How will Smart Transformation help Communities Navigate through the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

How will Smart Transformation help Communities Navigate through the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

Katherine Teh, Managing Director of Futureye explains.

Will AI, automation and robotics create more work? What will be the impact on the link between productivity and employment? How does the public see the future of work from new technologies?

Futureye’s Managing Director, Katherine Teh, says the expectation is that we need to make regional jobs grow and the fear is that they won’t. Solving this problem requires early engagement and collaboration about a new way forward that will work in the fourth industrial revolution (4IR).

“The worst thing you can do is to hide people from the risk because that means they don’t have the right exposure to make the right decisions.”
Transparency is the core guiding principle in how Ms Teh has mitigated the risks associated which large-scale societal change. It is informed by Futureye’s social licence-based ‘DAVE’ approach (declare; acknowledge; vision; evaluate) that demystifies change through an open and inclusive, ‘no surprises’ dialogue rather than an expert and internally driven ‘top-down’ decision making process that risks driving public outrage and polarisation. When faced with the profound impact of the 4IR, transparently acknowledging the risks and bringing people together along on the visioning journey is what Ms Teh has termed a “Smart Transformation” strategy.

Not an elite view of future

To date, each industrial revolution has been named after a particular technology: mechanisation, water, steam power in the first; electricity powered mass production and assembly lines in the second; computers and automation in the third; and cyber-physical systems enabled by the interconnectivity between physical and digital spheres in the fourth.

Yet according to Ms Teh, conceptualising industrial revolutions as a technological paradigm shift doesn’t describe the societal impacts of change. Without democratising access to the technological insights of the emerging revolution it could be an industrial revolution that favours the elite rather than enable the economic opportunities of regions and cities alike.

“Expert knowledge of technology is great, but it is almost totally different from the public’s understanding. Most of the processes of engagement on technology is driven by experts, and they’re not really taking into account what the public is concerned about,” she says.

The “Smart Transformation” process envisioned by Ms Teh after two decades in regional development is a deliberate participatory process that enables everyday people to shape the strategies to unlock sustainable technological change that is meaningful and productive to them.

People as “generators of their own wealth”

There is little doubt that the impacts of 4IR are likely to be complex. Yet, much of just transition policy discourse on the expected impacts are unrealistic and narrowly considered as a driver to achieve a low-carbon economy. 

For example, in the just transition debate, according to Ms Teh, “the focus on the trade-off between jobs and climate undervalues the ability of communities to be adaptable, sustainable, and viable.”

She believes “Smart Transformation” is an empowered way to think of our future in which people are reimagined as confident and in control of their future as “the generators of their own wealth,” as opposed to being fearful, uncertain, and scared.

Ms Teh, winner of the Telstra Business Woman of the Year Award in 2000, has been chair of a business incubator, developed eight regional strategies and has set up many sustainable innovation programs.

Looking through the prism of “Smart Transformation”, individual realisation about what they need to succeed is the core of all human change. Then, it is about the region collaboratively working out its strategic comparative advantages, the result of which will be the skills and capability required to realise the future that ensures opportunity for everyone.   

“Like it or not 4IR is coming. By recognising the opportunities and acknowledging the risks we can prepare and smartly and successfully transition through the change.”

Katherine Teh, Managing Director Futureye