Future of Work

Robert Safian Urged Audience to Focus on ‘Missions’ in Business

By Jamie Wilson

To wrap up the 2018 VM Summit, Robert Safian, founder of Flux Group and former editor-in-chief of Fast Company engaged the audience through four lessons and seven questions. His aim was to showcase the kind of tactics that define the modern company. These lessons and questions that Safian went through explored office and organization culture and the need for businesses to focus on “missions.” 

Keynote Speaker Robert SafianHis first lesson, speed matters, showcased the importance of building a culture of change within an organization. This was followed by an emphasis on youth. He said that Facebook represents what generational shifts can do. In fact, technology is moving so fast it’s creating “micro-generations” which define them. 

“Digital natives do signal a completely different way with interacting with the world,” he said. 

He then elaborated on the importance of human contact. “We all need each other. Human contact is what drives creativity. The answers to these challenges is human contact,” he said. “Creativity and innovation happens in the gaps between silos.”

Safian then used Microsoft to illustrate his lesson of having a learning culture in business. He showed how Satya Nadella, the current CEO of Microsoft turned the company from a know-it-all into a learn-it-all culture. He went on to explain that in this time of rapid change, having and defining a mission is important—mission beats marketing. 

“I’m obsessed with the idea of mission in business. It started with me looking at a particular data insight stating that workers at companies are less engaged with their work than they have been in the past. At those places where engagement is higher performance is higher.” 

Audience listening to Motivating Business Speaker Robert SafianSafian then posed seven questions to the audience:

  • Is this Day 1?
  • Am I continually learning?
  • Is what I’m doing relevant to the next generation?
  • What do we know for certain?
  • What can we control?
  • What do you stand for?
  • Are you comfortable with being uncomfortable

All of these questions sought to get the audience thinking critically about their position in the workplace and further expanding the concept of focusing on the “mission” within a business in this age of fast-moving change. 

“This is just the way the world is. You can lean into it and have fun with it,” he concluded.


Robert Safian motivates business audiences around the world as a premiere keynote speaker and interviewer/moderator.

Vivek Wadhwa appointed Harvard Law School Distinguished Fellow

Vivek Wadhwa is rejoining his former colleagues at Harvard Law School to run a critically important research project on the impact of technology on jobs and developing policies to mitigate the dangers.

This is with Richard Freeman, the world renowned labor economist, Sharon Block, who helped key labor policies for the Obama administration, and historian/scholar John Trumpbour. The 3-year project at Harvard’s Labor and Worklife program will bring together a who’s who to analyze new data on automation and jobs and to brainstorm on policy.

Vivek will still be teaching a 12-credit course at Carnegie Mellon’s School of Engineering and will continue to work closely on CMU projects.

This project at Harvard is important because with the present course of technology, we are headed directly into the dystopia of Mad Max. Most people don’t understand how fast things are changing and how ugly the transition will be when cars and trucks begin to drive themselves, machines do the work of manufacturing and delivery, and AIs take over most skilled jobs.

What makes things worse is that the people creating the technologies want us to believe that as tens of millions of jobs disappear over the next two decades, new ones will be created—and we will magically re-employ the people who have been displaced. Others tout a mystical solution: Universal Basic Income, a handout that governments provide to everyone which solves the social and economic problems of joblessness. The reality may very well be something completely different.  Are we ready for an outcome where few jobs created and and the resulting despair?

Vivek have long been worried about this, and explained the central issues in a series of articles: We’re heading into a jobless future, no matter what the government doesSorry, but the jobless future isn’t a luddite fallacy,  We need a new version of capitalism for the jobless future,  Love of learning is the key to success in the jobless future,  What we’ll encounter on the path to the jobless future, and Ray Kurzweil on the future workforce (a debate Ray Kurzweil and I had in 2012—which triggered my deep concerns).  He also discussed this issue with Paul Solman on PBS NewsHour: Are we on the brink of a jobless future? and on BigThink: What Will Your Life Be Like in 2027?

Vivek Wadhwa is Distinguished Fellow and professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s College of Engineering and a leading keynote speaker on technology and the future.   A globally syndicated technology columnist for the Washington Post and co-author of The Driver in the Driverless Car: How Our Technology Choices Can Change the Future, Wadhwa researches how exponentially advancing technologies are transforming the world, including in the fields of artificial intelligence, medicine, nanomaterials, robotics, quantum computing, synthetic biology, and 3-D printing. In 2012, Foreign Policy named him one of the world’s Top 100 Global Thinkers, while in 2013 Time magazine placed him on the Tech 40, the list of the forty most influential minds in technology.


Mindmap of Nancy Giordano’s recent speech at the Learning Solutions Conference

Thanks to Clark Quinn, Ph.D., we have a wonderful visual image of Nancy Giordano’s talk at this year’s #LSCon.  It is fascinating to see how the future, learning, work, and leadership are interconnected.  Thank you Clark.