Technology is continuing its progress in leaps and bounds. Even decades’ old technologies, like video conferencing, QR codes and ecommerce, are finding new markets and new uses.
For organisations operating through the past two years’ constant disruptions, the availability of low-cost, easily deployed technology has been a godsend. Without it, many would have struggled to keep their operational wheels turning.
Therein lies the danger. In using technology to maintain business as usual, we may miss the real digital revolution.
Every new application of artificial intelligence, every new automated machine, every physical interaction shifting to cyberspace, every sensor taking care of (or out) a once-analogue process, and every additional function we perform using our digital devices, we advance a digital skills revolution.
Industrial revolutions are only revolutionary when they are enabled by a change in work. The First Industrial Revolution saw the advent of the factory system. In the Second, the moving production line and standardised processes saw work organised into bureaucracies. The Third Industrial Revolution shifted work from production lines to depend on individual knowledge holders.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is no exception. Work is again changing. Production is increasingly intangible and that makes this revolution unique. Whereas the earlier revolutions relied on mechanising labour and classifying knowledge, digital technology requires the reverse: it needs workers ‘human skills’ to realise its value to business.
The skills revolutions begin with skills shortages as it takes time for old skills to be replaced by new ones. In the past revolutions, training and education provided the solution to skills mismatches. However, the lack of adequately skilled workers persists today despite more of us spending more time being trained and educated than ever before.
All studies agree that, without decisive action, our current skills shortage has years to run. If recruitment is painful now, what will it be like in the next few years when only half the workforce1 has the right skills for the jobs we need filled?
The issue is not a shortage of training; it is our reliance on the wrong training. Unless we broaden our view of skills from task-based to human-oriented, no number of vocational training places, or incentives to retrain older workers, or any other recycled government funding promise will do.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution gives the toy industry an unexpected role. It is well-accepted that through the make-believe, game design, tactical manoeuvring and role switching that are fundamental in play we develop essential life skills. Only now the benefits of play are not just in preparing people for jobs. They are the job, sought by the corporate world with descriptors such as creativity, conceptual and abstract thinking, agility, curiosity and empathy.
It is perhaps no coincidence that toy sales for adults have been increasing in line with the changes in how we work. Of the projected growth in global toy spending from $141.08 billion in 2021 to $230.64 billion by 2028, the adult market is expected to make up the largest segment at 49.65%2.
The more organisations are adapting to the digital revolution, the more they seek workers who are advanced in the sorts of skills developed through toys, games and hobbies. Looked at another way, as adults spend more on toys, employers will only benefit.
With this in mind, how well are toy industry employers adapting to the digital skills revolution and the skills shortages that impact their own industry? Are we transforming our workforces and preparing ourselves for continued change and disruption? Indeed, are we taking advantage of the very skills we have so much hand in developing?
This article is written by Isabel Wu from Meta Management and covers all things digital. Meta Management is a consultancy specialising in helping its clients with the organisational assets that drive effective digital transformation and create value in a hyper-connected, constantly changing world.