Russell Beck on The World of Work to 2030

“I have always been interested in business and ‘the world,’ and the changes within”

Russell Beck author image
Words by Russell Beck | Jan 18 2024

In The World of Work to 2030, author Russell Beck considers the megatrends playing out in the world today and how businesses and individuals can future-proof themselves.

1. What prompted you to write a book that looks at our fast-changing business landscape, and how to navigate it?

That is a good question! I do not think it was any single incident or event that prompted me. Maybe it is how I am wired, but I have always tried to make sense of what is happening and sought to understand what is really going on. When speaking to businesses about their challenges and opportunities we often find that what is initially highlighted as ‘the problem,’ through discussion, ends up being a symptom, not the cause. The real value comes from identifying what is really going on and working through what that means.

I have always been interested in business and ‘the world,’ and the changes within. My daughter (who was 12 when I wrote the book) was becoming ever more inquisitive about things and, like many parents, I found I could not answer all her questions! She had just moved to secondary school in the UK and with the corresponding impending subject choices, I wondered: what would give her the best opportunity for a 40, 50 or 60-year career? At the same time, we were experiencing recurring themes from the business leaders we were speaking to: change is constant; what is important (or is everything now important?); how has COVID-19 changed things; are these changes transitory or for ever…?

As I say in the book, it is all up in the air and it is happening to all of us. The future rarely looks like the past and I would rather seek to try and understand, to try and make sense of it all and thus have some control over my own destiny. That is why I wrote the book.

2. In your book you cover a broad range of happenings that will affect us all over the next few years, from AI to politics. Which required the most research?

Of the many varied topics I discuss in the book, I think that the hardest to consider was AI. I started writing in January 2023, about 4 weeks after the launch of Chat-GPT. Whilst writing, we were bombarded with articles that, on one hand, forecasted the end of humanity or, on the other, a future where humans had no need to work. The sheer pace of the conversation, the newness of what was possible and what may be possible meant that sifting the hype and noise from the reality required the most effort.

In general, I have always enjoyed reading extensively and broadly. I also run a lot. When running I listen to an eclectic mix of podcasts covering business, politics, history, books, football, cautionary tales etc. Whatever the source, when I come across an interesting snippet I send myself an email which I then collect and file away (the most popular recipient of emails from myself is, myself!). I coupled this general/”theoretical” research with my practical work as a Managing Director and a Consultant working with multiple organisations and engaging with my network to learn, challenge, refine and adapt ideas.

I guess that my inquisitive nature became the catalyst for writing the book. Whilst I never set out to do that, in reality I have been building up to it for many years, I just never realised that this was the destination I was aiming for.

3. Why is it so important that people are not only aware of, but understand the importance of and are prepared to act on these global megatrends?

For me, the megatrends are interesting and obviously important as they have defined why our world is as it is today, and they will continue to create the world that we will live in tomorrow. They are unleashed, they are playing out and whilst, like a river whose course may be nudged along the way, their future trajectory is already broadly definable. An awareness of them is thus important to understand the context of the world within which we live, work and play.

However, the most important point is to answer the question: ‘so what?’ What does this mean to us in the context of work, in the context of our families and our businesses so that we may continue to have fulfilling lives and be able to provide for our loved ones? We are living longer and fewer and fewer people can afford to retire. We are thus forced to have longer and longer careers, yet, at the same time, we are told that AI and robots threaten the very jobs that we need in order to survive economically. How is that compatible?

Answering the question ‘so what?’ is the most important outcome of the megatrends, and that is what the book sets out to do.

The book is designed for anyone who wants to know how the world will play out and, most importantly, what that means for their businesses, the impact on their careers and the practical steps they can take to prepare.

Pre-publication, the book has been read by leaders across multiple spheres including government, education, industry, third sector and professional bodies. It has been read by CEOs, COOs and department heads. It has been read by people in healthcare, professional services, finance, retail and manufacturing. In short, I’ve written the book as a grounded and useful guide designed to appeal to a broad and wide range of people who want to understand the future.

5. How did you find the process of condensing so much information and advice into one (extremely informative) guide?

This question has identified probably the biggest single challenge I faced with writing the book. What structure should I use to that allows me, as the writer, to take the reader on a journey which will enable me to impart knowledge and help make sense of everything?

One approach that helped me distil all the information into a sensible ‘thesis’ was/is my work delivering conference keynote speeches. When you only have 30 - 40 minutes to impart how the world was changing and the actions you could take it focuses the mind somewhat!! This helped clarify the ‘lenses’ through which I answer the ‘so what?’ question.

A greater help in achieving the end result was my business partner, Alison. She challenged me to step out and see things in a different way, helped clarify my thought processes and enabled me to get what was in my head onto paper in a manner that would engage a wider audience. As I say in the acknowledgements, this book is as much hers as it is mine. I am told that the final structure achieves what I set out to do – to create a book that makes sense of the world that can be read cover to cover or dipped into to allow readers to focus on their pressing concerns. Hopefully you will agree!

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