The Fourth Industrial Revolution: Charting a Course for the Work of Tomorrow

by Gabe Luna-Ostaseski, Co-founder, Braintrust Network

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Image by Christina Morillo via Pexels

When it comes to identifying the weak link in a system, outsiders often have a unique advantage.

Let’s say, for example, you’ve encountered a problem in a system you use every single day.

Your first reaction would be to create a fix for that problem so that you can keep business running as smoothly as possible. If you encounter the problem again, you improve upon your quick fix to avoid any further distractions.

But because an outsider can more easily view the entire system end-to-end, they’re able to re-envision a newer, better version that eliminates the recurrence of that problem altogether. Their new version may look very similar to the previous system, or, more likely, it may look entirely different, and create new unforeseen opportunities.

My personal and professional experience presents a fairly good example of an outsider. I grew up on a hippy commune, with parents that were artists and social entrepreneurs. I didn’t finish college and often joke that I’ve been unemployable since I was 18-years-old, shortly after leaving my first “real job”.

Rather than taking a path to a traditional 9-to-5, I thought of work very differently, as well as how to approach big challenges.

As a result, I’ve spent my career looking for creative solutions to complex problems, and, as an outsider, I’ve consistently discovered that solutions are found when you step away from the day-to-day and focus on the bigger picture.

As an entrepreneur and investor, I’ve come to rely on my outsider’s point of view as an advantage.

And, because I know that the pace of tech innovation is increasing, I am constantly asking myself questions designed to help me rethink the norms and challenges of the present, and identify opportunities for the future, for example:

  • In a digitized and globalized world in which we can connect with anyone, anywhere, on any project, why do workers return to the same office each week?
  • When tech unemployment has hit record lows and companies are struggling to hire locally, why haven’t they opened their search globally?
  • When we have the capabilities of building complex networks, why haven’t we built systems that truly benefit both organizations and workers?

I’m not alone in considering these questions—leaders from nearly every industry have been making strategic decisions that will change how we work in the future, beginning sooner than we may have realized.

Ready or not, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is about to impact us all, and as someone with non-traditional experience, I’m taking a step back to look at the bigger picture.

All Signs Point to Change

The last two decades have seen unprecedented advances in both technology and in humanity’s collective ability to harness it.

Thanks to smartphones and fast, accessible internet, challenges that once required geniuses and supercomputers to solve, can now be accomplished by a teenager on their phone.

Global access to the internet has ballooned since the dawn of the millennium, and with it, so has the global tech workforce.

Meanwhile, collaborative tools and software such as Slack and Asana, have made it easier than ever for a distributed workforce to compete on equal footing.

The workers of tomorrow won’t be waiting for you in San Jose. They could be learning to code in San Juan or São Tomé, and they might not have any desire to leave.

Together, these factors point to a coming change—a Fourth Industrial Revolution.

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Image by The Creative Exchange via Unsplash

The Fourth Industrial Revolution

You probably remember details on the industrial revolutions from high school. Mechanization in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries (think steam engines and factories) led to unprecedented growth and fundamentally changed the nature of human society.

One century later, advanced machinery and assembly lines brought us mass production and built the middle class.

Many of us lived through the third revolution, when computer technology once again changed the types of work that drive our economy.

And now the next revolution is upon us.

In this revolution, widespread automation will shift the tasks and roles valued in the workplace, requiring a widespread re-skilling of the workforce.

In our globalized economy, the nature of work itself will also change. And this presents new opportunities. Talented professionals, for example, will no longer have to rely on a single employer to pay their bills.

In the future of work, teams will be cross-cultural, made up of both full-time employees and freelancers, and flexible in terms of size, location and composition.

These changes are happening quickly, and they’re happening now.

Revolution by the Numbers

McKinsey estimates that 50 percent of current work tasks can be automated with existing technology. That doesn’t even touch on the technologies that haven’t been invented yet.

Yes, this means some jobs will be lost. But the forecast is sunnier than naysayers would have you believe.

According to the World Economic Forum, automation will actually create 133 million new roles globally by 2022. It will take a lot of human brainpower to keep those robots on task.

While the number is vast, it can be hard to picture. Let’s look at just one profession. By 2028, employers in the U.S. will be looking for 300,000 new software engineers, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. That’s an awful lot of roles for companies to fill in an already tight labor market, especially if recruiters continue to limit their searches locally.

Meanwhile, the workforce is aging, and the next generation of workers shows little desire to enter traditional employment.

The New Workforce

According to a study by Freshbooks, 42 percent of the next 27 million independent workers will be millennials. While many in this generation moved toward self-employment during the last recession, they haven’t stayed out of necessity. In fact, 97 percent of independent workers report no desire to return to traditional work.

Even more startling? 51 percent said no amount of money could get them back into an office full-time, according to Forbes.

But don’t let anyone convince you to sell these workers short. Their aversion to the cubicle life comes along with emotional agility, dependability, and self-discipline rated higher than their office-based peers, according to Deloitte.

And millennials in senior management are even more likely to pursue a freelance career, compared to their more junior counterparts.

Additionally, Gen Z will be even more averse to traditional employment—and they’re already joining the freelance workforce.

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The World Economic Forum Future of Jobs Report 2018

So, What Does It All Mean?

In the 2018 Future of Jobs Report from the World Economic Forum, researchers surveyed workers from a wide range of industries, including agriculture, automotive, supply chain and transportation, healthcare, energy, banking, insurance, oil and gas, and more.

Their findings point to wide-spread adoption of new technologies in every industry represented by surveyed participants. In fact, their research finds that every industry is quickly becoming a tech industry, and every company needs workers with technical skills.

Work in agriculture? You’ll need data experts to help you maximize crop yields. Banking? You’ll need app developers, security experts, and machine learning engineers. Museums? You’ll need UX designers to ensure your visitors have digital experiences as beautiful as your collections.

So, what’s a CTO or CIO to do? Most face major internal resource shortages, often because the necessary technical skills are in short supply. Or maybe it’s from overworked departments with global organizational footprints facing increasingly complex demands.

Hiring new staff is challenging and expensive—and that’s if you can get your organization to sign off on the compensation required to attract the skilled employees you need and in the timeframe in which you need additional support.

The System is Broken

An inflexible workforce that can’t expand and contract as organizational needs change is one that works against its needs to drive innovation in a competitive market.

But as a leader, it’s difficult to find qualified freelance professionals who can seamlessly join your existing team and drive impact on day one.

Hiring contractors has never been easy. Whether you rely on word of mouth or a platform, it’s hard to tell which freelancers really have the skills you need. And reliability is always a question. How do you know that the contractor you hired will complete your project on time and on budget?

With little staked on the outcome for freelancers, companies don’t have much in the way of leverage.

Plus, existing freelance platforms charge exorbitant fees that rack up your spending without necessarily getting you the most valuable talent.

After all, when middlemen take a 20 to 50 percent cut of every project, contractors are incentivized to leave a platform as soon as they build a relationship with a company, meaning that the most skilled professional freelancers can only be found if you know how to locate them.

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Image by Brooke Cagle via Unsplash

We know that the alternative workforce is rapidly growing, and that the newest and brightest talent is joining in. They benefit from the flexibility to work when and where they want, and organizations likewise benefit from the ability to adjust the size of their workforce when needed. It seems like a win-win, so what’s the problem?

It comes down to a lack of alignment.

For real project success, organizations and talent alike need to be on the same page. That means both need to have something to gain (or lose) depending on the outcome of a project. And these outcomes need to be fairly and consistently assessed.

It’s quite a challenge. But we have the solution.

Introducing Braintrust

My co-founder Adam and I were both passionate about enabling a future of work that was more aligned, fair and equitable — that’s why we decided to launch Braintrust.

Braintrust is both a platform and network built by people that believe that the way global organizations and knowledge workers work together is fundamentally unfair and broken.

To solve for these challenges, we founded the Braintrust network with a few core beliefs.

We believe that talent deserves to keep 100 percent of the value they create while getting full credit for their work.

We’re here to shape the future of work — one that is transparent, responsible and 100 percent aligned for everyone.

We also believe that organizations should have access to the world’s top talent without middle men taking huge cuts. And when we say this, we mean it — we’re here to shape the future of work — one that is transparent, responsible and 100 percent aligned for everyone.

Our premise is simple: take away the middleman.

Instead of an extractive, rent-seeking platform, we’re building a network of top freelancers that’s powered by talent-matching software and the Braintrust token, BTRUST.

By basing our business model on token appreciation rather than fees, we’re handing the keys of the network to workers themselves, drawing in the best talent seeking flexibility, autonomy and ownership. And where the talent goes, so will go organizations searching for it.

What’s in it for Organizations?

  • Know exactly who you’re hiring: Reputation and attribution for work will be recorded on the blockchain, so the history of your team is fully transparent.
  • Access to competitive rates: With transparency and without middlemen, fair market rates take root. Your money is paying for the best talent you can buy, not for a gimmicky platform.
  • Complete alignment: Freelancers can stake tokens on the outcome of your project along with their bid, giving them skin in the game. They also gain value by inviting successful professional freelancers into the network, keeping our talent pipeline strong.
  • Culture and experience fit: Our talent matching engine ensures that the freelancers you hire will be a seamless fit on your project team.

What’s in it for Freelancers?

  • No fees: Freelancers keep 100 percent of what they earn.
  • Reputation-building: Transparent blockchain records allow talent to demonstrate their value.
  • Network growth: By participating in the network and inviting other users, freelancers will reap additional rewards in the form of token value growth.
  • Control over the platform: The self-governed community means that freelancers need not fear changing terms and conditions.

We’re building a future of work that benefits both organizations and talent. This rising tide will lift all boats. We look forward to welcoming you to the Braintrust network.

Just as the assembly line allowed Ford to build an auto-based society, so will the Braintrust network allow organizations and freelancers to embrace the coming Fourth Industrial Revolution.

With transparency and trust at the center, work will become smoother, more efficient, and create a greater sense of value and purpose — for both organizations, and the talent with which they collaborate.

Additionally, companies will be empowered to drive innovation faster, and talented professionals will gain the much-desired autonomy to work on their own terms.

We’re building a future of work that benefits both organizations and talent. This rising tide will lift all boats. We look forward to welcoming you to the Braintrust network.

To learn more, visit our website and sign up for updates today.

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Braintrust is a global network of elite tech talent. Our user-controlled, tokenized platform empowers all participants to do their best work.

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