We spend most of our time on this podcast talking about the accounting and finance profession – what the future looks like for those of us who work within this rarified profession and how to help others make sense of their finances, their numbers, or their future.
But we’re not the only ones struggling in this area. Well-off and working class, unemployed and entrepreneurial, engaged and disengaged, C-suite and on the dole … everybody is struggling with how to make sense of this changing and complex world.
Things have never been more uncertain than they are today. Change is happening at a mind-bending pace, and it’s only going to speed up going forward. If you’re not keeping up today, your odds of keeping up tomorrow are slim to none.
Few people have a better perspective on all of this than this week’s guest, Alec Ross. He’s the author of the New York Times best-selling book The Industries of the Future and one of the nation’s leading experts on innovation. He served for four years as the senior advisor for innovation for Hillary Clinton when she was Secretary of State, and he is currently a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Johns Hopkins University who serves as an advisor to investors, corporations, and government leaders.
Alec has traveled the world in search of what sets innovative thought leaders apart from the rest of us, and he has some concrete ideas about what we need to be doing and thinking about going forward to give us a competitive advantage over everybody else.
In this conversation, we cover:
- What Alec would add to his now two-year-old book.
- Alec’s opinions about the future of audit in an automated world.
- The dystopian views of blockchain vs. reality.
- The roles that accountants and auditors will play going forward.
- Generational differences in communication.
- Why future growth and relevance relies on your mindset.
Listen to our conversation here.
The mind-bending speed of change
In case you underestimate the speed at which things are changing these days, we want to share an example from “Technology This Week,” a terrific weekly newsletter curated by tech expert and CPA Rick Richardson.
Richardson pointed to a list of 10 jobs that didn’t exist just a dozen years ago. We kind of take these jobs for granted now, but they weren’t around as recently as 2006:
- App developer
- Social media manager
- Uber driver
- Driverless car engineer
- Cloud computing specialist
- Data analyst or data scientist
- Sustainability manager
- YouTube content creator
- Drone operator
- Millennial generation expert
Moreover, a recent report out of the UK estimates that two-thirds of today’s children will end up taking a job that does not exist today.
Another article in Richardson’s newsletter is an interview with Jonathan Reichental, the CIO of Palo Alto, California. He says, “The continuing automation of society means human beings have increasingly focused on ‘higher-level’ work.
“Go back 100 years and a huge proportion of our society is either working on a farm or working in a factory,” Reichental writes. “Hardly anyone works on farms any more. We have machines that do the work humans used to do. Our factories are massively automated with mass production technologies. So as we’ve moved through the First Industrial Revolution all the way into this Fourth Industrial Revolution and the information economy, the skills people require are different.”
Here’s the thing: What’s happening today has all happened before – it’s just happening much faster now.
We feel so crazed and stressed about things these days because we’re currently in the middle of that shift. We’re just beginning to understand that the skills we have to have to remain relevant are changing. We’re just beginning to accept the notion that we have to unlearn and then re-learn what we know, and we haven’t gotten there yet.
In fact, we may not ever completely get there due to the pace of change. As soon as we learn today’s skills, we’re going to have unlearn those skills and learn a whole new set of skills. Our jobs going forward – really, everybody’s job – is to become professional students. We have to get comfortable with being flexible.
And being flexible isn’t a comfortable thing for many professionals, accounting and finance included. But those who make that transition – whether we’re talking about CPA firms, entire professions, or entire nations – will be best suited to successfully navigate all of the changes we’re dealing with today, the changes we’ll be dealing with tomorrow, and the changes our children will have to deal with that we can’t even anticipate yet.