The 4th Industrial Revolution asks for New Skills

The 4th Industrial Revolution asks for New Skills

Technological development – where do we come from?

It was only in 1990 that the 1st website was developed and ‘distributed’ over a ‘distributing network’.  Children today can’t imagine a world without technology, but in the same house, we find parents and grandparents growing up without a television. 

Nowadays, almost everybody owns television and computer – or some form of smart-device connecting them over the internet with others. New technological skills implied new possibilities!

CNBC looked at eight developments that have helped to shape the world we live in today[1].

1946 – ENIAC
Developed by John Presper Eckert and John W. Mauchly, the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer, or ENIAC, was built at the University of Pennsylvania in 1946. Described by the university as the “first general-purpose electronic computer,” ENIAC’s “operational characteristics” included memory and arithmetic.
1981 – IBM’s personal computer
IBM launched its personal computer in August 1981. While IBM’s PC was not the first — others had been available since the 1970s — its version became incredibly popular and for many, it set the standards of what a PC should be. Costing $1,565, the IBM 5150 had 40K of read-only memory and 16K of user memory.
Other features included a built-in speaker and the ability to run self-diagnostic checks. It also made use of Microsoft’s MS-DOS 1.0, a 16-bit operating system.
1984 – Apple’s Macintosh
With typical flamboyance, a bow-tie wearing Steve Jobs launched the first Macintosh in January 1984. With Vangelis’ “Chariots of Fire” playing in the background, the Apple co-founder showcased a number of the Macintosh’s capabilities, from its ability to “talk” to a drawing application that was able to produce sophisticated images.

Jobs had grand ambitions for the product. “Macintosh is targeted at two primary markets. The first is the 25 million ‘knowledge workers’ who sit behind desks, and particularly those in medium and small-sized businesses. And the second market is the college worker, we think that’s the knowledge worker of tomorrow and there are over 11 million college students in America alone.”
1985 – Microsoft launches Windows
Windows 1.0 was launched to market in November 1985 as an operating system with a graphical interface. Today, the latest versions of Windows are used by millions of people worldwide.  

1989 – The World Wide Web
In 1989 British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee submitted a proposal for a “distributed information system” at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, near Geneva, Switzerland. A year later, the world’s first website and server went live at CERN.  

1994 – The Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation
Launched within weeks of each other in 1994, the Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation consoles blazed a trail in the video gaming industry. While the PlayStation has outlasted the Saturn through multiple iterations, including today’s PlayStation 4, both consoles had a significant impact and influence on home entertainment.

Unlike the Super Nintendo, Sega Mega Drive and other similar consoles, games for the Saturn and PlayStation came on CDs rather than cartridges. The consoles had enough power inside to showcase games including the visually stunning “Nights into Dreams” on the Saturn and “Final Fantasy VII,” an in-depth role-playing game on the PlayStation.

2000s – Broadband internet

The 21st century has seen the mass adoption of broadband internet across the developed world. Dial-up connections have become a relic of the past with users now accustomed to high-speed downloads, super-fast browsing, high-resolution streaming and a great deal more. In the U.K., for example, there were 25.3 million fixed broadband connections at the end of 2016, according to communications regulator Ofcom.

2000s – Connected living
Today’s homes are rapidly transforming into spaces where traditional computers dovetail alongside newer pieces of technology, from smartphones and smart TVs to virtual assistants and tablets. With the click of a button, a song being played on a computer in someone’s bedroom can be beamed to and displayed on a 72-inch TV in their living room via a high speed, wireless connection.
This merging of physical and virtual worlds is known as the internet of things.


What is coming?

4th industrial revolution

The Fourth Industrial Revolution builds on previous revolutions, which began in the 18th century (First Industrial Revolution) with the invention of the steam engine. The Second Industrial Revolution used electricity to create mass production, and the Third used electronics and information technology to automate production.

The main differences between previous revolutions and the Fourth are the pace of change – breakthroughs are happening at a rate unprecedented in history – and the scale of disruption; today, every industry is being transformed at an accelerating speed[1].

“We are currently in the midst of an industrial revolution with an exponential pace of change and it is disrupting every industry in every country. This revolution is different from the past three in terms of velocity, scope and impact. It is a digital revolution, characterized by a fusion of technology that is impacting every aspect of how we work and how we live, creating threats and opportunities.

Skills that we learned in formal education are now becoming irrelevant. Employees should be prepared to completely reskill themselves.[2]

In the State of the Nation 2019 (#SONA 20 June 2019), President Cyril Ramaphosa said:

“We will continue to develop programs to ensure that economically excluded young people are work-ready and absorbed into sectors where ‘jobs demand’ is growing. These sectors include global business processing services, agricultural value chains, technical installation, repair and maintenance and new opportunities provided through the digital economy and the fourth industrial revolution. (… and later…)

Has the time not arrived to build a new smart city founded on the technologies of the 4th Industrial Revolution?”

We need to rethink our (previous) thinking…

Answer the following by ticking only 1 of the following 2:

  • I know 20+ people with a 20+ year work relationship with a single (only one!) employer.
  • I know 20+ people with a combined work experience of 20+ years of work, but with multiple employers/income generation opportunities – some of them with more than 1 employer/project/focus at a time.

It is a reality that the world of work is changing! A couple of decades ago it was frowned upon to have more than 2 or 3 employers listed on your CV. The trend was to have full-time, lifelong employment in fixed occupations with clearly defined job descriptions. This is changing drastically moving into the 4th Industrial Revolution.

Due to different reasons, people currently are re-inventing themselves and show flexibility between occupations, industries, and cross-functions within the world of work. Currently (pre #COVID-19) it is estimated that more than half of salaried workers are either part-time or temporary employed with one or multiple companies – and even across continents.

Does this sound familiar? Does this sound exciting? Does this sound terrifying?

If this excites you and you are stuck in a 9 to 5 work environment with limited movement opportunities, you might be missing out on a work-arrangement that will bring the best out of you and your skill set. You are not only one set of skills!

If this is your reality after the #COVID-19 pandemic and you are motivated by the nail underneath (vs the carrot in front), you might be terrified! Maybe it is time to re-think yourself, your value, your worth, your #BasketOfSkills…

You have a #BasketOfSkills that makes up your VALUE as a “worker”

Experience, tenacity, and creativity become almost more important than formal education. The 4th Industrial Revolution with a ‘technology character’ is bringing unknown opportunities – and challenges – to the workplace.

Business owners will be looking for people comfortable to dig into their #BasketOfSkills – fulfilling a variety of roles within the business – that will allow them to deal with the unknown future.

The following research (original source not known) was included in a webinar presented by Suzanne Hattingh in June 2018:

  • 65% of children starting school in 2018 will enter jobs that don’t exist today
  • 65% of children now at school will have 14 different jobs before age 40
  • 67% percentage of jobs in South Africa are at risk from automation (Ethiopia 85%, China 77%, India 69%, Nigeria 65%, UK 35%)
  • 60% of what students learn in their 1st year at university is outdated by their 3rd year.

Examples of these disruptive technologies are: (according to McKinsey Global Institute, 2013)

  • Advanced robotics: increasingly capable robots or robotic tools with enhanced ‘senses,’ dexterity and intelligence can take on tasks once thought too delicate or uneconomical to automate;
  • The ‘internet of things’: the network of physical devices, vehicles, buildings and other objects embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators and network connectivity that enable them to collect, exchange data and ‘talk to one another’;
  • Artificial intelligence exhibited by machines that work and react like humans and are capable of speech recognition, visual perception, decision-making, problem-solving and learning;
  • Devices and physical systems that store energy for later use that could make electric vehicles cost-competitive and bring electricity to remote areas of developing countries; and
  • Drones, cloud technology, nanotechnology, virtual reality, software-based digital therapies, next-generation genomics, 3D printing, and driverless vehicles.

These are no longer science fiction. General Electric has designed robots that can climb and maintain wind turbines. A 3D printer in the Netherlands built a footbridge over a canal by using long robotic arms and lasers to melt the metal powder – without the help of human hands, girders or concrete foundations. Self-driving robots can deliver parcels and groceries anywhere within a three-mile radius using less energy than most light bulbs.

Motor manufacturers are already road-testing driverless cars, and the head of Ford predicts that in the future driving with a steering wheel will be “as antiquated as wanting to ride a horse”. (The Edge Foundation, 2016) On 25 August 2016 Singapore launched a trial and “became the first country in the world to have on-demand driverless taxis – a new technology that is advertised to disrupt the transport industry”[3].

How does this influence me – you?

Workplace changes

I frequently refer to my CV as my School of (work)Life. Although I would not change anything captured in my list of work experience as an employee, I realised I have many aspects of the environment I’ve worked in, that I would NOT like to duplicate in my own business.

As I struggled to find a perfect enough matching employer, I took the leap and became my own employer. Unfortunately, I am not as brave as this sounds, as I did not take this leap for the proverbial carrot in front of my nose, but rather because of the nails I was walking on every day at my last workplace. Two opportunities from previous employers that came in simultaneously did offer a soft landing though. This offered me the choice if is wanted to stay where I am or to create an independent space where I can focus on what I know I am good at and have to offer.

Stepping out into this new exciting and unsure venture, the best thing I did to clear my head and give me a clear vision I’ve based my consultancy on, was to decide what I wish NOT to include in my own business.

This basically came down to:

becoming a place where I WANT to work and not HAVE to work

I made a list of expectations, approaches, ethical considerations, location, working hours and types of colleagues that did not bring the best out of me in the companies I’ve worked in. This gave me a clear indication of what would motivate me to work. A quick result of this exercise:

  • EXPECTATIONS: The expectation to implement something I buy into, something I created myself or products I developed, tested and are satisfied with myself. I had plenty experiences where I was expected to give much more (time, myself, availability) than what I was willing to give or was paid for. 
  • APPROACHES: Transparency and collaboration with colleagues, clients and end-users in such a way that the entire engagement becomes a developmental approach. Clients are mostly caught off guard with transparency and are more willing to grow when they know all the potential risks and benefits upfront. And there will always be enough work for everybody – by collaborating with others always makes you stronger in your efforts!
  • ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS: Dignity and honesty are two of the most important ethical principles I do not compromise on easily. I’ve walked away from high-earning projects where people’s dignity was not respected and uphold.
  • LOCATION: I did not see the point in working from a single place, wasting time in peak hour traffic. It allowed me to move into client’s spaces to get a better understanding of where they function, how they deal with their staff and clients and what aspects of their working environment they might take for granted.
  • WORKING HOURS: I realized that my peak hours for creative work only starts when everybody else is falling asleep. I choose to concentrate my efforts during personal peak-times instead of working against the flow.
  • TYPES OF COLLEAGUES: I am a problem-solver and creative thinker kind of optimistic worker. I do not see the point in identifying a problem without a couple of solution options, I do not believe in a dead-end in projects and processes and is struggling to work for a manager that works from a place of fear instead of problem-solving.

Who do you want to be? Would you be motivated by the carrot in front of you, or forced by the nails you walk on?

Unfortunately our context globally forced us to think about the way we work, the skills we currently HAVE vs the skills we currently NEED…

Maybe it’s time to discover new skills to fit into the #FutureSkilled group of professionals needed to take the world of work, into a new (mostly unknown) future…


[2] Jacob Morgan,


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