Briefing Notes: The future isn’t what it used to be.

Published: August 23, 2020

The 36th | a Future of Work Edition


For several years now, we’ve been reading (and getting warned) about the future of work.

The digitization of everything. The widespread use of robots. The AI takeover. The transformation — or outright elimination — of existing functions and the creation of entirely new ones. The displacement of workers across the globe. The massive need for upskilling and reskilling.

There were projections per industry. A timeline of when things would most likely affect what segment of workers in which country. Tables and charts were produced showing which skillsets would become obsolete when, and what would replace them.

Speaking of skillsets, articles and webinars talked endlessly about the most important future work skills to focus on, with emphasis on transferable HUMAN skills.

Then 2020 arrived. Covid-19 happened. And all bets are off.

To be clear, all of the things noted before are still valid.

The most significant thing that’s changed about them is the timing. Not 3-5 years from now. It’s now. It’s happening now.

Companies, in response to unprecedented challenges caused by Covid-19, are responding by reinventing their business models and modes of operations. If you haven’t noticed, almost everything is moving online. Digital. Data-driven.

Customers (we) are changing our purchasing habits and expectations. If you’re in business, that means your clients and customers are changing fast. That means you have to, too.

Industries are getting disrupted faster than what others had previously anticipated (We knew for some time the retail industry was in for a reckoning. But who’d have imagined the speed with which it would be decimated?).

All these impacts you and me. At the individual level.

If we want to continue working and thriving in this massively evolving reality, we must be quick to adjust and adapt.

Curiosity is paramount. What is happening within your company? How is it evolving? What is it implementing? And your industry? What’s becoming the next normal there? And then armed with that understanding, how can you position yourself? What can you bring to the table? How can you be helpful?

Upskilling and reskilling isn’t optional. We can’t afford to be not tech-savvy anymore. We can’t afford not to know the new way of doing things. That’s one sure way to become irrelevant. We’ve got to learn how to learn quickly. Then apply what we’ve learned.

Nurturing relationships is an art and a skill we all must hone. In an era of digitization, AI, and remote work, no one can argue the importance of having real relationships with real people who matter. Our customers and clients, the leaders in our organizations, people in our communities. We cannot bow out and relinquish all to algorithms and statistical data.

Bottom Line

If this sounds alarming, let me adjust. I am not an alarmist by nature. I am excited about the future — both near and long-term. But I do want to ring a bell. I’ve said before and will say it again: We have front row seats. It’s up to us to carpe the heck of what there is to carpe.

The future isn’t what it used to be. It has lots of plot twists and turns. And it will always surprise. What’s new? What’s next? What’s possible now? What will you do about it?


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  • What Does Covid-19 Mean For The Future Of Work? Because some of these abrupt changes we’re seeing are likely to stick and will have knock-on effects. Employers, employees, staff, leaders, contractors, business owners — we must all prepare and be ready.
  • Why we should still plan for our future career. Yes, making a plan is still advisable even though things are moving so fast and our plans could easily become obsolete. The key is not to come up with one plan but rather develop multiple ones.
  • Cities offer cash as they compete for remote workers. If the lower cost of living, more affordable housing, and less traffic weren’t enough of an incentive, remote workers can receive cold hard cash for bringing their talents (and salaries) to more rural destinations.
  • AI is learning when it should and shouldn’t defer to a human. Algorithms are rarely designed to optimize for AI-to-human handover. If they were, the AI system would only defer to its human counterpart if the person could actually make a better decision. MIT researchers have now developed an AI system to do this kind of optimization based on strengths and weaknesses of the human collaborator.
  • Audio: In Machines We Trust by MIT Technology Review. New podcast that debuted this month. Some of the most important decisions in our lives are being made by artificial intelligence, determining things like who gets into college, lands a job, receives social services, or goes to jail—often without us having any clue.


“Write down your explanation—no more than two sentences—about why you’re making a transition. Stay away from self-indulgent storylines; highlight how you want to apply your skills to new domains or learn new things. What’s the value you bring? Write down one or two sentences identifying the unique knowledge or skills you have that others in your new domain might not. Find your common thread.”

—Dorie Clark

Mary Beth Simon is hosting a free webinar “Entrepreneurs, Are You Prepared for an Emergency” on Wednesday, September 2nd, at 3 p.m. ET. She’ll cover the must-have plan we need to reduce stress and steps we can take this week to better prepare for the unexpected. Register here. The webinar recording will be sent to all registrants.


The Future is Faster Than You Think
by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler

A blueprint for how our world will change in response to the next ten years of rapid technological disruption. “The acceleration and convergence of exponential technologies will completely reshape every industry and society over the next decade. [This] is the first book to thoroughly map this new territory. A fantastic guidebook for leaders, entrepreneurs, CEOs, and anyone who wants to understand the massive changes ahead.” – Ray Kurzweil

For this and other books notes, check here.


I’m skipping this segment. This entire edition is in future tense. 😉


… when you could listen to Mariah Carey and not do the eye-roll? Maybe, it’s just me. But there was a time – in 1990 specifically – when I actually bought her CD and happily played it on the boombox. Geez, remember CDs? Remember The Boombox? I may be subconsciously doubling down on nostalgia today because of this week’s theme 🤓. Anyhow, this is Mariah’s Vision of Love from her very first album released in 1990 (and those gorgeous curls) — when we liked her still.


🎙 We continue our look inside the world of social media in this week’s episode with Facebook Ad Specialist, Julie O’Hara. Online advertising is a critical function in businesses, no matter the size, no matter the industry. It’s not a job for everyone. But if you’ve got the right disposition and are willing to learn and hone the skills, it can be a lucrative career to consider. Listen to Ep 137 for a peek behind the curtains and see what this work is all about. Or read the show notes on the website.


Briefing Notes is researched, written, and edited by me alone. Each issue takes hours to produce and requires paid subscriptions to numerous journals, magazines, and books to get the widest and best source of information. If you find value in the newsletter, I’d so much appreciate you subsidizing my coffee habit 😊 It helps with the research and the writing!

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What a fun edition to write! I am an optimistic futurist… or like to think of myself that way. Plus, I love tech. So there’s that.

What are you thinking? Where are you seeing your company, your industry, or your career going? Where are you making changes?

Send over any comments or share your favorite Mariah Carey song. 😉 I’d love to hear from you.

Here’s to a productive, safe, and sane week.

Cool beans,
Lou Blaser


A former management consultant and IT leader, Lou Blaser is the editor of Briefing Notes and the host of the Second Breaks podcast. She is also the author of Break Free: The Courage to Reinvent Yourself and Your career. Lou’s work is focused on helping experienced professionals navigate an evolving work landscape so they can continue their impact and relevance in a changing world.

The world of work is changing.

Stay smart about it.

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