Working Futures in the New Economy

What are some of the most disruptive trends when it comes to work practices and organisational life? And what will this mean for work, learning and social organisation?

In this podcast, Julian Waters-Lynch – an industry fellow in enterprise and innovation at RMIT University – explores the different technologies disrupting how we work, and the effect they will have on organisational life.


Conversation notes

  • How should we think about the future in general?
  • Different ways of looking at the future. Preferences, values, and biases.
  • ‘We’ve been here before’ versus ‘This time it’s really different’.
  • What are the megatrends that will shape the future of work?
  • What do they mean? What are the possible consequences?
  • What are the social implications of these trends?
  • How should we respond to this individually, organisationally, and institutionally?


“The future is a series of disruptive trends. There are seeds in the present that we can look at and follow along an innovation and option curve that will grow to be big opportunities or issues in the future. We go back 20 years and see Steve Jobs coming back to Apple or Sergey and Larry forgoing their PhD program and starting Google … We would expect certain seeds in the present, like bitcoin and blockchain, to expand in the future.”


When you think about the future, what do you see?

Is your version of the future a calm utopia, an apocalyptic nightmare or something completely different?

Why does your version look different to mine?

Is speculation the problem?

When we set out on a journey, we can plan it in detail and follow a map. We can even look up Google Earth and zoom in on our destination, so we know exactly what it looks like and will recognise it when we get there. Not so with our journey into the future. We can’t be certain what shape it will take. We can only speculate. And that’s where the problem lies.

What is our perception of the future?

In his talk, Julian discussed how our perceptions of the future are based on multiple factors including our culture, social status, and knowledge of past and current trends. For example, someone living in rural China is bound to have different feelings and views of the future to someone in central London.

When we look back on our past, we can see patterns in many areas such as economic cycles, governance, fashions, and war. To many, the current changes in technology and employment patterns look similar to those of the industrial revolution. We weathered those and benefited from the process, so, why would it be much different this time? However, others see this time as being different as the changes are happening very rapidly and in ways we could not have ever foreseen.

How do we view the future to make sense of it?

To help us make sense of the future, Julian outlined 4 possible ways of viewing it.

1. As a series of disruptive trends that have a domino-style effect.
2. As a fan of possibilities with probable, plausible and possible scenarios.
3. As one of 4 key archetypes or stories that we project onto data.
– Business as usual
– Everything falls apart
– A disciplined society where we do more with less
– Everything changes
4. As an iceberg with many layers where we can see the top but not what lies beneath.

All of these theories have multiple consequences for us on a personal and global level, but how do we wrap our minds around it all? How do we use our understanding of what the future might hold to make decisions for our careers, for our society, for our environment, and for our children?


Julian’s Linkedin:
Julian Waters-Lynch

Julian’s Twitter: @jwaterslynch

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This episode forms part of our 2018 series narrative, ‘The Art of Focus’ which is based on the premise that, in an information-dense society, our attention resources have become depleted. The series’ speakers will help us identify and explore the areas in our lives where we may need to regain focus, increase our self-awareness and improve how we interact with those around us.

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Books mentioned

Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital, by Carlota Perez
The inevitable: understanding the 12 great forces that will shape our future, by Kevin Kelly
Capital in the 21st century, by Thomas Piketty
Postcapitalism: a guide to our future, by Paul Mason
Inventing the future: post capitalism and a world of work, by Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams
The time well spent movement, by Tristan Harris
Deep work: rules for focused success in a distracted world, by Cal Newport