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Best TED talk on the future of the workforce

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Hey there, curious minds! Ever find yourself wondering what the world of work will look like in the coming years? It's no secret that things are changing—jobs, careers, the whole nine yards. In the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, it's easy to miss the bigger picture of how work evolves.

Picture this: new technologies, different ways of working, and a whole set of skills we never thought we'd need. It's a bit like trying to solve a puzzle without knowing what the final picture looks like. But fear not, because there's a treasure trove of insights waiting for you in the form of TED Talks.

So, why should you care about the future of work? Well, think of it as your guidebook to understanding where your career, or even your kids' jobs, might be headed. And where better to start than TED Talks, those bite-sized nuggets of wisdom that make complex ideas accessible?

In this blog, we're diving into some of the absolute best TED Talks that unpack the mysteries of the future workforce. These talks are like your backstage pass to what's coming, spoken by experts who've done their homework.

Ready to peek behind the curtain and glimpse what your work life might look like down the road? Let's jump into the fascinating world of the future of the workforce, one TED Talk at a time!

5 Primary Skills for the Future of Work by Walter Vandervelde

The speaker emphasizes the inevitability of change in the future of work and highlights the World Economic Forum's prediction that 42% of core skills needed for existing jobs will change by 2022. The impact of technology, including AI and machine learning, is discussed, suggesting that even highly skilled professionals may be replaced.

The speaker introduces the concept of "T-shaped professionals," emphasizing the importance of both industry-specific skills (vertical axis) and work and industry-neutral skills (horizontal axis). The latter are referred to as "Wing Skills" or growth skills, which are less sensitive to changes and remain with an individual throughout their life.

The five primary growth skills, or "Wings," identified are:

  1. Creativity: Generating new and useful ideas by thinking critically and solving problems from different perspectives.
  2. Critical Thinking: Analyzing and questioning information, making informed decisions, and developing opinions, visions, and strategies.
  3. Self-Management: Knowing oneself, setting and working towards goals, fostering confidence, and being resistant to change.
  4. Social Intelligence: Communicating, connecting, and collaborating effectively with others, including listening, motivating, and providing feedback.
  5. Attention Management: Organizing oneself, finding a natural flow, and enhancing daily productivity and proactiveness.

The speaker suggests that these growth skills are the roots of various other skills listed as important for the future, such as complex problem-solving, conflict management, and leadership.

The video concludes with three pieces of advice for the future:

  1. Never stop learning to stay relevant in your field.
  2. Develop your "Wings" by improving creativity, critical thinking, self-management, social intelligence, and attention management.
  3. Transform your wings into a mindset, making them an integral part of your personality and approach to life.

Can we make business more ethical by Elena Lopez?

The speaker, Elena Lopez, is a business ethics consultant specializing in human rights, anti-bribery, and anti-corruption. She discusses her journey from studying PPE at Warwick to becoming a business ethics consultant. Elena emphasizes the importance of the private side of business ethics, working within companies to ensure they adhere to ethical practices.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Introduction to Business Ethics: Elena introduces the field of business ethics, emphasizing its significance in preventing human rights abuses, bribery, and corruption within companies.
  2. Real-world Scandals: The speaker highlights major scandals, such as the Johnson and Johnson, the Boohoo scandal, Volkswagen Dieselgate, and the Goldman Sachs bribery case. These incidents demonstrate the real-world impact of unethical business practices.
  3. Role of Business Ethics Consultants: Elena describes her role as a business ethics consultant, working with companies to address ethical issues, investigate, and provide recommendations to prevent future problems.
  4. Unseen Injustices: Elena notes that many ethical issues within companies go unnoticed, including unfair labor practices, surveillance of employees, and discrimination. She emphasizes the need for companies to address both major and minor impacts.
  5. Motivation for Ethical Practices: Companies seek ethical guidance due to increasing legislation, consumer pressure, and the rise of ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) investing. Ethical practices lead to better reputations, legal compliance, and employee satisfaction.
  6. Individual Impact: Elena encourages individuals, regardless of their career path, to be aware of business ethics. She suggests providing feedback on policies, speaking up when witnessing wrongdoing, and being critical in social media consumption.
  7. Power of Consumers: Consumers can influence ethical business practices by researching companies, demanding transparency, and making informed purchasing decisions. Elena stresses the impact of consumer awareness on companies' behaviors.
  8. Choosing Ethical Employers: Job seekers are encouraged to research potential employers, examining their policies, reports, and culture to ensure alignment with personal values. This proactive approach holds employers accountable for ethical standards.

Elena emphasizes that ethical considerations in business are not limited to those directly involved in business ethics. Every individual can contribute to making businesses more ethical by staying informed, providing feedback, and making conscientious choices.

Some of the best TED talks on the future of workforce.

Is Remote Work better than Office? By Mark Mortensen

In the video, Mark Mortensen discusses the challenges and complexities associated with hybrid work, emphasizing that it's not a single focus area but three distinct conversations. The three main issues are:

  1. Effectiveness Debate:
    • Focuses on whether organizations can effectively deliver on their stakeholder commitments in a hybrid work environment.
    • Mortensen warns against relying solely on data from the COVID-19 pandemic, as it was a unique situation with short-term efficiency gains driven by survival mode.
    • Urges the need for a contextual solution based on the nature of tasks and the people involved.
  2. Staffing Discussion:
    • Addresses the challenge of attracting and retaining talent in a hybrid work setting.
    • Employees are increasingly considering a company's flexible work policy as a key criterion in their decision to work there.
    • Mortensen highlights the importance of reclaiming the narrative and recognizing that the comparison is between perceptions of working from home versus the office.
  3. Talk About Social Fabric:
    • Explores the impact of hybrid work on organizational culture, psychological safety, trust, power dynamics, and feelings of isolation.
    • Acknowledges the dynamic nature of social systems and the difficulty in predicting the long-term effects on organizational culture.
    • Emphasizes the need to consider the long-term implications on social fabric when making decisions about hybrid work.

Mortensen concludes by noting that these three conversations are interconnected and often involve differing ideological positions on what creates value in an organization. He encourages open conversations and challenges individuals to explore whether disagreements stem from differences in creating effectiveness, dealing with staffing, or shaping organizational culture, or if they are merely differences in prioritization within the hybrid work context.

Human-AI Collaboration: A Robotic State of Mind by Siri Beerends

In this talk, Siri Beerends discusses the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on our lives and the way we work. She starts by providing a historical perspective, referring to the mechanical Turk, a chess-playing machine from 250 years ago, and draws parallels to contemporary AI advancements.

Beerends highlights that AI, despite being touted as progress, often leads to humans behaving more like robots. She defines AI as computer systems capable of independently performing tasks and improving their performance through learning from data. Examples of AI in daily life include personalized online advertisements and predictive typing on smartphones.

The speaker introduces the idea that humans are increasingly working to train and satisfy AI systems, creating a situation where robots flourish while humans work.

Beerends argues that AI is not just a technology or tool; it is an ideology based on the economic principle of commercial data collection. She emphasizes that AI changes our moral ideas and habits, leading to a focus on data-capturable aspects and neglecting others.

Furthermore, the speaker challenges the notion that AI represents a form of intelligence, suggesting it is more akin to advanced statistics or "statistics on steroids." She cautions against transforming society into a predictable board game to accommodate AI, emphasizing the need for a balance that preserves human qualities.

Beerends concludes by urging a shift in expectations, proposing that we should expect more from each other and less from AI. She argues that true societal progress comes from addressing the root causes of issues through improved socioeconomic systems, emphasizing the human potential for innovation, and reshaping the future.

Key Takeaways:

  1. AI often leads to humans working for AI systems, making robots flourish while humans adapt to meet AI expectations.
  2. AI, as an ideology, is based on the economic principle of commercial data collection, potentially neglecting aspects not easily translatable into data.
  3. The impact of AI on human behavior extends beyond the workplace, affecting communication and social interactions.
  4. Beerends challenges the perception of AI as a form of intelligence, suggesting it is more about advanced statistics and pattern recognition.
  5. Rather than relying on AI for societal progress, Beerends advocates for expecting more from human potential and reshaping social-economic systems.

Did you know?

According to PwC’s report, 37% of the population are worried that automation might put their jobs at risk- that is a rapid increase from 33% in 2014. About 74% are eager to adapt to new skills to ensure they are employable in the future. Whereas 73% consider technology incapable of replacing the human mind. The report also explores “Four Worlds of Work” for 2030 that elucidates various scenarios that can develop in the future and suggest best ways to prepare for the same.

Also Read: The Future of Work: How Technology is Changing the Workplace


Exploring the best TED talks on the future of the workforce offers a profound journey into the dynamic landscape awaiting us. These talks not only shed light on emerging technologies and trends but also emphasize the critical role of adaptability, continuous learning, and human connection in navigating the evolving professional terrain.

As we stand on the brink of unprecedented changes, the insights shared in these talks serve as invaluable guideposts, encouraging us to embrace innovation, cultivate resilience, and foster a collaborative spirit to thrive in the workforce of tomorrow.