The Single Degree Deficiency: How Industry 4.0 changes the employment landscape

Fordism had brought about exceptional improvements in production efficiency with every employee striving to become the master of their specific skill. In 2018 we are however faced with Industry 4.0 and specialisation remains to sway in the breath of the unavoidable storm. The workforce is increasingly in danger of being replaced by more capable machines. Think the arts and design fields are a safe haven? How about this: Or maybe you think that real estate agencies and brokering requires that human touch?

Disrupt Africa has already raised the point that there exists “a clear link between adoption of basic, low cost digital tools among small and medium businesses and increased efficiency and growth”. A precursor to more efficient and previously expensive digital tools which will - through some capitalist endeavour - find an affordable way to exist without being feared for its capability to decrease human employment.

The recent Deloitte Report on Industry 4.0 (available here: provides an insight on the manner in which company executives are considering employment in light of the technological revolution. Technology is undoubtedly changing the landscape of doing business, but according to the report only 25% of executives recorded feel confident in their company’s ability to keep up. This might not be so surprising in light of the fact that only 17% of all organisations surveyed considers ‘HR and Talent’ to be a noteworthy focus-area.

Deloitte continued in stating that companies “say they are doing all they can to build the right workforce, but their responses show talent remains low on their list of priorities” and that “we must reconsider how jobs are designed and work to adapt and learn for future growth.” Some companies have however become passive aggressive in their attempts of self-justification - reasoning that they do not require change management and regularly chalking it down to their incapability to afford the costs of such an ‘extreme’ measure. The aforementioned denial ultimately being the pride before the fall.

With universities focusing on specialised scientific publications and companies following this cultural principle we find ourselves risking our employability on the hope that technology won’t catch up with our specialised line of work or within our lifetime. This not only brings across how self-serving and ignorant human nature can become, but underlines one of the more notable reasons why businesses are falling short of enabling themselves to adapt and thrive within a technological age. It also raises the question of how invested executives really are in their company and why you should question who you work for. Gaining specialised experience has previously been paramount to any future job-seeker, but this experience means nothing when a computer can model and manufacture the same specialised car part you had crafted at your version of Ford’s factory.

The importance of dabbling in many trades

In considering that a ‘master of one’ can easily be replaced it becomes important to realise that the drawbacks of more advanced technology such as AI lies in its disadvantage to rapidly employ adequate self-awareness and subjective consideration to more complex artistic functions. Complex creative approaches involving cross-disciplinary practices are therefore even further out of reach.

Being a Jack or Jill of a few trades positions you to be more secure in your ability to form the link and bridge two functions.The advantage of combining two or more fields are in the capacity of an employee to create new solutions at the intersections of their various backgrounds. In other words - your ability to creatively employ a cross-disciplinary skill-set sets you further apart from being replaced by computers than a specialised ‘master-of-one’ per say.

Silicon valley had picked up on this and started to increasingly hire employees who have cross-disciplinary backgrounds and the capacity to serve more than a singular function - “Can you code? Well now you need to understand real estate as well”. Why you ask? Well one example that comes to mind is how the real estate market is being integrated with cryptocurrency as I type.

Emily Wapnick had stated at TedEx that “We have a lot of complex, multidimensional problems in the world right now, and we need creative, out-of-the-box thinkers to tackle them.” We need more pharmacists who study industrial design and graphic designers who gain experience in FINtech. We need to avoid chalking problem solving down to the field of engineering and start realising that we’ve only come so far by carrying on by traditional means.

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If you’re looking to employ change management and reconsider your current approach to the unavoidable technological takeover - be sure to visit our website at to see what you’ve been missing out on in your business.

Kind Regards

Johan Bronkhorst

Co-Founder of JA