Beth Comstock  Vice Chair of General Electric  Interview with Michelle King for Forbes Women, published 6 June 2017

Beth Comstock
Vice Chair of General Electric

Interview with Michelle King for Forbes Women, published 6 June 2017

ADAPT TO CHANGE

The emergent era impacts the future of work because you are already seeing the rise of the gig economy and hiring a person for a task. You will be able to tap into a global brain and intellect. You can start to think about hiring people based on a specific challenge. In many ways that is fantastic for gender diversity because it is so blind. Organizations are entering an 'emergent era', where rapid changes in technology, information and systems provide unique opportunities for women to excel.

Everywhere I go I hear people saying, ‘Wow things are changing so fast.’ We are looking at technology globalization. My colleagues often say that when this is over we can focus, but the reality is it is never going to be over. Change has always been a part of who we are but now it is much faster.

Our leaders are used to the constant state of flux but now it is about making sense of that change because it is not going to get any better. Technology is more distributed so we can get out of the office and work. Organizations, the ones that have had the command and control processes, well they are gone or going. It is about how you then organize around more distributed packets of information. Or more distributed capabilities. If you are leading a team unless you are doing something with a very sophisticated piece of equipment, more than likely you are not going to have a checklist. 

Jobs will allow people to figure it out. The need for creativity, critical thinking and ethics are starting to rise as we see more machine learning and more artificial intelligence. With the pace of change and so many new things emerging you are going to need people who have exceptional capabilities. Teams that have only the same capabilities, like just a team of lawyers or engineers are not going to do that well. It is about bringing in different people in with different kinds of capabilities. There is a lot of talk these days about neurodiversity and looking at just how people’s brains are wired in different ways. You see companies like Microsoft hiring people with autism or who are on the autism spectrum because they bring new capabilities to the workforce. We are going to have to adapt our systems to people (not the other way around).

In some ways, these global challenges will allow anyone from anywhere to compete, which means you are going to have to be really good. We need to make sure we fill a pipeline of the right diverse skills so that people who have those skills get to build an algorithm or solve the challenge. I do think in a more networked age; women are wired slightly differently and have had to juggle things in a different way. Our skills are more attuned to networking in a more distributed way and I think that is going to benefit us in the coming age.