It is generally acknowledged that we are currently in the fourth industrial revolution (IR4.0) which began at the turn of the second millennium. The first three industrial revolutions – mechanization, electrification and digitization as they are respectively referred to – were primarily centered upon making work faster, more precise, and resultantly more efficient. Some suggest that the fourth industrial revolution represents the age of automation driven by technologies including artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT) that further improve the efficiency of work. Others suggest that increasing intelligent automation accelerates the humanization of work recognizing the positive impact such technologies have upon the quality of life. However, neither automation nor humanization fully captures the significant impact of the interrelationship between quality of life and the way work is accomplished.
The fourth industrial revolution is distinguished from the previous three because it acknowledges the interdependence and undeniable synergy between the quality of human life and the way work is accomplished. The seemingly limitless potential of human ingenuity is manifesting in the increasing intelligent nature of technological innovation. Intelligent technology is developing new and better intelligent technology which furthers both the potential of human ingenuity and the promise of technology. The interrelationship between humanity and work is more appropriately captured in the word actualization – the transformation of potential into reality.
The term self-actualization was introduced by the German psychologist Kurt Goldstein and popularized by the American psychologist Abraham Maslow in his human hierarchy of needs which culminated in self-actualization. In the context of the fourth industrial revolution, however, actualization extends well beyond the confines of self-actualization by incorporating the entire workplace inclusive of technology, interpersonal dynamics and organizational context.
Workplace actualization is comprised of three primary components:
Individuals have the responsibility to recognize their potential and to take the requisite steps to realize their potential. While much can be accomplished through individual effort, the realization of potential is greatly aided by engaging with others both inside and out of the workplace where the overarching collective goal is to optimize the contribution of everyone to maximize overall team, group and organizational performance. Organizational structure, policies, processes, and norms – especially those enabled by technology - either accelerate or inhibit performance by the nature of the impact each has upon realizing potential and optimizing contribution. Actualization at all three levels is required to achieve workplace actualization.
Recognizing what needs to be accomplished to achieve workplace actualization is a significant step, but how can workplace actualization be accomplished? There are two key catalysts to actualization that apply equally to the three primary components of workplace actualization.
Individuals must continually learn both who they are, to recognize their potential, as well as what they do, to realize their potential. Individuals and leadership alike must learn to effectively engage if they are to successfully optimize contribution. Organizations must learn how to structure and apply technology in ways that accelerate rather than inhibit performance.
The on-going and ever evolving learning required for workplace actualization requires more robust learning management solutions. To address this need, software application providers are employing artificial intelligence and machine learning technology to enhance both the effectiveness and user experience while expanding the scope of the systems themselves. One such example is the Totara Learning Management System. Enabled through artificial intelligence, the Totara solution provides an adaptable system that addresses learning, engagement and performance which directly aligns with the three components of workplace actualization.
Rather than focusing upon managing change, it is critically important to recognize, embrace and adapt to change. As with learning, developing adaptability is equally applicable and equally important at all three levels of workplace actualization. Adaptability is critical in recognizing and realizing potential. Adaptability in the collective context enables the realization of potential and facilitates the optimization of contribution through interpersonal relationships and leadership influence. Adaptability enables organizations to successfully recognize and expeditious response to changes in the market, industry and operating climate rather than focusing primarily upon improving their ability to succeed in known conditions. Adaptability improves the likelihood of continuing and sustainable operations. Organizational adaptability encourages knowledge sharing, risk-taking, flexibility, and empowerment which contributes to accelerating performance.
Fourth industrial revolution technology is also empowering the assessment of adaptability. The Adaptability Quotient assessment developed by AQai uniquely employs artificial intelligence to create a unique assessment experience for each individual. Additionally, this technology enables the assessment of several different components of adaptability in the current work context of each individual respondent. As with the Totara Learning Management System, the construct of the AQai Adaptability assessment directly aligns with the three levels of workplace actualization – individual, team or group and organizational.
But what of the future? It is reasonable to believe that workplace actualization will contribute to the continuing stream of future industrial revolutions. While the nature of future industrial revolutions is the topic of speculation at this point, one thing is clear. Actualization is an iterative process strengthened through the symbiotic relationship between learning and adaptability. In combination, learning and adaptability lead to individual, collective and organizational growth which in turn leads to the promise of the fourth industrial revolution - workplace actualization and improved quality of life.