#Asia Outsourcing, education and innovation in a post-Trump world


Technology is evolving exponentially, and to stay ahead we have to change the way we grow our talents and learn

man and machine

Outsourcing firms awoke the day after the election of Donald Trump to uncertainty, with mystics of the markets predicting doom. Doom has not perhaps come right away, but we did experience a day of trading with massive volume and, as expected, declining stock.

India, long the hotbed of IT outsourcing, had the leading players lose major points: Shares in TCS fell 4.9 per cent Wednesday, while Infosys was down 2.7 per cent, and Wipro fell 1.2 per cent.

The markets and industry insiders are nervous. After all, one of the pillars of Trump’s Campaign was a penalty for American businesses that outsource.

Analysts say the future … is now uncertain.

Mr. Trump has also criticized businesses that ship jobs overseas to countries offering cheaper labor, such as India and China, saying those economies are beneficiaries of a “jobs theft.” Outsourcing accounts for around 20% of India’s exports of goods and services, employing millions.

So what can we expect for the web services companies that currently partner with global talent pools working around the clock to ‘Keep America Running’?

Addressing the narrative — society’s ‘Last Song Syndrome’

Have you ever had Last Song Syndrome — also known as an earworm?

We all have had the annoying parts of a song stuck in our heads, at times irritating us with the repetition over and over and over again. This is true for music, this is true for how we remember stories and memes, and how we relate to politics and shifts in mass consciousness.

While some of this is standard human behaviour, a lot of the narratives that hit us are involuntary and may not be healthy for businesses that rely on the ability to work with unpopular politically-charged narratives.

Involuntary memory is like Last Song Syndrome or an earworm. Herman Ebbinghaus, a pioneer in involuntary memory, a precursor to understanding memes and narratives, has this to say:

Often, even after years, mental states once present in consciousness return to it … without any act of the will … they are reproduced involuntarily … we remember it … narratives follow … the so-called laws of association.

The arbitrage of labor has been the primary reason for outsourcing. The ability to expand your internal talent pool with on-demand virtual teams was the beckoning ‘controlled costs’ mantra that we have been listening to on repeat for nearly twenty years.

Over and over and over again, the counter to this narrative is that outsourcing is bad, that it costs jobs in the host countries, and thus outsourcing should be taxed, penalised and restricted.

Understanding the narrative, in how we may or may not remember certain parts of a greater and more complex issue, is the key to addressing the realities of doing business in this the first few decades of the 21st Century.

We have to address the earworms programmed by involuntary mantras both for and against any issue. We need to escape our own consciousness and silence the frenzy of social noise to get to the calm understanding that comes from the brutal and beautiful silence of reason.

(Perhaps we all just need to chew some gum!)

The Singularity and the Law of Accelerating Change

The rate at which we are evolving is not linear, but exponential — meaning we are doubling the rate at which we are getting smarter in half the time, each cycle. This fundamental law is what underscores the life work of inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil.

An analysis of the history of technology shows that technological change is exponential, contrary to the common-sense ‘intuitive linear’ view. So we won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century—it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate). The ‘returns’, such as chip speed and cost-effectiveness, also increase exponentially. There’s even exponential growth in the rate of exponential growth.

Within a few decades, machine intelligence will surpass human intelligence, leading to the Singularity — technological change so rapid and profound it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history. The implications include the merger of biological and nonbiological intelligence, immortal software-based humans, and ultra-high levels of intelligence that expand outward in the universe at the speed of light.

Sounds confusing?

Okay, it’s like this. About 120 years ago at the dawn of the 20th Century we had horses and telegraph. A hundred years of innovation later? Freaking space travel, and the internet.

But, did you realize in just the past 16 years (2000 to 2016) we have SURPASSED the rate of technology innovation of the WHOLE 20th Century?

Yeah, your mobile device is more powerful than the supercomputers of 16 years ago. We now have nanobots, and internet-of-things, self driving electric sports cars, Facebook, and irritating kitty cat memes.

Why is this important?

Because IT and all knowledge workers services eventually become commodities.

The way forward is this: knowledge workers adapting and innovating with new technologies as they emerge. This is why outsourcing is such a huge issue – we, as humans, are ill-equipped to deal with rapid changes that directly affect our Hierarchy of Needs.




The past is a lie

The 20th Century narrative was the nuclear family, the House and Lot as a reward to years of service (indentured service in some cases).

That narrative is a lie. Sadly, it is alive and well today, all across the globe:

  1. Get good grades so you can get into a good college
  2. Go to a good college to get a good education and job
  3. Get a good job and move up the ladder
  4. Get married, raise a family
  5. Buy a House and Lot
  6. Retire and wear funny clothes and then and only then can you relax after years of hard work, sacrifice and savings

School teaches you very little other than how to be good at going to school. College is outdated — the industries of today are moving so fast that any course-ware is obsolete about by the time it is printed, goes through peer review and meets the criteria of any governance.

Add to this the debt that just saddles the modern family.

Of course we are going to globally be afraid for our very lives, our jobs, and the ability to care for our families. Globally you see this unfolding in front of our eyes. We, as a people, are reacting to these that exist whether we like it or not, and do so subconsciously.

The Cheese has moved, the goals we have are no longer relevant, and we are in an entirely new playing field. The world is becoming smaller and flatter, and we are growing more afraid of this rapid acceleration of technology and meshing of cultures and people.

We, at present, do not recognise the world in which we are living.

The way forward isn’t fear; it is understanding

The answer, then, is to understand how we view the world is full of extinct narratives. Those who do not attack the very premise of how the think will never evolve past this point of human history.

Businesses and governments and a people must innovate and grow ethically and soundly.

Business process outsourcing (BPO) is a cutthroat and competitive industry. Make no mistake, plenty of blue oceans exist, yet are hard to navigate while stuck in the Last Song Syndrome of extinct narratives about business, policy and how we interact as a people.

So, I want to follow up with some pragmatic real-world issues that business and the Outsourced Service Industry must grasp and master before they too go the way of the dinosaur.

Being in IT and the the web industry for almost all of my adult life this comes as common sense, yet the issue with common sense is that it is not so common.

We take for granted — and yet we do not know what we are taking for granted, because we are taking it for granted.

We have to shift the way we think and see that many of our problems in business and as a society stem from our lack of consciousness, as we are stuck in Last Song Syndrome.

Talent is not Commodity

Great teams are better than freelanced hordes, and talent is never a commodity. (See how to outsource the Brave 300, and the lone wolf rockstar persona. Also, see why not to hire batman.)

IT and all knowledge worker services eventually become commodities.

Talent goes beyond this trend. Talent comes from loving the work you do, sound business acumen and tradecraft with a process of continued improvement.

Technology is evolving exponentially, and to stay ahead we have to change the way we grow our talent and learn.

The way forward is knowledge workers adapting and innovating with new technologies as they emerge.   This is why education about innovation and the fear of losing jobs to outsourcing is such a huge issue. We as humans are ill equipped to deal with rapid changes that directly affect our Hierarchy of Needs.

Kevin Leversee is Co-founder at TrustTeck, an IT outsourcing startup based in the Philippines.

The views expressed here are of the author’s, and e27 may not necessarily subscribe to them. e27 invites members from Asia’s tech industry and startup community to share their honest opinions and expert knowledge with our readers. If you are interested in sharing your point of view, submit your post here.

Image Credit: lightwise / 123RF Stock Photo

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