Interdependence-700x325I used to love that little Volkswagen Bug, the little Love Bug named Herbie that many early Gen Xers like me remember vividly. Herbie, the do-good little car with a mind of its own; a driverless car that helped Dean Jones win many races and save the day. Over and over again. Movie after lovable movie.

However, someday in the near future, fleets of driverless cars may displace millions of paid drivers in the global marketplace. Not the “Herbien” vision of buddy-work I remember from my childhood.

Think about it from this perspective, according to The Economist, employment in agriculture used to provide almost all the jobs in the pre-modern era, but now only accounts for 2% of rich-world employment. Based on that trajectory, jobs in today’s manufacturing and services industries will most likely be forced to “retreat before the march of the robots.”

Think about it another way – futurists Ray Kurzweil and Peter Diamandis predict that 200 of the Fortune 500 companies will go out of business in the next 10 years. They say it’s not because of bad management, customer service or quality of the product either. It’s because the product or service will become obsolete due to how rapidly technology and computing power continues to increase at an exponential rate.

After all that, segue to the one question American journalist, columnist and author Tom Friedman, who was one of the keynotes this year at the 2014 SHRM Conference, always gets from people he first meets:

“How’s my kid gonna get a job?”

Those of us with children who’ve been paying attention to the technological tea leaves know this future is today, not tomorrow.

Tom pointed out in his keynote that the biggest change of the 21st century was the merging of IT and globalization – how the world is now so completely hyper-connected (actually hyperactively connected) and has nearly the same computing power and technology tools, and Internet access available to individuals that used to only be accessible to private enterprise and governments.

He called this a “Gutenberg-scale” moment — really, really big. The world’s individuals can now compete, connect and collaborate with one another like never before.

But imagine that you have billions of competitors, regardless of your status or profession, because that’s where it’s headed (if not already there). If we don’t continuously relearn and reimagine while being relentless in failure enablement, we’re doomed. Simply and utterly doomed. White collar, cognitive skills are now in danger. Average is officially over.

Painful I know, but then Tom said something that really stuck with me:

“No one cares what you know. They only care about what you do with what you know.”

And whom you do to it with and how you do it with them. Really. Even with the rise of the robots and continuously human reinvention and optimization, collaborative interdependence is where companies, at least for the next few decades, are going to be winners.

This is why new research from Bersin by Deloitte is so exciting; it shows that the talent management market grew by 17% last year and is now over $5 billion in size, because companies finally understand that “talent optimization” is key to their business success.

According to Bersin, the fact that the “world of corporate learning is entering a new cycle of innovation: MOOCs, new LMS technology and highly interactive digital content is forcing companies to rethink their L&D strategies as well.”

It’s all about having highly integrated and interactive talent systems that aren’t just for HR anymore – they’re for the entire organization – the employees, managers and the leaders. Tom Friedman’s final 5 points underscored this and were summarized this way:

  1. Always think like a new immigrant and that opportunity abounds and is ours to own by leveraging people and resources around you
  2. Always think like an artisan and “carve your initials” into your work – leave your mark again and again
  3. Always be in beta – get 80% there and let her ride while rapidly rethinking, relearning and reengineering with vigor
  4. Always remember that PQ (your passion quotient) and CQ (your curiosity quotient) will trump IQ when combined with everything else
  5. And lastly, always think like a waitress – be entrepreneurial and enterprising with every interaction and transaction you make (again leveraging the people and resources around you)

No pressure, right? Happy Interdependence Day.

Maybe someday soon I’ll have that Love Bug after all where I’ll be happily driven to tears.