3MM: Sara Walton on ‘the next normal’

Three Minutes Max, succinct opinions from New Zealanders on topics of their choice. Associate Professor Sara Walton from Otago University’s Business School shares her thoughts on the “next normal” and building resilience for the future of work.

Sara Walton

Sara Walton Photo: Supplied

“One of the things I’m particularly passionate about in my teaching is getting students to think about the future, and that’s because the future is going to be vastly different from what it is today.

“I get them to think at a systems level. That is at that macro level to think systemically about some of the things that are occurring and the interconnected nature of across economic, social, and environmental systems.

“Particularly at the moment, we’ve been through one massive disruption. We’re going to see more and more disruptions in the future. What are key things we want to think about?

“First of all, tech. Technology and the fourth industrial revolution has been marching on and will continue to march on in our next normal. That means we need to think about AI. Vehicles, autonomous systems, big data and how we use tech in our everyday lives, especially work places.

“So we need to think about the skills that people are going to need. Our agricultural system is changing. You only need to watch Country Calendar to see all the innovation that is happening on our farms. Phenomenal.

“we need to think about new business models. Models that move from a make, take and dispose type economy to one that actually eliminates waste. Keeping those materials in circulation and re-using them. This is happening in many companies and countries globally.

“We want to think about building more fair and equitable systems. Let’s think about a living wage. Imagine a living wage at the moment for some of our courier drivers. We need to also think about the concept of a universal basic income again. We’re seeing that actually might be more relevant now than in the past.

“And we need to do all this while honouring te tiriti. We need to think about indigenous knowledge and build partnerships in order to work together to solve many of these disruptions and build that resilience.

“This might sound once again an academic thing, idealistic. But I would say that that actually what is idealistic is thinking that we can go back to business as usual. We are now in the next normal and there is going to be next normals after this.”

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