Roughly 65 percent of children today will work in jobs that don’t currently exist according to Professor Cathy Davidson, Founding Director of the Futures Initiative at the Graduate Center, the City University of New York. The world is changing fast and spotting opportunity will require a keen understanding of what that change will look like. While attending the EY World Entrepreneur of the Year Awards in Monte Carlo I had the opportunity to get some insight into dealing with a rapidly evolving world from technology entrepreneur and CEO of InTecur William H. Saito.
In our conversation Saito was quick to point out that this is not a new phenomenon. He noted that entire industries have come and gone in just one generation. As an example, when you go back to the time when horse and buggy drivers where facing the rise of the automobile you find the same thing. The birth of the internet is another among many poignant examples. As we innovate and create new business models and plans jobs that were once a staple disappear. Below is an excerpt from our conversation:
Michael Woodward: What will jobs in the future look like for our children and where will the opportunities be?
William Saito: There is always going to be change. A lot of it is scary, unknown, and there are just cases we are not familiar with. How we adapt and learn to take advantage of that are the opportunities. In the future, machine learning and AI (artificial intelligence) will basically take away the repetitive type jobs. The challenge as parents and educators, and a society will be how to bring out the humanness in a machine world.
MW: How are you able to see opportunity with such an eclectic and wide spanning career?
WS: I’m just eternally curious about things. I have this disease of not knowing how to say no that leads to a lot of volunteering, listening to people, sleepless nights, travel, But, I get to meet all these people and I get to see how these dots interconnect and how ideas connect together. I get to see how all the core issues around the world are very similar and put that in context. I try to find out what the essence of the issue is so that I'm not constantly playing whack-a-mole and can get to the heart for the matter. My hope is to do something that can make the world a better place.
MW: You have a broad network. How do you spot opportunities through meeting people?
WS: It’s important to open yourself up to all sorts of perspectives, discussions, ideas, and thoughts. At the end of the day what’s most important is that you realize that there is a limit to what you yourself as an individual can accomplish. You have to stand on the shoulders of others. You have to create your own ecosystem where people can help lift you from failure and guide you forward. Because you will fall down.
I give people the benefit of the doubt. It doesn’t matter if it’s a college student or a 65-year-old executive, I treat them the same and see where it goes. If I were to do the calculation, it’s probably a low batting average. But just like baseball, if a third of the people you connect with do mean well that may be the critical mass.
Even from the bad people that you meet, I think you can reflect on that and go Ooh, why is that person bad or why don’t I like him or am I maybe perhaps being too critical. I’ll reflect on that and perhaps try to change myself. Every opportunity is a learning one.
MW: Do you have a habit that helps you keep your focus?
WS: I’m pretty self-critical, but I probably have Alzheimer’s and forget pretty quickly too. As I said I’m pretty self-critical, but I don’t get into these ruts where I’m depressed for a week. If I’m not in the mood to look forward to this day and that continues for four days straight that’s a warning flag. If I get bummed out for more than four or five days I take time and do a real big self-assessment and say OK maybe there is a big course change necessary.
MW: What’s your advice on instilling the right mindset in our children for spotting opportunity as the future evolves?
WS: Instill curiosity and don’t be afraid of failure. We need to redefine the term failure and call it what it really is “experience.” The idea of failure can be a tremendous waste. It's also about passion. Opportunity isn’t just a matter of technical feasibility. Some things might be logically possible, but if you are not passionate about it then you probably shouldn’t be doing it.