Recently, I had the opportunity to speak at the 2018 WorldStrides Global Education Summit—about the intersection of business and higher education in a rapidly changing and technological era. This inspired me to create a three-part series as a follow-up, looking at:
1. the rapid pace of change we see in the world;
2. its impact on how we educate and prepare young people to be the types of professionals who can not only handle this environment of disruption and uncertainty, but thrive in it;
3. and how this all plays out in the business and tax world.
Everyone talks about the rapid pace of change these days, so I wanted to start with some real examples that show how prevalent this really is. At the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier this year, the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, said:
“I was last here in 2016, two months after being sworn in as Prime Minister. And while that might not seem like very long ago, in this new era of perpetual change that we’re living in, two years might as well be a lifetime. Think about it: the pace of change has never been this fast, yet it will never be this slow again. There’s enormous opportunity, and enormous potential, in that realization.”
That incredible pace of change is illustrated perfectly if we consider the Gartner Hype Cycle. Gartner offers this “as a graphical representation of the maturity and adoption of technologies and applications, and how they are potentially relevant to solving real business problems and exploiting new opportunities.”
Gartner has identified 5 stages on its Hype Cycle: a technology idea or product is launched by (i) a technology trigger; it becomes more visible as it reaches (ii) a peak of inflated expectations; following that the “hype” subsides and the technology falls into (iii) a “trough of disillusionment;” then, some technologies make progress along (iv) a “slope of enlightenment;” a few make it all the way through to (v) a plateau of productivity. It’s a bit like an old-fashioned wooden roller coaster ride: you start, get really excited going up the first big hill, you peak, you plummet headfirst downhill, and you come out the other side into a gentle slope to finish.
It’s easy to get a little disenchanted about it all, maybe even depressed. As Rana Foroohar wrote in January in the Financial Times, “the dirty secret of Davos is that the rise of ubiquitous automation, big data and AI is making people less, not more, secure, at least in the short term.”
But I will argue that the flipside of the challenge is a huge opportunity for people preparing to enter the workforce, those just starting out in their careers (and the rest of us too, though we will have less time to capitalize on it than the younger up-and-comers.) However, organizations and institutions of higher education need to get the recipe right to prepare people to seize these opportunities. I will talk more about that in my next article in this series. Certainly, I welcome your thoughts in the meantime.