Disrupting the Future of Work in NJ

Wil Tong   |   Business Strategy & Design at Logical Design Solutions

On May 10th, I had the privilege of helping to organize and to MC the second DISRUPT Northern New Jersey event. Logical Design Solutions (LDS) is the owner and host sponsor for the DISRUPT Northern NJ chapter, which is a part of an international network of meetups focused on innovative practices in talent, culture, and technology. The evening’s theme was the “Future of Work” and featured ten lively five-minute talks from industry experts and was attended by over 250 people from over 180 companies.


The event also highlighted a “Disruptor Pavilion” that featured eight New Jersey technology startups and entrepreneurs focused on new ways of work, with digital ideas, products and platforms covering a broad range of solutions across a spectrum of technologies, such as AI, blockchain, augmented reality, additive manufacturing, and IoT.


Our previous event focused on digital transformation and new ways of working. This year, the conversation progressed to thought-provoking ideas such as, the business application of AI and talent analytics, creating a culture of innovation, cyberspace safety, and new digital work practices.


Here are my key takeaways from the evening.


Opening Remarks: Shaping Business in the Fourth Industrial Revolution


Mimi Brooks, CEO at Logical Design Solutions


We are in the early stages of the fourth industrial revolution with most of the impact ahead of us. Mimi explains how the revolution is deeply affecting all aspects of our lives, of society, and increasingly our organizations and our work. Businesses need to actively design new organizational road maps that address new organizational structures, business practices, common organizational capabilities, and new work experiences for people. As we build culture and capabilities ahead of the needed curve, we are molding mindsets, changing behaviors and observing the organization in transition.

Is Our Work Disrupting or Distracting?


Wendy Branche, VP of Talent Management & Engagement at ITT


We are being hit by weapons of mass distraction. Have we really disrupted the way we work? How we work hasn’t changed much from the 1900s. We have not solved some of the basic challenges we’ve had since the first industrial revolution. Wendy contended that – there is no silver bullet for what really matters. Following the latest trend or trying to apply the latest technology is not the answer. We have to be sure we are trying to solve for the right things.

What Every Business Leader Needs to Know About AI


Bruce Molloy, Chief AI Officer for SpringBoard.ai


The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. Everyone within an organization, the board, C-suite, managers, and employees are asking what AI means for their roles. Bruce shares with us, nine AI imperatives to help people think about how to engage with AI. In the past, there has been AI setbacks and winners, but something has changed recently. Data, chips, and algorithms have created a non-linear disruption with exponential leaps in progress. Bruce argues AI is moving quicker than anyone anticipated in every industry and we all need to be prepared for it.

Corporate Social Responsibility in Cyberspace


Dave Opderbeck, Professor of Law at Seton Hall University and counsel at Gibbons PC.


Whose responsibility is it to keep us safe? With personal safety, we rely on ourselves, local, and government protection from harm. With infrastructure like bridges, airports, and roads, there needs to be the right balance of personal and constitutional protections. Dave highlights that in cyberspace, only a handful of multinational firms are charged with ensuring our safety. Our relationship with these companies is entirely contractual and those contracts are in favor of the company. For true oversight to occur, governments, companies, and all of us will have to share the responsibility for our safety in cyberspace.

The Key to Digital Transformation: Focus on the Work


Brad Ivie, Managing Director of Business Strategy & Analysis for Logical Design Solutions


Digital transformation is upending work as we know it. This means jobs eliminated and industries ravaged. This also means fascinating new ideas of work. What does it mean to be digital? Brad points to the newly emerged concept of new ways of working which describes the common work practices of digitally transformed organizations. In these transformed organizations, there will be new human-to-human and human-to-machine interactions to be considered. Building new work design (the intended structure of specific work) and work practices (the day-to-day of what people do) will be the path to changing behaviors and culture.

Mining Our Intellectual Capital in NJ


Michele Siekerka, President and CEO of the NJBIA


The plan to grow and retain New Jersey’s intellectual capital. Michele passionately conveys that we are taking a loss in the investment we are making in K-12 education. New Jersey is #1 in millennial outmigration. Our graduating high school students are leaving for out-of-state colleges. Our college graduates and our future workforce are leaving for jobs out of state. NJBIA has brought together a taskforce that includes prominent leaders in government, business, academia, non-profit, and new entrants to the workforce to focus on collaboration, investment, attractability, and affordability in New Jersey.

Thriving in an Age of Disruption


Anna Orgera, Partner at Mercer


Thriving is about creating an undercurrent of energy and vitality. Anna clarifies that companies that are committed to building thriving workforces focus on areas such as career development, employee involvement, fairness and equity and building trust. People who feel they can bring their true selves to work are more energized, engaged, and likely to stay. Building a career framework enables employees to be proactive by showing opportunities for growth in current roles, progression, and skills and experiences. Anna shares Mercer’s research on the top 10 differences between those who feel career empowered and those who do not.

Transforming Innovation Culture


Regina Hourigan, Manager of Innovation Capabilities at Colgate Palmolive


What to do and what not to do to transform a culture of innovation. Regina shares with us, Colgate’s journey to transform into a culture of innovation. Their objective was to get more connected to the people that use their products. How do we put the user of our products first and more often in our R&D mindset? How do we drive empathy and authentic connections with our customers? Culture change needs to begin at the grassroots level with passionate people that want to change. Empower them to experiment, transform, and evolve the culture.

Reconnecting Work and Wealth in the Gig Economy


Jim Mahaney, VP of Strategic Initiatives at Prudential


The gig economy brings a level of flexibility and is also a threat to financial security. Citing research assembled by Prudential, Jim posits that all of the recent (2005-2015) net employment growth appears to have come from alternative work arrangements. There are positives and negatives to the new gig economy. As a positive, the gig economy provides an extension of work opportunities. The negatives center around the disruption it causes in traditional industries and roles. Jim suggests that gig workers face less stability in income and job security. They need to self-fund benefits and retirement savings. This will require a shared responsibility between workers and employers to build a more stable business ecosystem that ensures everyone thrives.

Earning Your Talent Analytics Decoder Ring


Dr. Beverly Tarulli, VP of Human Capital Strategy and Workforce Analytics at PepsiCo


Building a people analytics capability. People analytics is defined as the application of statistics, technologies, and experimental approaches to solve people-related business problems often using data from multiple sources. According to Beverly, with the evolution from pure reporting to the holy grail of being able to predict and forecast, our business leaders are expecting their HR partners to be anticipators. Anticipators that can look around corners and develop a point of view based on workforce insights. Beverly also gives us valuable tips on where to start and how to build a successful people analytics team.

Smart Communities Bring People Together


Victoria Dower, Director of Strategy, Marketing, & Operations for Smart Communities at Verizon


Technology is playing a much greater role in our lives and the world around us. The number of connected devices in cities will grow exponentially from 2.3B “things” in cities in 2017 to 30.3B worldwide by 2020, according to Victoria. With the advancement and availability of connected services and capabilities like autonomous vehicles, communications, or even gauging the health of a city, the benefits of a smart community should be used to drive growth and operational efficiency as well as improve the quality of life for its citizens.

Our second DISRUPT Northern NJ event was a dynamic and energetic night filled with provocative ideas that sparked lively networking discussions. As the host sponsor, LDS recognizes the importance of advancing the conversation on the Future of Work here in New Jersey. By bringing together a diverse and distinguished group of speakers, our hope was to stimulate and advance the discussion on digital disruption through the lens of organizational change, new applications of data and technology, and the changing role and work of people. In addition to our wonderful speakers, I want to recognize and give a tremendous amount of thanks to our sponsors (IT Radix, Morris County EDC, NJBIA, Mercer, the Ayers Group, ADP, and Quantum Health) whose commitment and enthusiasm helped make this evening a success. We also want to recognize the amazing innovators that participated in the Disruptor Pavilion (Digikist, iEnterprises, InnCreTech, 3DforChange, Mercer Next, Socrates AI, Springboard.ai, and LDS) who so ably represented some of the innovation being incubated and developed here in New Jersey.


I sincerely believe that everyone took away something, an insight, an idea, a new way to look at work and the people in work or met a new colleague that made this evening all that much more impactful to them. The planning has already started for our next DISRUPT / NNJ event, which we anticipate will be in October 2018, so follow us on social media (@DISRUPTHRNNJ) for announcements on our next event.

© 2018 Logical Design Solutions, Inc.