Is my job still secure? What does all this digitization mean for me? Will everything get worse? In their new book “The Future Code” the two multiple successful authors and speakers Katja Porsch and Peter Brandl get to the bottom of these and other questions about the future 4.0. The Future Code is not a scientific work but based on 25 years’ experience in training and coaching, discussions with hundreds of executives and entrepreneurs, and feedback from thousands of participants.

Bernd Seitz, editor of Network-Karriere, and these two successful authors have looked into the future. They questioned if direct selling could one-day fall victim to digitization, just like many other professions before. To pre-empt the answer: The potential of direct selling will continue to grow in importance. Anyone who can sell himself and his ideas and emotionally influence other people will be on the winning side.

Network-Karriere: What awaits us in this future 4.0 and how can we prepare for it?

Katja Porsch/Peter Brandl: We are convinced, the dramatic upheavals which we currently experience are as fundamental as the ones during the Industrial Revolution. There exist many prognoses into the foreseeable future, predicting all jobs to either disappear or change. We must adapt to an all-new world of working. But our everyday life will also change. During the 19th century, it took 100 years to double information, compared to today, when it only takes 24 hours. Things are approaching us faster and faster; not just the good stuff, the awful too. And we must deal with that.

NK: What induced you to write this book? And above all, why did you write it together? So far, we have known you as two separate authors.

Peter Brandl: We obviously talk about the same topic but from different perspectives. While Katja’s approach is more emotional, I tend to be the analytically structured one. And in our book, you will read about precisely this. In the first part of the book, Katja describes her view of things with the POWER concept. In the second part, I present my thoughts with the BRAIN. We write from two perspectives, with two approaches but about one subject.  

NK: How do you perceive the willingness to deal with digitization and artificial intelligence?

Katja Porsch: In my lectures, I repeatedly realize how much fear, repression, and helplessness prevail among the participants when it comes to the future 4.0 with its phenomena such as AI, robots, and digitization. But repressing and ignoring does not get us anywhere. Standing on the battlefield with closed eyes, hoping not to get shot will not protect me. I will get shot at anyway. Neither can we escape our future – but why should we? The future is happening right now, offering us incredible opportunities. Watson, Pepper, Sophia – all these robots already exist. Xiaoyi, the first robot who passed a medical exam in China last year, is already here. He has been designed to train doctors and help with diagnoses. These are just a few examples which illustrate that this new time has already begun, and we can feel the consequences.

Peter Brandl: That is the reason why companies must respond accordingly. For example, Lufthansa has announced in one of its press releases that it will exchange a large proportion of its executives. Why? Because they lack the competence to change. Nestlé is laying off 500 IT specialists to accelerate the digital transformation. In Japan and Finland, the first robots are already teaching at schools, and so on and so on. Our environment is shifting. If we do not want to be extinguished by digitization, we must move with the times and change. However, we have no idea how to adapt or do not know what to do.

NK: Do you have examples?

Katja Porsch: The area, where we definitely must act is our (further) education system. We got somewhere stuck in the 1.0 version of our training and development system with which we try to survive in the 4.0 future. It applies to both, the public sector and companies’ internal processes. Looking back at my school years, today my friend’s children are learning similar subjects. However, back then, Facebook did not exist, nor did smartphones, or Google Maps or Instagram, or let alone AI. I grew up in times of folding maps, letters, pay telephones, and fax machines. My mother even had a typewriter during my school days.

If our environment changes so much, our education system cannot stay the same. The World Economic Forum recently published a list of the top skills required for 2020, such as empathy and creativity, critical thinking, emotional competence, network-thinking, and understanding human nature. The question is: Where can we learn all of this? And yes, we can study all of this the same way as we learn maths and physics. But so far, we have never attended to it. Unless we start teaching about essential and current topics, using formats and methods that fit into today’s world, we are throwing young people to the robots to devour.

Peter Brandl: It is not handled any differently in companies because here the same rules as 30 years ago apply. Seminars take place in a circle of chairs with twelve participants. Learning on demand? No chance. New technologies? No such luck. But hang on a minute: Of course, a lot of online courses are on offer – but unfortunately, no one watches them. This can be partly blamed on the style or the subjects of these courses. The competencies that will be relevant in the future are virtually non-existent in advanced vocational training. In addition, almost everyone has now experienced amateurishly produced, less relevant on-line courses. But there is an enormous demand which we can tell by the reaction to our Personal Skills Academy. The secret to success is to produce relevant topics in a professional manner which enthuse and carry your audience by tackling their mindset.

NK: What can each individual do about it?

Katja Porsch: The realization that we must and can do something about it is most important. It would be stupid to re-direct responsibility, hoping someone else will gently guide us into the future

 because this someone might not exist. Therefore, we better back the right horse. Many companies still offer one training after the next, even though the days are over when know-how was the key to success. Robotics also have the know-how. The IBM Supercomputer Watson, for instance, can compare one million cancer patients and their symptoms within 15 seconds. Simultaneously it can process information of ten million financial reports and 100 million product manuals. How can we compete with that?

Peter Brandl: Besides, today, know-how is available everywhere. In the past information was a limited resource and not readily accessible to all. We are all familiar with the phrase: “Knowledge is Power!” but nowadays knowledge is freely available at all times. While still at the event, participants regularly google my statements during my lectures to check if they are correct. However, the ability to correctly assess and evaluate the vast amount of information is missing. And, information and know-how alone will not deliver results, but we need the ability to research independently and then bring the outcome to the market.

Katja Porsch: If we want to prepare for the future, we should not try to become a better machine but the better person. We should concentrate on the advantage we have over Watson & Co: our personality – because no one can digitize our personal skills. I strongly believe our personalities will gain in importance the more technically sophisticated our world becomes. And, people will not act as an interface for information, but emotions. Influencing other people, building relationships and controlling emotions, will become the most important future competencies. This also applies to companies. Long gone are the days when businesses could score points with products or services because these are always interchangeable and comparable. The USP is dead. Instead, we need the UPP, the Unique Personal Proposition. In the future, even companies must succeed and become personalities. Relationships and emotions will replace yesterday’s products.

NK: What are the obstacles on our way into the future?

Katja Porsch: We might not be aware, but our autopilot, which is our subconscious part and feeds on habits and experiences, controls over 90 percent of our actions. The question is, if our autopilot, which guided us in the past, will also navigate us through a successful future. I want to say no to that. We grew up in a time of security and predictability and have tried to avoid mistakes and risks as much as possible. So how should this autopilot successfully lead us into a future in which nothing is predictable and safe? Into a future in which mistakes and risks belong to everyday life? Into a future which needs courage, instead of fear and caution, which needs visions and not reality fanaticism? We need a new mindset and must re-program from preserving and holding on to changing and letting go. Above all, we must recognize that the “good old security” no longer exists. But instead of security, we have something else – freedom. The freedom to re-invent us every day, to live and work anywhere in the world. The freedom to decide for ourselves what and how much we want to learn or not. There have never been so many opportunities and possibilities like today. We only must recognize them. For me, freedom is the new security with which we must learn how to deal with.

Peter Brandl: But to seize these opportunities, it takes a new culture of trial and error, and we can learn a lot from the Americans. In Silicon Valley, the term Minimum Viable Product has been invented, which means bringing a product or an idea to market as early as possible and consequently to the customer. Because who else can teach us more about the value of an idea or a new product? The point is to try out new things and gain experience, but our propensity for perfection is our biggest stumbling block. Sometimes it seems we rather prefer to go down perfectly, than stride imperfectly into the future.

NK: Are there professions with a future?

Katja Porsch: It is most important to say good-bye to the idea of secure jobs. We must be prepared to do something else tomorrow than what we are doing today. For me, the most important skills for the future are agility, taking personal responsibility, relationship-tuning, and the readiness for life-long learning. Everyone who has a talent for something should promote this. We need vocations and specialists in the future and not adjusted averages. I see continuing potential in the future for all areas, where it is vital to reach and stimulate others, such as i.e. direct selling. Due to AI, we will in future no longer carry out specific tasks ourselves, which means we will be supported but not replaced. The meaning of sales and marketing will change. It will become different, but not less important. Anyone able to sell himself and his ideas and emotionally influence other people will be on the winning side.

Peter Brandl: However, it is crucial to focus on our talents, our strengths, and on what we are actually capable. Unfortunately, school and education taught us something entirely different and confronted us always with what we did not do or did not do very well. For example, if you were good in Foreign Languages, you were not praised when you came home with a 2 in German for the fifth time. But for a 3 in Maths, you were highly praised because you were generally bad in that subject and scoring mostly 5’s. Of course, we can and should try to eradicate our weaknesses. However, as much as we practice and train, we will never achieve extraordinary results in our weak areas, but only mediocre ones instead. If we want real success in the future, then we have to focus on our strengths and our talents. If businesses do their utmost to promote their employees’ talents instead of destroying them, they will achieve extraordinary results.