Leveraging talent in the fourth industrial revolution

The world is now entering the third wave of digital innovation, leveling up out of the internet and connectivity era into what the World Economic Forum is calling the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”. This poses a great opportunity for leaders, organisations and countries to leverage talent within the globally changing workforce and environment.

Since digital innovation began back in the ’80s with the first wave – the era of personal computing – Australia, and other countries too, with some pockets of success aside, have largely failed to cash in on the opportunities it has brought compared to many other countries.

Yet, we all have the talent to maximize a potential share for the Australian industries worth $315 billion in the next 10 years according to the CSIRO Data61 Report and we all need to ensure that we don’t miss out! 

“Our reputation for innovation & research is spotless. It’s well past time we started cashing in on our talent”

Yet, whilst technology can improve productivity, the significant amount of turbulence in the business environment is causing most organizations to grapple with the complexity and unpredictability of what it might mean to “cash in” on their talent, within a globally changing workforce and business environment.

Quantifying your talent opportunity

The third wave is flagged globally as a “$10-$15 trillion global opportunity” and alphaBeta’s report has identified a potential share for the Australian industries worth $315 billion of that over the next 10 years. Also that there are even more digital opportunities opening up in the next 10 years for leveraging talent.

Right now, ABS and OECD stats show Australian digital innovation has so far managed to capture just 7.4% of its GDP – for the rest of the world’s advanced economies, that figure is at 11.2% of GDP and running away.

So what can you and your organisation do towards leveraging talent to thrive in the fourth industrial revolution?

Maximizing and leveraging talent as a strategic focus

  1. Put Talent at the intersection of Strategy, Technology, and Digital Change

Incorporate a strategic focus on the people side of innovation, putting talent at the core of your strategy as a powerful enabler of systemic change through:

  • Outlining a clear why it is important for people to adapt and grow in the face of disruptive change.
  • Outlining an inclusive vision, mission and strategy that supports speed, agility, learning, collaboration, teaming and networking – as the key levers for effecting organizational productivity and performance improvements.
  • Aligning behaviours, systems, processes, artifacts and technological changes outlined in Josh Bersin’s “Flow of Work” diagram below.



  1. Acknowledge that some people are struggling to embrace the changes in digital innovation

Create new ways of interacting with people and stakeholders to be present to, and hear their concerns. Acknowledge that many are becoming psychologically uncomfortable, anxious, confused and conflicted about the speed and constancy of change in the fourth industrial revolution.

According to Josh Bersin;

  • Businesses and their people are feeling overwhelmed – yet the shift to productivity requires future human bits of intelligence and technologies to simplify our work lives.
  • The pace of work is accelerating – yet the shift to digital is putting even more pressure on business leaders and their people as existing career and organisational models are continuing to evolve.
  • We are all way too busy – we are now negotiating with an electronic boss every minute: our phones.
  • AI is making systems conversational – yet the growing use of AI-related technologies is expanding as their expertise in conversational robotic intelligence powers, causing us to question as to how will they be designed and implemented?
  • Design, critical and creative thinking are here to help – making learning a work-related intervention rather than a work interruption.
  • Coaching people to improve their performance and achieve better results, especially in applying new ideas “on the job” & implementing high-value projects.
  1. Acknowledge that the desired changes begin with a coaching mindset change

Mindsets influence and capture how we think, feel, decide and how we act as individuals, teams and whole organizations. Our ability to connect to ourselves, and to others, how we feel, think and make choices and on the behaviours and actions, we take and the results we get.

Our mindsets are unconsciously managed by our autonomic nervous system – which means that people’s readiness and resistance are unconscious and neurologically based.  This requires very specialized and skilled coaching support, to align, enable, empower and maximize talents’ potential in the fourth industrial revolution.

To coach people to take responsibility and effectively deal with their range of reactive responses, and their individual and collective struggles with change-led digital innovation.

Including proactively resolving people’s;

  • Disengagement and Avoidance; which results in creating a culture of blame, shame, retribution, and envy where no-one flourishes.
  • Complacency and Comfort; resulting in inertia & innovation permafrost where no-one progresses or evolves.
  • Alignment Issues; where people feel disconnected by lack of clarity to the ‘why’ meaning and purpose of the desired changes so seldom bring their best selves to work.
  • Emotive and Safety Issues; where people are fearful and anxious about the change and their ability to adapt, control or survive within this brave new world so shut down to possibilities change might bring.
  • Cognitive Blindness and Biases; where people are negative and cynical about change, because they have heard it all before or make up their own meaning about it.
  • Distortion; where the lack of clear communication, trust, meaning and a cultural legacy of punishment and retribution inhibits people’s abilities to take smart risks, make mistakes and learn from failure.

To then provide people with specialized and empathic coaching support to pull people towards cultivating useful, powerful and resourceful mindsets and responses in times of organisational change and growth.

Including enabling them to take personal responsibility towards developing and applying new foundational innovation mindsets.

To then support them to learn by doing, on the job, so that they generate the creative energy to innovate. By knowing what it means to be and think differently in any situation to improve their performance and productivity.

  1. Acknowledge that the nature & flow of work has changed & work with it

Referring again to Josh Bersin’s Flow of Work diagram above, he recommends that organisations might deal with these aspects by;

  • Looking outwards – engaging more with people, customers, and stakeholders.
  • Prizing delegation and not controlling – sharing decision making.
  • Encouraging boldness over caution – taking risks, failing fast and learning.
  • Taking more action, less planning – committing to adaptation and continuous iteration.
  • Valuing collaboration over individual effort.
  • Embracing and fostering connectedness.
  1. Provide coaching support to “cash in” on developing people’s capability to be, think and do things differently through structured coaching and collaborative team based learning programs
  • Make learning a work-related “on the job” intervention through customized blended learning programs that are team and project based.
  • Develop a safe learning environment where people feel safe and trusted to experiment and learn from their mistakes.
  • Provide formal, structured mentoring and coaching support that fosters and enables fresh and different thinking, creative problem solving and collaborative business practices.
  • Incorporate, promote and reward specific, the core desired mindset shifts, behavioural changes and new business practices.

Finding the balance to flourish in the fourth industrial revolution

Deloitte’s Readiness Report reveals that the majority of business leaders surveyed acknowledged that they were uncertain they have the right talent to be successful in this new era of technological advancement, known as the imagination age, as only;

  • 25% are highly confident that their workforce has the skill sets needed for the future.
  • 14% are highly confident in their ability to harness the changes associated with Industry 4.0.

So what are you willing to boldly do, in your organisation towards leveraging your talent and;

Flourish in uncertain times, strategically finding the right balance of humans and machines, in ways that complement each other to improve both performance and productivity?

Re-design roles & cultivate people’s multiple intelligences and maximize your organizations’ potential to adapt and grow in the disruptive times of the fourth industrial revolution?

Find out about The Coach for Innovators Certified Program, a collaborative, intimate & deep personalized learning program, supported by a global group of peers over 8-weeks, starting October 22, 2019. It is a deep blended learning program that will give you a deep understanding of the language, principles & applications of a human centered approach to innovation, within your unique context. Find out more.

Contact us now at janet@imaginenation.com.au to find out how we can partner with you to learn, adapt and grow your business in the digital age.