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Thursday, September 13, 2018

Scenarios, Pathways, and the Future-Ready Workforce | EDUCAUSE Review

Strategic workforce development through scenario planning and job pathways mapping can build a common vision to transform technological and cultural disruption in higher education into a positive digital transformation.

Photo: James Phelps
"What is the difference between disruption and transformation?" explains Jim Phelps, Director of Enterprise Architecture & Strategy at the University of Washington and is Chair of Itana.


I can look to my own backyard for some examples. When we lived in Wisconsin, we brought home a new labradoodle puppy. The chipmunks who lived in our yard were utterly surprised by this change. They were disrupted out of their habits and homes by our new dog. In the end, they decided that our neighbor's basement would be a much better place to live, which passed the disruption on to Rick and Karen, our neighbors.

In our current backyard, baby squirrels come down out of our tree every spring to practice jumping and climbing, often with funny results. You wouldn't think a squirrel could completely miss a tree from just a few inches away. Yet the squirrel pups continue to work on their skills, and soon they have transformed themselves into graceful and amusing acrobats dashing about our wooded backyard.

For many people, the change in digital technologies has been and will continue to be a great disruption to their livelihood, their social interactions, and their worldview. Like the chipmunks, they react against or flee from this new force. Other people, however, see the developments in digital technologies as a way of transforming their work, their lives, and their society. They see an opportunity to provide real-time medical aid, to reduce traffic fatalities, to enable fuller lives for people with a variety of impairments, and to deliver a lifelong learning experience. Like the squirrels, they will work to transform themselves with new skills and abilities in order to build better lives...

Three Phases 
Technology shifts have shapes and stages. Historically, they roll through civilizations following a regular pattern with three phases: refinement of the technology, innovative disruption, and societal transformation.1 It is important to understand where we are in this process in order to plan for future impacts and opportunities. This context also explains what can and cannot be known at any particular time, providing the groundwork for scenario planning and job pathways mapping.

The refinement phase is marked by the introduction of improvements to the original technology. For instance, the internal combustion engine was an improvement to the steam engine, and the electrical grid distributed power away from its point of generation during the Industrial Revolution...

The disruption phase is marked by entirely new inventions. During the disruption phase of the Industrial Revolution, the washing machine, refrigerator, car, and radio appeared. Henry Ford invented a whole new manufacturing process that allowed for the mass production of cars. His architect, Albert Kahn, created a radically new design for manufacturing plants. Introduction of the car and road system completely disrupted the horse-based transportation system that had existed before...

In the transformation phase, society itself is transformed to new norms supported and enabled by the capabilities of disruptive technologies. In his TED Talk "The Magic Washing Machine," Hans Rosling argues that the washing machine freed up time for women, who then could get work outside the home, organize themselves politically, and finally, get the vote.2 Similarly, the invention of the car radically changed our economy, the way our cities are built, and our lives. Ford's assembly line changed craftsmen, who had previously worked in cottage industries building carts or wheels, into part workers who each did one step in the process. This change in working conditions led to the rise of the union as a force in economics and politics, radically reshaping our culture.
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Source: EDUCAUSE Review