work.  To survive and thrive in an age of rapidly changing technology, the course of which no one can safely predict, this long overdue shift in management and leadership needs to come online.  But we cannot ever lose track that we are still dealing with people and that it is people who are important.  Tech cannot replace people and how we think, dream and react to our environment.

It will be worth well more than $1,000 per month.