Adapt or Die

Adapt or Die

MCA, Saturday 31 May 2014

In partnership with Vivid Sydney 2014, AGDA* presented “2020 ADAPT OR DIE”. Drawing on the phrase coined by Charles Darwin in his “The Origin of Species”, this threatening invitation was billed as exploring two themes: “Learning to Learn” and “The Future of Work”.

I seem to have missed the first theme, but the forum certainly delivered on its overall promise – “Be prepared to be challenged, scared and inspired about 2020 and beyond. Twenty speakers delivered Pecha Kucha** format. For a creative, the news is all good.

Linda Jukic, Creative Director of Hulsbosch sees 2020 as the “era of imagination”, and showed an image that she says is representative of the future – Dutch artist Berndnaut Smilde’s real clouds formed inside empty rooms. Creatives will “ideate” – our creativity is now a verb – and we shall ideate and create, our input leveraged at every stage. Our workplace will be open spaces hosting independent idea hubs. “Cross disciplinary talents mixing it up, all fuelled with a collective desire to bring ideas to life.” We will be part of “bespoke teams for bespoke problems”. Creative time is usually billed based on time; by 2020 the currency will be set on the value of the idea. The creative will enjoy greater liberty to work all over the globe; “what will bind us together is our ideas”. To survive, we must be agile and adaptive. There will be you, and me, with a greater emphasis on “we”.

Sha-mayne, Head of Business Design at Alive Mobile informed us that alarmingly only about 20% of people are actively engaged in their job, the rest of us are staring blank-faced on our way up the lift, working only for the weekend. At Alive Mobile, they aim to “make work great” and see this shift towards focusing on people as a primary difference to work/life in 2020. Sha-mayne sees the end of the disengaged worker, “the zombie apocalypse”. Workplaces will share power with the people; will be less hierarchical. Titles will be removed from organisations. Our engaged workforce will enjoy their job so much, the division between work and play will dissolve and we’ll just call it “living”. Sha-mayne did not focus on creatives, but its still good news, right?

Simon Pemberton is the wizened founder of Tractor, an independent design school. Simon was an academic lecturer when Ian Thomson and I studied Visual Communication back in the 80s at Sydney College of the Arts, and when he speaks, I still listen. From an education perspective, Simon forecasts the system “will become an on-demand system where you take a module when you need it.” In 2020, no one in our world cares where or how you got your knowledge; the world will be more interested in “what you can do with what you know, not how you learnt it.” And it will care what kind of person you are. When recruiting, “Google looks for cognitive ability, not academic results”. They’re looking for people who can pull it together, on the fly.

As the last speaker of the day, Simon left us to ponder a couple of global once brands who didn’t adapt; think Kodak, think Nokia. “Dying isn’t a strategy, it’s an outcome.” And while 2020 feels like 2050, it’s less than six years away. Linda’s closing words? “Time starts now”.

* Australian Graphic Design Association
** A presentation style in which 20 slides are shown for 20 seconds each (six minutes and 40 seconds in total).

Julieann Brooker

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