Dr. Shashi Tharoor, an Author and Public Intellectual, highlighted the importance of envisioning possibilities beyond current limits at TechHR India 2023. In a conversation with People Matters’ CEO, Ester Martinez, he emphasized adapting to rapid technological changes. Dr. Tharoor cited an Oxford Martin School study projecting that by 2030, 30% of jobs will be new. He stressed the need for individuals to embrace novel approaches, especially in an evolving job market. He shared examples of AI reshaping industries and underscored the unpredictability of future job roles. Dr. Tharoor advised upskilling, reskilling, and compassionate retraining. He highlighted the triple bottom line concept, emphasizing the significance of people and the environment alongside profits in modern corporate activities.
‘The notion of the possible is precisely that we should not be limited by what we think is possible today what you might think of as a sunrise industry turns into a sunset experience, but be prepared to embrace that and react in a positive way there will be some folks you will need to retrain, and there will be some folks you can’t retrain. like triage; do it humanely’, said Dr Shashi Tharoor, Author and Public Intellectual in a session on ‘Leading The Way Towards A Sustainable & Equitable Future at the TechHR India 2023’.
In a conversation with Ester Martinez, CEO and Editor-in-Chief at People Matters on how can we make the transition more humane with rapid advancements in technology and AI, Dr Tharoor said, “The ability to think beyond conventional boundaries, to transcend the limitations of today’s possibilities and envision what could be achievable tomorrow, stands as one of the most valuable pursuits in the 21st century, spanning across various disciplines. This importance becomes even more pronounced due to the rapid, whirlwind pace of technological transformation with which all of you are well-acquainted. Consider this: I recently came across a noteworthy study conducted by the Oxford Martin School, which projects that by 2030, a staggering 30% of jobs worldwide will be roles that do not currently exist. The daunting question arises:
How do we prepare individuals for roles that are yet undefined? This dilemma stems from the unpredictable nature of future job requirements. Hence, possessing the capacity and willingness to embrace novel approaches, new undertakings, and unexplored territories—one’s previous experience might never have contemplated—is becoming an indispensable trait for prospective hires, trainees, and learners. This need to adapt, however, often eludes many of us who have not accustomed ourselves to such thinking.”
Embracing change while navigating the unpredictable future of innovation
Furthermore, Dr Tharoor explained how the world is ever-evolving and new job roles are being defined out of necessity, and with AI the future is unpredictable by saying, “Another significant consideration is the dynamic nature of innovation. The phenomena that seem to be on the ascendant might, in an unforeseen twist, descend into obscurity. An illustrative instance is the emergence and eventual decline of medical transcription during the early years of the century. This practice involved American doctors recording notes, which were then transmitted overnight to qualified Indian professionals to transcribe while the doctors slept, yielding substantial cost savings and efficiency.
This once-promising field experienced a sudden demise due to the proliferation of AI-driven voice recognition software. Now, these doctors, instead of depending on external transcription services, can employ software that converts their speech into text as they speak. This transformative change effectively rendered the medical transcription sector obsolete, leading to its collapse. Similarly, even essential domains like radiology faced paradigm shifts. Qualified Indian radiologists remotely interpreting MRIs for American hospitals had been a lucrative business. However, AI advancements have enabled direct computer-based analysis, circumventing the need for radiologists to review each scan.
Such instances underline the volatile nature of our times, where even established practices cannot be taken for granted. Something that seems possible today may not be possible tomorrow, and something that may be possible tomorrow hasn’t yet been thought of today but could be that keeps you on your toes. This awareness keeps us vigilant, albeit sometimes taxing and nerve-wracking. Nevertheless, it also exudes a sense of exhilaration—every operation within your enterprise presents an opportunity to explore how it could be streamlined, optimized, or made more lucrative through imaginative, even fantastical means.”
Strategize to make AI an advantage
Illustrating his own profession as an example, Dr Tharoor shared how with AI adoption even the traditional mechanisms will change. He said, “A lot of things will become possible in the future that isn’t possible today, be prepared to embrace that and to react in an accommodative way for you folks remember part of the answer is retraining but it’s not the whole answer.”
- Individuals and organisations should focus on upskilling and reskilling.
- Embrace a growth mindset and be willing to learn new skills and technologies.
- Continuous learning and development are crucial to staying relevant in a dynamic job market.
- HR should ensure that people who can’t keep up with this change are given a soft landing, and employ by retraining them, but those who cannot adapt or retrain, deploy them with different roles.
The World of Work Today – People, Profit and Planet
Dr Tharoor shares, “One of my favourite concepts in the world of work today is the James Elkington theory called the triple bottom line. Profit is essentially you wouldn’t stay in business but once you’ve taken care of that the other two bottom lines also matter. Planning, the obvious environmental responsibilities we all have that what you do in your business doesn’t actually harm others and harm the environment, you don’t throw toxic sludge into our rivers, you don’t screw dangerous chemicals into the air, all of that stuff that you know you can now assume that everybody is sufficiently conscious of and you can do that. But then what about people?
Now those include two kinds of people, the people who work for you and the people who live around you but don’t work for you and companies need to get used to the idea in the 21st century that those people, both sets of people really matter because ultimately all development, all corporate activity, all political activity is at the bottom above people and if what you do is making you money but arming people in the process you should stop doing it and if you won’t there will be many of us outside who want you to stop doing it. If you can do it in a way that helps people we will encourage and support you and you can legitimately lobby for tax incentives and other things because what you’re doing is also giving you a social good.”