“We have known for a long time that our industrial-era models of education require an upgrade to the 21st century”

When looking for insights into the future of work, it makes sense to interview someone who’s written a book about it. Perhaps someone who chairs a group about exactly this subject. Someone who lectures about the future of work and how organisations must embrace change. As you may have gathered, Gary A. Bolles does all three.

Even if you don’t recognise his name, you will have encountered his thinking. “What Color Is Your Parachute” remains one of the world’s enduring career manuals, helping organisations and individuals the world over to navigate the changing world of work.

As Chair for the Future of Work for Singularity University, Gary has 1.3 million learners for ten courses on LinkedIn Learning. He is a partner in the strategy consulting firm Charrette LLC, and co-founder of eParachute.com. He is a man worth listening to.

Here, then, are his thoughts on the future of work.

Gary A. Bolles, Future of Work
Gary A. Bolles, Author of “The Next Rules of Work”

What was your first role in tech and what is your current role today?

In my mid-20s, I talked my way onto a Quality Assurance team at a Silicon Valley company — which happened to be testing one of the first PC networking operating systems. Today, I help individuals, organisations, communities and countries to navigate exponential change.

What are the major factors influencing the future of work?

The two greatest challenges for humans are the pace and scale of change. Our minds don’t naturally comprehend exponential change. As technology and world events transform what work is, where and when we do our work, how we work, with whom we work and — most importantly — why we work, speed with which work changes, and the sheer number of people affected, have the greatest impacts on human work.

How do you think the work office will change in the next ten years?

Undeniable trends point to the permanence of flexible work. But that will only impact those who can have flexibility. The majority of work roles require in-person work, often at fixed times. For those, flexibility for shifts and work activities can encourage more human-centric work.

Which areas of society do you think will be more impacted by technology?

The four domains of the future of work are individuals, organisations, communities and countries. Each of us needs strategies for finding or creating meaningful, well-paid work. Organisations need to continually find and develop the talented workers they require. Communities need to function as ecosystems where everyone can thrive. And countries need to have the kinds of flexible, adaptive policies that mean no human is left behind.

What fields of work or industries do you think will accelerate because of technology?

Every field is being continually transformed by technology, but the dynamics of media, software development and education are particularly vulnerable to dramatic changes catalyzed by the new wave of AI tools.

What is a recent example of technology disrupting work that you found interesting?

The new AI tools are having a profound impact on the learning arena. We have known for a long time that our industrial-era models of education require an upgrade to the 21st century. What AI tools like generative algorithms illustrate is that rote learning, one-size-fits-all teaching, and inflexible testing are all based on ineffective models. The new tools offer us a tremendous opportunity to reinvent human-centric learning.

More on the future of work

Our thanks to Simon for taking the time to share his thoughts on the future of work. For more predictions, read on:

  • Simon Long, Director, Technology Strategy and Transformation, for CBRE Southeast Asia: “How do we create work environments and a culture that actively brings everyone together?”
  • Michael Solomon, Author and Founder of 10xManagement. “There’s going to be a protracted battle between those who wish to work from home and those who think productivity is harmed by remote work.”
  • Eva Pankova, Head of People, ROI Hunter, “A four-day week would definitely disrupt the market, making those companies that adopt it much more competitive. Just imagine a three-day weekend!”
  • Deepesh Banerji, Chief Product Officer, Deputy. “The key to preparing for the future of work is to develop skills that are difficult to automate, such as creativity, critical thinking and emotional intelligence”

If you have something to say about the future of work, please email us at [email protected].

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Tim Danton

Tim has worked in IT publishing since the days when all PCs were beige, and is editor-in-chief of the UK's PC Pro magazine. He has been writing about hardware for TechFinitive since 2023.