20x20: The future workplace – adapting to an accelerated environment

Futurologist and author Rocky Scopelliti explores the rapid changes occurring in the modern workplace, for the next in our 20x20 series, which delves into the ArtsHub archive to check the pulse of sector change.
20x20: The future workplace – adapting to an accelerated environment Image: Shutterstock.
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Andrea Simpson

Friday 27 November, 2020

First published in 2019 to coincide with the launch of his bookYouthquake 4.0, ArtsHub journalist Andrea Simpson speaks with futurologist Rocky Scopelliti about the changes facing our workspaces: from new technologies to hot desking and working out what to archive.

ArtsHub is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2020, and is marking the moment by revisiting the topics that have shaped our sector over two decades.

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Imagine a future where everyday technology is autonomous, where a nine to five working life has been abolished and empathy is the most desired personality trait in a job applicant.

A future such as this is already upon us, according to researcher and futurologist Rocky Scopelliti, and is expected to rapidly innovate the way we work.

‘The next big technology trends will be in artificial intelligence, biotechnology, robotics and driverless cars, which will benefit the education, communication, healthcare, manufacturing, energy and infrastructure development industries the most,’ said Scopelliti.

In his book, Youthquake 4.0 - A Whole Generation and The New Industrial Revolution, Scopelliti investigates demographic challenges, including life expectancy and diversity, as well as economic, technological and workplace issues of the millennial generation.

Scopelliti conducted enterprise research across 91 countries analysing more than 21,000 globally publicly traded companies. He found that the advent of the fourth industrial revolution, in conjunction with global demographic changes, will be the trigger for rapid transformation in the way we live and work.

But what is the fourth industrial revolution, and how can we best leverage this movement for our own life goals?

Embracing the fourth industrial revolution

The fourth industrial revolution is characterised by emerging technological breakthroughs. Artificial intelligence, advanced robotics, the Internet of things, autonomous vehicles, 3D printing, biotechnology, nanotechnology, materials science, energy storage, blockchain and quantum computing, will have the potential to be highly disruptive in all aspects of life.

Scopelliti explained: ‘If we look back in our history the first industrial revolution was really characterised by technological advancements in areas such as the steam engine which allowed us to expand geographically.

‘If we look at the second industrial revolution it allowed us to mass produce goods and services, so we saw automobiles and mass manufacturing. The third industrial revolution is the most recent, it’s really the last 30 years, and is characterised by computing, the internet, and mobile technology.’

According to Scopelliti’s research, the fourth industrial revolution builds on other industrial revolutions. However, some nations and organisations are yet to fully capitalise on the third industrial revolution, and are significantly under-prepared in the areas of social impact, strategy, talent and technology.

Read: Incubating ideas needs more than a hip share office - Gina Fairley (2018)

Scopelliti’s findings speculate future changes in the areas of ‘the Internet of things, which will see smart picking, smart factories, smart workplaces emerge and also autonomous vehicles.'

He continued: ‘This is a very visual way of seeing the fourth industrial revolution, because we are all fascinated by drones – we are seeing a lot more footage now of drones doing all sorts of things, like delivering things to our doorstep. So drones and autonomous vehicles are very significant hallmarks of the fourth industrial revolution.’

Scopelliti also expects to see rapid growth in the areas of energy generation. ‘The way we capture energy, the way we store it, and the way we transmit it. These are just some of the technological areas that make up the fourth industrial evolution.’

Adapting to an evolving workplace

With these inevitable rapid changes on the horizon, how can arts workers best prepare for such advancements? Digitisation. According to Scopelliti’s research, without digitisation, studies estimate that a third of revenues are at risk of loss or cannibalisation over the next three years.

He explained that digital leaders need to innovate their business models in a transformational way by scaling up cutting edge technologies; investing three times as much in new technologies and learning to view the world as interconnected ecosystems – a viewpoint in which the arts sector already has a head start.

Read: How do you choose what to archive in our digital age? – Gina Fairley (2015)

Scopelliti also said that data has evolved to become critical, embedded, real-time and mobile, and should be utilised. ‘As customers and as employees, as policy-makers, investors and law-makers, we are now at a time that will give us a capacity to adapt that other generations have not had the privilege of. And it's because of the benefits due to the third industrial revolution, mobile technology, internet and computing.’

However, it’s the rapid time frame in which these changes are occurring that will come as a surprise to even the most forward-thinking workplaces.

‘It’s important of us to remind ourselves that mobile applications for example are a recent phenomenon. Now its recent entry was ten years ago and mobile apps didn’t exist before that,’ he said. ‘Yet today our lives have now become so dependent on our smart phones – we have chosen the smart phone to be our connection to the world.

‘With the fourth industrial revolution we are expecting these things to develop much faster than technological developments before in the past.’

So how do we increase our capacity to adapt to a world of accelerated change?

Scopelliti said: ‘It’s about flexible working and remote working. It allows us to think quite differently about ways in which work and services are now performed.

Read: Making your workplace a mosh pit for creative ideas – Gina Fairley (2016)

‘Flexible working is changing, and the way we think about work has changed. And the use of technology has profoundly changed ... A lot of the way that we work is now about using mobile technology which has allowed us to become disconnectors of fixed networks – allowing us to work effectively remotely.’

He also mentioned the increased focus around critical skills, such as creative thinking and emotional intelligence, rather than fixed experience cultivated in the workplace. ‘It’s becoming very difficult to predict the future of work in a world that is advancing so rapidly technologically.’

By leveraging the symbiosis of the current changes in the work force demographic – where the baby boomer generation are readying for retirement while millennials are poised to take over the workforce population – and advancing technologies, success can be achieved in new and innovative ways.

'Transformation is not a one-time event, nor an end state. Those who understand the principle of adaptation, leverage their capacity to learn, evolve and thrive continuously,’ Scopelliti concluded.

About the author

Andrea Simpson is a Feature Writer and the Reviews Editor for ArtsHub. Andrea is a Filipina-Australian writer, editor, and content creator with a love for diverse Australian stories. She is curious about all forms of art, though she has an especially keen interest in Australia's publishing sector.


Her feature writing has appeared in Inside Small Business. Andrea is an Assoc. member of Editors Victoria (IPEd.). Her short stories have been published in Visible Ink Anthology 27: Petrichor (2015), and Frayed Anthology (2015). You can find Andrea’s poetry in What Emerges (2013) poetry selected by Ania Walwicz