10x Thinking…and the Staffing Industry

Autonomous transportation.
Eradicating cancer.
Privatizing space.
Low-cost clean energy.
Extending human life by 30 to 50 years.

What do these things have in common?

Just a few years ago, they were all science fiction. Today, they are happening.

At Staffing World 2016, I had the privilege of seeing Dr. Peter Diamandis speak. If you’re not familiar with Peter, he is a bestselling author and pioneer in the fields of innovation, incentive competitions and commercial space. He was named one of “The World’s 50 Greatest Leaders” by Fortune Magazine.

  • In the field of Innovation, Diamandis is Founder and Executive Chairman of the XPRIZE Foundation, best known for its $10 million Ansari XPRIZE for private spaceflight.
  • He is also the Co-Founder and Vice-Chairman of Human Longevity Inc. (HLI), a genomics and cell therapy-based diagnostic and therapeutic company focused on extending the healthy human lifespan.
  • In the field of commercial space, Diamandis is Co-Founder/Co-Chairman of Planetary Resources, a company designing spacecraft to mine asteroids for precious materials.
  • And if that was not enough, he is also the Co-Founder and Executive Chairman of Singularity University, a graduate-level Silicon Valley institution that studies exponentially growing technologies, their ability to transform industries and solve humanity’s grand challenges.
  • And just in case you’re questioning his credentials, Peter earned an undergraduate degree in Molecular Genetics and a graduate degree in Aerospace Engineering from MIT, and received his M.D. from Harvard Medical School.

So what does this have to do with staffing?

Nothing. And everything.

On January 2, 2017, Diamandis sent out his most recent blog post about The Top 10 Tech Trends Transforming Humanity. It was mind-blowing to say the least.

The post, which I highly recommend reading, discussed such mundane topics as: the coming addition of five billion people to the internet, solar becoming cheaper than coal, curing cancer, proof of our ability to extend life, autonomous vehicles, drones, AI, and radical change in space exploration. These weren’t far-off, wishful-thinking predictions. These were real accomplishments from 2016.

Again, what does this have to do with staffing?

Consider two things: 1) What will these changes in technology mean for the world of work? 2) How can you apply this same kind of thinking to your business?

First, let’s evaluate the implication of some of the coming changes to humanity on the staffing industry:

    • Becoming hyperconnected.If five billion people go online in the next 10 years, what will it mean to the global market for talent? You will have access to three times as many people to do work. For big, international staffing firms–and gig economy online staffing firms, this will represent the largest addition to the labor pool ever. It will present opportunities to provide training, offshore work, and tap into new, potentially very different talent pools. Since most of these new internet users will not be in developed countries, it will also create new demand for online services and the fulfillment of physical goods and services at an unprecedented level. After all, these people will want to take advantage of all they find online!

 

    • Solar becoming cheaper than coal.If you supply talent in the energy or construction industries, this will be enormous. It will probably also have a big impact on government projects as communities demand “greener resources.” There will also be opportunities in manufacturing and distribution brought about by both the development of commercial solar technology and new products that will take advantage of solar power. Will your company be involved in recruiting, training or placing these people?

 

    • Ending cancer and extending human life.What will the workforce look like when 100 becomes the new 60? Clearly people will want (and have) to work longer. They may also want to engage in a wider variety of job functions or industries. The staffing industry is ideally positioned to help people develop new skills (so they can take on new jobs), and then to act as the intermediary to help people explore and discover new careers. Consider that an additional 30 to 50 years of life means that people will want to work for nearly double the time they currently work today!

 

    • Autonomous vehicles.If you’re in the business of placing drivers, your days may be numbered. The first autonomous commercial delivery was made in 2016 (a truck load of beer!), and you can expect to see many more in the coming years. Within a decade, it is very likely that all long haul transportation will be driverless. This is one of the places that change gets scary for the staffing industry. Transportation is just one of many industries that will be disrupted and may be replaced by automation. While you still have years to go, it’s not too soon to consider how your business will evolve to changing market conditions. How you will serve your clients and candidates in new ways (or find new clients and candidates to serve)?

 

    • Drones.From the hottest gift of Christmas 2015 to just-in-time delivery in 2017, drones are set to have a massive commercial impact in the next one to three years. It will certainly disrupt the logistics industry as warehouse workers are replaced by machines. And it may also disrupt manufacturing—when drones are combined with 3D printing to make product manufacturing more real time and likely more distributed. What are the implications of this technology for staffing? Right now, it’s hard to predict. But if you serve distribution companies, you might want to chat with them about their long-term plans. Do they see drone delivery in their future? If so, how will their staffing needs and strategy change? The more proactive you can be in helping your clients to anticipate and prepare for their future talent needs, the more likely you are to successfully navigate the coming changes in logistics.

 

  • Artificial Intelligence.This is the trend that is probably the most fascinating…and terrifying. While it’s doubtful our future will become as bleak as a Terminator movie, artificial intelligence is forecast to eliminate 47% of jobs in the U.S. And it won’t just be low-level, manual labor jobs replaced by robots. Machine learning is predicted to (and in some cases already is) radically change the need for people in accounting, admin, programming, and many other high-level occupations where a lot of work is routine. Here is an article from an English website listing the 100 jobs most at risk from automation.

    So what is the implication for staffing firms? This is the big one for our industry. A huge percentage of the jobs staffed by our industry are likely to be replaced with AI and robotics over the next 10 years. For some of you, the best solution is to sell your company while multiples are strong.

    But for most of us, we have to determine how to get in front of the trend, rather than get leveled by it. While automation will replace some job functions, it will create new ones. ATMs did not end the need for people in banking. Robotics has not meant the death of manufacturing employment. However, the skills our clients need, and the people we need to recruit, will be different. The total market for staffing services could go up or down as AI really takes hold. Your challenge is to develop better intelligence and deeper knowledge of your clients. Find new ways to help them plan for and manage their talent challenges. Develop new business models to help your clients become more agile and efficient.

How will you 10x your thinking?

The best lesson Diamandis provides is not about radical new tech, or even the coming changes to humanity. No, the best lesson is about thinking bigger. The basic tenant of 10x thinking is to stop trying to be 10% better and instead find ways to be 10 times better. Or as Diamandis asked in his Staffing World presentation, “What stops you from accomplishing your 10-year goals…in the next six months?”

10x thinking is about being bolder. Tackling bigger problems. Discovering radical new ways to deliver value and become an essential part of your clients’ businesses…and your candidates’ lives.

At Haley Marketing, 10x thinking was the theme of our 2017 strategic planning. To help frame our thinking, we developed the following set of questions that we asked to our team members. I hope you find these helpful for your own planning:

Creating a 10x mindset

    • Look back over your life. What things do you do, and tools do you use (things you take for granted) that did not exist when you were a kid?
    • Over the past 12 months, what things have we done that worked really well?
    • And what hasn’t worked as well as we hoped?
    • If you had a magic wand, what three things would you change about our company?

 

Biggest problems and challenges

    • What are the biggest problems and challenges we face as a company?
    • What are the biggest problems and challenges our clients face?
    • What are the biggest problems and challenges you personally face?

 

Value

    • What is the real value we deliver to our clients?
    • How can we better deliver that value?

 

Bold Questions

  • How could we work with every (target client) in America?
  • How could we become a leading global player in our industry?
  • How could we become irresistible and irreplaceable to our clients?

Lessons Learned

We asked these questions to everyone in our organization. We spent four hours brainstorming and sharing ideas. And then we compiled all the notes into a 14 page document to figure out what to do.

While I can’t divulge all the changes that resulted from our internal planning, the exercise did lead to amazing ideas for both incremental improvements in our products and services as well as a few radical ideas for major innovations that we will continue to analyze.

10x thinking is tough. Some will even find it foolish because most of it is so long term and even far-fetched. But without this kind of bold, futuristic envisioning, without looking for new ways to solve problems and bigger problems to solve, we will never accomplish big things. We will never make major advances in our businesses, and we will run the risk of being displaced by those who do.

UBER did it to taxi drivers. Amazon did it to retailing. Netflix did it to entertainment. Who will do it in staffing? Will it be you?

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