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Hubert Joly, the former chairman and chief executive officer of Best Buy, is now a senior lecturer at the Harvard Business School. He has been recognized as one of the top 100 CEOs in the world by Harvard Business Review, one of the top 30 CEOs in the world by Barron’s and one of the top 10 CEOs in the United States by Glassdoor. In “The Heart of Business,” a Wall Street Journal bestseller, Joly and writer Caroline Lambert describe how Joly orchestrated the dramatic turnaround of the failing Best Buy by focusing on the idea that “purpose and human connections constitute the very heart of business.” Construction executives will appreciate the book’s exploration of the role of human workers in an increasingly automated labor environment, including in this excerpt:

Now our economic environment—and therefore the nature of work—is going through a radical transformation across the world. Call it a fourth revolution or, like General Stanley McChrystal, a VUCA world: volatile, unpredictable, complex and ambiguous. Because of fast-changing technology and evolving social norms, agility, innovation, collaboration and speed have become more valuable than standardized processes and long-term planning.

As a result, the nature of work has changed. The health-damaging physical strain, the Charlie Chaplin kind of mind-numbing repetition, the forklifts running over you, all are declining, as routine tasks get automated. Take my old supermarket summer job. It is being replaced by electronic shelf labels, which get updated at the flick of a finger on a central computer. Even in manufacturing, farming and other traditionally strenuous occupations, work is becoming less physically demanding. Economies increasingly tilt toward services and more creative work. Two-thirds of all jobs in the U.S. economy now require post-secondary education—up from just 28% in 1973—with leadership, communications and analysis the most valued competencies.

Yet although the nature of work has evolved rapidly, our view of work remains stubbornly unchanged.


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