Just One Skill That Matters?

Just One Skill That Matters

There is only one skill that matters.

Really? It is the skill to develop new skills all the time, quickly.

Will industry 4.0 kill our jobs?

This is the most popular question in our panel discussions on this topic. My response is usually as follows.

“History has proven that all previous revolutions have created new higher-paying jobs, reduced the number of working hours, improved productivity and prosperity. People who were worried about jobs, and companies that were slow to adapt to the change paid the big price. We have come down from a 7-day workweek before the first industrial revolution to 5-days. I can foresee a 4-day workweek by the time we are all digitally transformed.”

… pause…

“I have lived through the 3rd revolution. My freshman engineering was using log tables, I got a calculator in Sophomore, and saw the first computer as a senior in 1985. When computers came to India, we had serious nationwide social protests, against the Prime Minister’s move to bring the technology. It was perceived as a job-killer. Most of my friends and their parents disliked my excitement with the toys. Our college took a student account at the very first computer center in the city and each one of us was given 5 minutes of CPU time on the Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC)’s PDP-10 mainframe. My allocated 5 minutes were used up within a week and then I borrowed minutes from those who were busy protesting against the computers. Today the whole economy of the country (India) and many other nations is because of the IT skills.” 

… pause …

“You see, it is not a jobs question. It is a competency question. Your skills will go obsolete. You need to reskill, you need to retool, you need to relearn. To confidently try new things and new ways of doing something is the most important trait. So, don’t worry about the jobs. There will be plenty more. Worry about developing the competencies and knowledge for the jobs that will be available.”

Traditional trade skills will have to embrace the entry of new skills – some multidisciplinary blend of Digitalization, Automation, Data Scientists, Machine Learning, Machine Communication, Man-Machine interface, Additive Manufacturing, and new ones every few years. The role of data scientists is already picking up. These are specialists who will extract and prepare data, conduct advanced analysis, and apply their findings to improve products or production.

Traditional soft skills will have a higher focus on complex problem solving (identification), creativity, open mind, critical thinking, teamwork and transparency, decision making under uncertainty, robotics supervision, and more. I can see a role for a full-time Fictioneer, Ideation facilitator, Concept artist, …

Job Descriptions are dying

If you can describe your job in sufficient detail, it will soon be replaced by a robot. You need to focus on talent that can bring intellectual capability and adaptability to meet Job Expectations. Simple tasks are being taken over by robots and shop floors are getting digital. Humans now need to oversee humans and cobots together. Perhaps we will see robots supervising other robots and then humans, sooner than we think. And let us add artificial intelligence or intelligence augmentation to the mix. We now have a whole new set of challenges with talent management.

If you consider the scope of digital skills required, universities will have a difficult time adjusting. In one of my recent conversations with a University Dean, I asked him how they will adapt when their curriculum revision cycle is 3-year, because very soon the content obsolescence period will be shorter than three years. I think Industry will take charge and not rely on university degree programs.

Focus is also shifting from graduate-level college degrees to rapid certification and creating relevant competency just in time and in place. Augmented reality-based training or job instructions might further diminish the value of formal classroom trainings. From an industry perspective, HR may not be able to handle the retraining, because of scope and content. Chief Technology Officer (CTO) may have to take this one on. There will be room for new types of colleges and academies to develop talent for the digital requirements.

Creativity can be learned, it is a practiced art. A whole library of how-to books has already been written on the theme. Some of the books are better than others, but they all focus on a couple of central ideas: be open to new things, ask questions, doodle around, and create ‘firsts.’

According to the BCG[1] employees will need to shift their focus to the things machines so far can’t do, will have to be more open to change, possess greater flexibility to adapt to new roles and working environments, and become accustomed to continuous interdisciplinary learning.

The global pandemic is demonstrating the need for resiliency skills. Businesses surviving in 2020s will be those where the organizations are flexible, adaptive, and agile; constantly analyzing and adjusting. Employers might look for such skills as a requirement in the near future. These skills are not easy to teach or learn.

In Summary,

To pick up a new skill on demand is the most important skill.

Ability to do the job that cannot be described clearly, is what will keep you in the job.

If you like this blog post, you will like my book – “Inspiring Next Innovation Mindset” available on Amazon.

If you wish to engage with me in a conversation, on important innovation topic, please register for our monthly sessions at www.inspiringnext.com/events


[1] Man and Machine in Industry 4.0; M Lorenz, R Strack, K Lueth, & M Bolle; BCG Report; https://www.bcg.com/publications/2015/technology-business-transformation-engineered-products-infrastructure-man-machine-industry-4.aspx ; Sept 28, 2015.

What Might be the Next Revolution?

Oh Really?

We have defined the digital-physical integration as Industry 4.0. We have seen advances in digital-biological systems and also the biological-physical systems. Is it time for Digital-Physical-Biological confluence to create a whole new world?

Next Revolution

The Four Industrial Revolutions

Over the last three centuries, humanity has seen significant change in lifestyle, driven by three industrial revolutions. Currently, we are going through the fourth revolution. Briefly

The first industrial revolution brought a change from handcrafted forms of production to the mechanization of production with steam engines or regenerative energy sources such as water.

The second industrial revolution triggered by electric power, enabled new industries and mechanical production engineering. We mastered the control of physical materials and products.

The third industrial revolution came from development of computers, which allowed automated control of industrial production and revolutionized data processing. We mastered the digital space.

In the fourth industrial revolution, we are beginning to harness the potential of digital physical integration. A good example of the digital physical integration is a self-driving car. The car gathers the data from multiple cameras and sensors to determine its position, velocity, and separation to other cars. It uses the data in real time to take physical actions with an intent to reach the destination without collision or discomfort. A similar change is happening in industrial manufacturing and maintenance. In addition, there is a growing desire to make these cyber-physical systems learn from experience, adopt to variation in inputs, make select decisions, and act autonomously to accomplish an objective.

The Next Revolution

This is another form of confluence that has been emerging slowly but steadily. For many decades we have seen significant advancement in physical-biological systems such as prostheses and implants – artificial substitutes for body parts, nanomaterials, nanobiotechnology, biosensors, and bionics.

There is a serious research effort in the field of digital-biological systems such as Biocomputers which use biologically derived molecules, such as DNA and proteins, to perform digital or real computations. And now we are advancing the technologies to 3D printing of skin and organs.

Bringing Biology into the digital-physical systems of the fourth industrial revolution could usher in a next revolution – governed by digital-physical-biological confluence for purpose. We just do not know what that would look like. But we have some early indications of various use cases.

Intelligent Implants[1] is at the forefront of electrotherapeutic devices to treat disease and aid recovery in bone and other tissues. They pioneer the use of data, engineering, and biologics to bring novel, active and connected medical devices to healthcare. Their integrated devices facilitate treatment for the patient, as well as decision making for the healthcare professional.

A quadriplegic racer Rodrigo Hübner Mendes[2] was the first person ever to drive an F1 car using a sensor studded cap over his head that could pick up his brain activity to drive the car, in 2017.

Neuralink[3] is pushing the boundaries of innovation in neural engineering. They are designing the first neural implant that will let you control a computer or mobile device anywhere you go.

Global Human Body Models Consortium[4] (GHBMC) of seven automakers and one supplier have been consolidating their individual research and development activities in human body modeling into a single global effort to advance crash safety technology since 2006. These computers models have significant derivative applications in sports, aerospace, healthcare, wearables, forensics, and military as posted on social media by the author[5] in 2016. A private company Elemance[6] continues to develop and serve this applied innovation in form of proven, validated, finite element human body models, ready for simulation environments.

A combination of human body digital twin, understanding of genetics, and opportunity to 3D print organs opens serious opportunities in longevity, quality of life, and questions around ethics, hard to answer at this stage.

In Summary,

In some sense all sorts of combination of human-machine integration are on the horizon, not just artificial limbs and biocomputers. That would be an era of cyber-physical-biological confluence. And it could be very revolutionary.

Will his be the next revolution? what do you think?

If you like this blog post, you will like our monthly conversations on Innovation. You are invited to join by registering at www.inspiringnext.com/events

For a dedicated session for your company, please reach out to Ripi Singh directly.


[1] https://www.cipherbio.com/data-viz/organization/Intelligent%2BImplants

[2] EMOTIV x Rodrigo Hubner Mendes – Driving F1 car just by thinking, Aug 18, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NhmXaeaHkDc 

[3] https://neuralink.com/

[4] http://www.ghbmc.com/ 

[5] CAE in Bio-Mechanics – Imagine Next? Ripi Singh, May 4, 2016, https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/cae-bio-mechanics-imagine-next-ripi-singh/

[6] https://www.elemance.com

Is it time for Industry 5.0?

Oh Really?

While most of us are still getting our hands around the fourth industrial revolution, we occasionally come across terms Industry 5.0 as return of the human touch or human-machine reconciliation or an attempt to address shortcomings of the fourth revolution. What do you think?

The Four Industrial Revolutions

Over the last three centuries, humanity has seen significant change in lifestyle, driven by three industrial revolutions. At this time in our history, we are going through the fourth revolution. Briefly

The first industrial revolution brought a change from handcrafted forms of production to the mechanization of production with steam engines or regenerative energy sources such as water.

The second industrial revolution triggered by electric power, enabled new industries and mechanical production engineering. We mastered the control of physical materials and products.

The third industrial revolution came from development of computers, which allowed automated control of industrial production and revolutionized data processing. We mastered the digital space.

In the fourth industrial revolution, we are beginning to harness the potential of digital physical integration. A good example of the digital physical integration is a self-driving car. The car gathers the data from multiple cameras and sensors to determine its position, velocity, and separation to other cars. It uses the data in real time to take physical actions with an intent to reach the destination without collision or discomfort. A similar change is happening in industrial manufacturing and maintenance. In addition, there is a growing desire to make these cyber-physical systems learn from experience, adopt to variation in inputs, make select decisions, and act autonomously to accomplish an objective.

The advent of automation, and artificial intelligence has created a general misconception that Industry 4.0 will make humans redundant. We think, it moves humanity to engage in more fulfilling and meaningful activities and take all sorts of repetitive hard work to machines. Over the last few decades concerns around excessive focus on machines taking over industrial processes for economic value creation has raised the eyebrows of forward-thinking leaders and those concerned about social conditions.

The Debate around the Fifth Industrial Revolution

There are a few definitions and descriptions emerging, all centered around human role and value. Let us look at a few.

Østergaard[1] founder of Universal Robots defined it as the human touch revolution in 2019. He says “The mass customization … enabled by Industry 4.0 is not enough. Because consumers want more. They want mass personalization, which can only be achieved when the human touch returns to manufacturing. This is what I call Industry 5.0.”

Marc Benioff, the founder of Salesforce said at the World Economic Forum “I see a crisis of trust in technology. In the Fifth Industrial Revolution, we’re going to have to have… a chief ethical and humane use officer. Are we using these technologies for the good of the world? You can’t do business in the Fourth Industrial Revolution without the trust of your employees and your customers and partners.” The Fourth Industrial Revolution might be taking humans out of industry but the fifth wants to put them back in.

It is being touted as the revolution in which man and machine reconcile and find ways to work together as a part of execution process to improve the means and efficiency of production. Come to think of it, the transition to Industry 4.0 is not overnight and organizations will go through slow acceptance, which means man-machine co-working during the adoption of Industry 4.0.

QUESTION – “Why aim to take the human out fully to achieve the 4th revolution and then bring the human back to go to 5th revolution. Why not blend the technology mindfully while adopting the 4th revolution?”

The claims that the developments of Industry 5.0 could fully realize what the architects of Industry 4.0 had only dreamt of at the dawn of the 2010s; do not make sense[2]. You do not need another revolution to complete the job of the previous one. That would be an evolution or continuous improvement or debugging and not a revolution.

A recently published report from European Commission defines Industry 5.0[3] as going beyond producing goods and services for profit. It shifts the focus from the shareholder value to stakeholder value and reinforces the role and the contribution of industry to society. It complements the existing “Industry 4.0” approach by specifically putting research and innovation at the service of the transition to a sustainable, human-centric, and resilient European industry. The concept is clearly related to Japanese definition of Society 5.0.

The best argument in support of Industry 5.0 to be defined separate from Industry 4.0 was articulated by Gauri and VanEerden[4] in May 2019, as a collaborative work of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum. “The main principles of the 5th revolution include profit with purpose, focus on United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for achieving a flourishing future, closing the gender gap, and scaling, spreading, and becoming increasingly democratized.”

We like this a lot. We view it as refreshing thought process and not as an industrial revolution.

Cabe Atwell adds humor to the numbering scheme[5], “Industry is being “versioned” way too willy-nilly. We need versioning control! Without a better way of describing innovation in industry, we are doomed to see more “upgrading” of industry, since it is an attention-grabber. So, let me now coin the term “Industry 6.0,” where we never interface with any machine, person, or drafting table/setup. Instead, it’s all done in an app. We take a picture of a rough sketch and click “make it.”

In Summary,

The folks with technology and business focus are defining Industry 5.0 as effort to integrate humans with robots to meet the high demand for individual personalization or customization. We believe that can still be accomplished by ‘mindful digital transformation’ within industry 4.0 rather than obsession for automation and rush for gold.

The folks with heart are defining Industry 5.0 as outcome which is human centric, sustainable, and resilient. That could still be defined as ‘purposeful digital transformation’, where purpose is greater than economic metrics and includes social values. 

Either way, the term Industry 5.0 being described does not appear to be a technological revolution in a traditional industrial sense, but a re-acceptance of humanity that we may have been gradually losing with every industrial revolution, in our obsession for efficiency, productivity, and personal comfort.

I believe, these two philosophies can co-exist, and they look like

“Industry 5.0 = Industry 4.0 + Purpose (humanly)”

Is it time for Industry 5.0; what do you think?

For a dedicated session for your company, please reach out to Ripi Singh directly.


[1] Welcome to Industry 5.0, The “human touch” revolution is now underway, Quality Magazine, May 08, 2019, Esben H Ostergaard. https://www.qualitymag.com/authors/3148-esben-ostergaard

[2] Guide to Industry 4.0 & 5.0, https://gesrepair.com/industry-4-and-5/

[3] Industry 5.0: Towards more sustainable, resilient and human-centric industry, Jan 2021, https://ec.europa.eu/info/news/industry-50-towards-more-sustainable-resilient-and-human-centric-industry-2021-jan-07_en

[4] What the Fifth Industrial Revolution is and why it matters, Pratik Gauri, & Jim Van Eerden, May 16, 2019 https://europeansting.com/2019/05/16/what-the-fifth-industrial-revolution-is-and-why-it-matters/

[5] Yes, Industry 5.0 is Already on the Horizon, Cabe Atwell, https://www.machinedesign.com/automation-iiot/article/21835933/yes-industry-50-is-already-on-the-horizon , SEP 12, 2017

Can Industry 4.0 Bring 6th Sense to Inspection Activity?

Oh Really?

Human ability to see when something is failing has become better through non-destructive evaluation methods. It has evolved from highlighting surface to looking inside and now getting to point, where data analytics from diverse sources could provide a digital indication of damage that is yet to appear on the physical structure, kind of a sixth sense!

Can Industry 4.0 Bring 6th Sense to Inspection Activity

The Revolutions in Non-destructive Evaluation (NDE)

For centuries humans have taken care of their safety using the five basic senses – touch, sight, hearing, smell, and taste. The revolutions in manufacturing, infrastructure, and transportation systems came with unfortunate incidents and fatal accidents. The engineering community rose to the challenge of quality, safety, and reliability through non-destructive inspections. This important domain serving so many industries, has also seen its share of revolutions, aligned with the changing needs of the industrial revolutions, and enabled by similar suite of technologies.

The first inspection revolution was around highlighting the surface for human organic sensory perceptions. Tools such as lenses, colors or stethoscopes improved the detection capabilities of naked eye and human ear. Procedures made the outcome of the inspection comparable over time.

The second revolution in NDE used physical understanding of material response to electromagnetic or acoustic waves, which lie outside the range of human perception, into signals that can be interpreted by humans. This resulted in a “look inside” into the components or a better visualization of material inhomogeneities behind or close to the surface. For example – X-ray, gamma testing, ultrasonic, Infrared and terahertz detection, eddy current, etc.

The third revolution in NDE came along with computers and digitalization that simplified imaging and analysis of signals, such as X‑ray detectors, digital ultrasonic and eddy current equipment, and digital cameras. Robotics automated the processes, making them convenient, fast, and repeatable. The digital technologies offered another leap in managing inspection workflow data from acquisition, storage, processing, 2D and 3D imaging, interpretation, to communication. Data processing and sharing became the norm, and data security and integrity came in as a new challenge.

The fourth revolution in NDE (now) integrates the digital techniques (from the third) and physical methods of interrogating materials (from the second) in a closed loop manner transforming human intervention and enhancing inspection performance. Within the context of the physical-digital-physical loop of NDE 4.0; digital technologies and physical methods may continue to evolve independently, interdependently, or concurrently. The real value is in concurrent design of an inspection through application of Digital Twins and Digital Threads. This provides the ability to capture and leverage data right from materials and manufacturing processes to usage and in-service maintenance. The data captured across multiple assets, can be used to optimize predictive and prescriptive maintenance, repairs, and overhauls over the lifetime of an asset. The relevant data can be fed back to OEM for design improvements. NDE 4.0 also serves the emerging trends in custom manufacturing. Remote NDE can keep the inspector away from harm’s way and integration by “tele-presence” can bring additional specialists in the decision process from anywhere in the world quickly and affordably.

The role of human is changing from ‘human-in-the-loop’ to ‘human-on-the-loop’ from ‘human-outside-the-loop.’

Game Changer – Intelligent Inspection System

The continuous improvement in inspection capability is driven by the need and desire to pick smaller and smaller damage or material discontinuity (Crack, corrosion, delamination, foreign object inclusions) with higher and higher likelihood. It is called probability of detection (POD), typically characterized by an S-shaped curve. Just like with naked eye, we all have slightly different probability of seeing small stuff on the floor. Most of the time a small shiny spec on the kitchen tile floor could go unnoticed, however it is different, if you knew that your child broke a glass yesterday.  You will likely scan a larger area looking for more such pieces. That is the power of knowledge, experience, and intelligence.

The Industry 4.0 can bring the ability to synthesis all of the data right from manufacturing, usage, environment, (digital history acting like a lifelong blackbox) and combine it with data from detected damage in other older assets (experience), the intelligent inspection system could predict with a certain probability that there is a discontinuity hiding here smaller than equipment’s ability to detect.

We have seen such capability in many domains. Ten years ago, Target store figured out a teen girl was pregnant before her father did (Forbes Feb 16, 2012). Amazon regularly ships products to the distribution centers nearest to your house based on your shopping patterns to cut down delivery time. Law enforcement agencies can thwart threats from social media chatter. That is the power of the data and intelligence augmentation.

The probability of detection by cyber-physical system using digitalized history can get better than intrinsic capability of the physical equipment, in a sense the 6th sense of the machine. Machine can predict with certain confidence that there is a signal here hidden in the noise, from an anomaly that will be detectable sometime in the near future. 

Discontinuity Size

In Summary,

The NDE 2.0 changed the game providing inspectors with equipment to see hidden damage using physical waves.

The NDE 4.0 could change the game again by augmenting an inspector with an intelligent system to foresee a damage on the digital twin before the inspection equipment can pick it up on physical structure.

If you like this blog post, you will like our upcoming book “Welcome to the World of NDE 4.0” DM me or Johannes Vrana and we can alert you when it is available on Amazon.

For a dedicated session for your company, please reach out to Ripi Singh directly.