People are like pineapples: Lessons on the future of work from leftover fruit
Updated: Mar 14
The future of work is incredibly uncertain for many workers. This zesty article from Founder & CEO of Passion Pioneers, Lata Hamilton, explores the opportunities we have to seed hope, courage and new life after an encounter with a spiky-topped fruit friend.
It all started when I was scrolling Facebook and saw one of those nifty home hack videos which showed how to take the stump of a pineapple (the dark green spiky bit) and TRANSPLANT IT TO GROW A BRAND NEW PINEAPPLE PLANT!!
Ever the sustainability nut and green-thumb enthusiast (note: I did not say “expert”), I pondered how I could justify buying a whole pineapple in a household of two. Our housewarming BBQ a month later was the perfect opportunity. With a few vegetarians on the guest list, I decided to make a delicious coconut-based vegan icecream which is flavoured with… you guessed it: pineapple. And it was done. I bought the pineapple, cut the top off, used the base for my homemade icecream, and carefully placed the spiky top on the kitchen counter for his future.
Why am I banging on about pineapples?
At a webinar I ran with Morgan McKinley last week titled “Workforce in a Changing World”, I shared the scary stats of expected job loss from digital transformation (contact me if you want the webinar recording!).
This year, the World Economic Forum estimated that 75 million jobs could be replaced by technology, such as automation and AI, in the next 10 years. And it’s not new news. Experts had been predicting this job loss epidemic for years. On our own Australian shores, the Committee for Economic Development in Australia Report 2015 estimated 5 million jobs could be lost in 10-15 years due to technology change. That’s 40% of all roles. And that was 5 years ago. We’ve already lost so much time.
Ironically, CEDA’s report in 2015 came in the same year that Bill Gates predicted we wouldn’t be ready for a global pandemic. I write this article in my ugg boots, holed up in isolation due to coronavirus-induced social distancing laws. Mr Gates called it. We weren’t ready for a global pandemic. And it appears we aren’t ready for our next job crisis either. Our industries, companies and governments haven’t been actively preparing, on a wide scale, for a scenario where millions of jobs are redundant in the next 5 or so years.
Perhaps coronavirus is the wake up call we needed to prepare for the digital disruption job loss that was on our horizon. And we better prepare - because it’s likely that businesses desperately try to get out the red by optimising their operations using new technology. We might not even have 5 years.
Job loss takes more than an economic toll
The problem with huge waves of job loss and unemployment is only half economic. The other half is the emotional toll it wreaks, which costs us as much as our lost disposable income does. When hope, confidence and self-worth drops in a large portion of the population, the creativity and innovation and resilience we need to rebuild as a society is threatened. Industry doesn’t exist without the workforce - so it’s here that we need to most manage the risk.
We’re at a pivotal turning point where our workforces are going to need to start to preparing for the future of work.
The hope in reskilling
So my pineapple stump sat there on the kitchen counter. All the sweet juicy parts were gone, used, finished. Just a dry, spiky, hard, inedible stump. I googled the next steps - peel off the lower layers and leave him for a couple of days to crave water - to create a crisis and a burning platform for change. I did this. Then… drop into a glass of water and pop in a sunny spot for up to 10 days and see if he will grow roots.
I grabbed an old jam jar, filled it with fresh clean water, dipped the dry end of the stump in. I found the warmest, most nurturing spot in the whole apartment - our bay window. And I left him there for several weeks, changing the water every couple of days, cheering him on and rooting (no pun intended) for him to grow new roots.
The pineapple has to want to regrow
Reskilling is the answer - it ain’t rocket science, and it’s been that way since the Industrial Revolution first started automating tasks with machines. The Australian Computer Society partnered with Faethm and discovered that 5.6 million new jobs could be added to the Australian economy over the next 15 years, a quarter of which are technology-rated. Similarly on a global scale, World Economic Forum has estimated 133 million new jobs could be created worldwide with reskilling... and not just any jobs, but those that are more fulfilling and aspirational. So, problem solved. Right? We’ll just get our people to reskill? If only change was that easy...
We’ve all heard the saying - you can lead a pineapple stump to water, but you can’t make him drink. Reskilling ain’t new. And the providers are endless (a Reskilling Guide with boundless providers is given to the graduates of our Reimagine You Program). But regardless of the new skills required for the future of work, without a workforce that wants to reskill, they have no future.
We’re talking motivation.
We’re talking courage.
We’re talking the desire to change.
We’re talking trust… trust in themselves that they can safely let go of the past and everything they knew and were good at, and develop just as much expertise and knowledge in the skillsets needed for the future.
As digital lands on our doorstep, the number one thing that will hold our workforces back from an utter career crisis will be their own self-belief, self-worth and confidence. They need to anticipate the trends, act now, and arm themselves with the internal and external resources to be successful both now and in the future. We can help them, but we have to be careful.
My pineapple plant had to do the work to grow. I could only do so much. I gave him a warm place, fresh water, and lots of emotional support. But he had to decide to put out roots. He had to be brave to live a life beyond my vegan icecream.
And be brave he did!
My goodness, talk about getting too big for your boots with your roots! My pineapple grew so many roots that his tendrils curled up prettily in his little jar (he got some extra time as I was low on potting mix).
And then it was time to transplant the little tucker. One sunny Saturday, I onboarded him into his new environment - potting mix and all. I watered him in, then let him settle into his new role as a fully-fledged plant. A few months later - well past his probation, he’s growing taller and stronger, and maybe in the Spring he’ll get a promotion to a barrel. What was once dead, destined for the dustbin, has now been reborn. I coached him into a new life, and it’s my belief he’ll keep fruiting for many seasons to come. And I unwittingly started a movement - my mum is growing a pineapple from a pineapple too!
Hand ups as well as handouts
In the meantime, it’s up to us. The business leaders and the thought leaders who care enough to step up and motivate our people to upskill, reskill, and regain confidence in the future of work. To write the future we want, and to drive the innovations to keep our organisations, projects, and teams afloat in this strange storm. It starts by creating a strong, positive future-focused workforce starting from today.
I don’t know when my pineapple plant will bear fruit. I’ll have to wait and see. As Simon Sinek says, it’s consistency, and not intensity that has people fall in love, get fit, and build great teams. I’m not in for a quick win - I’m in it for the long game. And my pineapple plant is too. After all, if a pineapple can get a new lease on life, our workforce has every hope in the world as well.
Lata Hamilton is the Founder & CEO of Passion Pioneers, an Executive Coach and Change Leadership Trainer. Sign up to her Change Inspiration mailing list here to get weekly goodies such as articles, templates, tools, videos and upcoming courses direct to your inbox.