Gary A. Bolles – A Visionary Charts His Perspective

Anil Prabha

August 6, 2020

Asia Blockchain Review recently had the privilege to talk to Gary A. Bolles, Chair for the Future of Work, at Singularity University. He was a speaker at the Grooves Work Technology Summit that concluded a few weeks back. We asked him a few general questions, and Bolles was more than happy to answer them.

Firstly, thank you for taking the time to talk to Asia Blockchain Review. First and foremost, how are things with you and the company as we navigate this new normal?

I appreciate your asking, and in fact I begin all my virtual talks these days focusing first on the very personal challenges of our times for anyone listening.

My family is for the most part well; however, we lost a relative to the virus several months ago, deepening my empathy for the impact on so many other families around the globe.

When it comes to our work, the topic of the future of work has literally shifted overnight from a theoretical discussion about the impact of robots and software, to the very real implications of the pandemic response for half the world’s inhabitants.

So we’ve been rather busy, working to help individuals, organizations, communities and countries with perspective and recommendations on navigating what I call the Great Reset..

With the ongoing global pandemic, supply chain disruptions, trade war imbalances and now violent protests over the recent ‘George Floyd’ debacle and , the situation in the US must be quite precarious for businesses. What’s your take on all this?

The Great Reset has posed an existential test for many US-based organizations. The more digital and nimble the organization already was in January 2020, the more adaptive it could be – but the more local and analog, the greater the challenges, as industries such as transportation and hospitality were suddenly confronted with zero customers.

In the past few months, we have lost millions of small businesses, and tens of millions of jobs, with tremendous uncertainty for how permanent those losses will be.

We are now in what I call Phase II of the Reset, with a constantly-shifting landscape of infection, behavior rules, and customer behavior, all of which will continue to test the adaptability of businesses and workers.

The biggest software companies and Internet platforms have only become stronger, while smaller retailers and content companies must completely re-invent themselves, or they too will be at risk.

There is also a concern that Covid-19 related pressures may be making Digital Transformation (DX) a tad bit rushed these days. A recent report suggested that these hasty measures being implemented may not be future proofed. What’s your take on this issue?

I’ve seen many articles proclaiming that the future of work is here. But what’s really happened is that most organizations simply reacted, rather than re-imagined.

There is no question that in the hard-stop Phase I of the Reset, individual isolation meant that many businesses had to hastily implement a range of HR and technology practices to enable a suddenly-distributed workforce.

But there are so many aspects of what I call “next work” that many organizations still need to implement to truly become perpetually-nimble businesses, from rethinking human skills and work roles to becoming platforms for creating value for customers and other stakeholders.

With the current pandemic and all that is happening, working from home is the new normal. RPA and the rapid use of automation may also make a lot of current jobs redundant. What’s your take on all this?

I think we have all gotten the memo that technology throughout history has always made certain work obsolete, even as it creates new opportunities.

The biggest challenge is always how humans adapt to performing the new work, and whether or not organizations make that an inclusive process to avoid leaving many workers behind.

I’ve said for years that what’s different in this era is the pace and spread of change. Many leaders say they are automating tasks to free up their workers. But in the U.S., we call a 100% freed-up worker “unemployed.”

Leaders must make a deep commitment to helping workers achieve their human potential by continually learning new skills, and by ensuring the process of connecting to tomorrow’s work is broadly inclusive.

Finally, what do you see in your crystal ball? Where are we headed as corporations take stock of the current reality and pivot to be ahead of the curve. What’s next?

As we eventually emerge into Phase III of the Reset, we can build better. Leaders have to change their mindset from seeing their workforce simply as a cost center to be automated away.

Instead, courageous leaders have the potential to encourage a new world of work, leveraging disruptive technologies ranging from rapid learning to AI-fueled problem-solving.

By helping every worker to maximize their human potential, organizations will ensure they can continually deliver value for their current and future customers.

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About the author
Anil Prabha

Editor In Chief

Anil started his career in journalism all the way back in 2003. After traversing the sphere of editorial, corporate communications and advertising, he has now come full circle and is back in the world of journalism. He believes in the power of the written word, and its ability to enthrall, delight and inform the reader.

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