For the most part, executives are adept at sensing impending change and responding accordingly. That is why it’s so surprising that many Australian organisations are not adequately prepared for the arrival of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Executives must pick up the slack – otherwise, their organisations will flounder in what many of us assume will be a time of great prosperity and opportunity.
“The Fourth Industrial Revolution.”
What does that expression make you think of? For me, I imagine complete transformation. An utter reworking of everything we accept as normal when it comes to business. I imagine efficiency, effectiveness and growth.
I truly love the phrase. It encapsulates the momentous change that looms on our horizon. It makes me feel excited and optimistic about what lies ahead. We don’t know exactly what this revolution will look like, but we know it will be huge.
When we use terms like ‘automation’, ‘data’ and ‘intelligence’ in the context of the future of work, it’s easy to forget just how significant these changes will be. You don’t get that with ‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution’. It paints a picture that leaves us under no illusions that the future breaks off sharply from the present.
It isn’t an overstatement to call it a ‘revolution’ either. Just look at how our real-time access to data and intelligence will change. Through use of emerging physical and digital technologies like analytics, additive manufacturing, robotics, high performance computing and augmented reality, organisations will have a continuous flow of information at their fingertips. Physical data will be collated in a digital record, analysed, translated into effective data and used to spur organizational change and decision-making. Right now, this process is manual and linear. The accuracy and efficiency of the automated, digital process will revolutionize how Australians do business.
One would assume that executives are brimming with excitement, positioning themselves and their organisations so that they can best capitalize on these changes once they come to fruition.
Deloitte’s most recent survey into Industrial Revolution 4.0 readiness is, therefore, quite a dampener. In the 2018 report, 86% of leaders said that their organisations were doing enough to create a workforce ready to be of use during the Fourth Industrial Revolution. In 2019, this number dropped to 47%. There also seems to be a disjunct between leaders and employees when it comes to what skills should be developed and who is responsible for developing them. Most frighteningly, Deloitte’s figures suggest that leaders are ill-prepared to deal with the ethical challenges of the future and don’t have a clearly defined path to bridge the gap between the present and the future.
These findings emphasise the crossroad most organisations and executives find themselves at. They know change is coming but they don’t know which way is best to go in terms of maximizing opportunity.
What Can Executives Do To Fix This?
Deloitte’s survey pinpointed 3 leadership styles it believes are most conducive to organizational success when it comes to adapting to the Fourth Industrial Revolution. All of them involve aggressive and decisive decision-making. Executives should keep these characteristics in mind as they prepare their organisations for the future.
- Social Supers
Social supers “generate new revenue streams by developing or changing products to be more socially or environmentally conscious.” They are 13% more likely to invest in technologies that will disrupt the market, 12% more likely to have a correctly trained workforce and 10% more likely to have clear decision-making processes for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
- Data-Driven Decisives
These executives use data to capitalize on opportunities. They have organized decision-making processes to ensure each move is evidence-based. Most importantly, they are 30% more likely to feel ready for Industrial Revolution 4.0.
- Talent Champions
Executives with this mindset are committed to preparing their human resources for the revolution. They are 10% more likely to be aggressively retraining current employees and 16% more likely to be preparing their organisation for future ethical issues.
In life, you can never take the future for granted. We know that it’s dangerous to count our chickens before they hatch. It is no different for executives. The Fourth Industrial Revolution will completely reshape the global business landscape. What is uncertain, however, is how each organisation will fare in this impending future – Who will sink and who will swim?
In order to adapt to a future that is quickly becoming our present, executives should rethink their approach to adaptation. Change needs to be welcomed like an old friend, not resisted.
We have hit the final straight when it comes to Industrial Revolution 4.0. Now is not the time to jostle for position – it’s time to sprint.