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Bonus Question: When Wall Street Vanishes, Is OWS Out Of A Job?

“The human being is best at interpreting all new information so that prior conclusions remain intact.” — Warren Buffett

Are You (Still) Loving It?

Researchers at Oxford and Yale discovered 50% of all jobs will be automated by Artificial Intelligence or AI within 120 years. AI is slated to be a better translator than the folks at the United Nations by 2024; write Ivy League college quality essays by 2026; drive trucks by 2027; do our retail work by 2031; write a best seller by 2049; perform surgery on your heart by 2053. You may as well sit back and relax because most likely, there won’t be anything work for you to do.

Wall Street traders will fall in between translators and high school essayists as algorithms become better at trading than guys wearing British pinstripes and John Lobb shoes. Moreover, no one will have to remind a robot, “make sure to take emotion out of the trade.”

And with no Wall Street, that means OWS will be out of work, too. Unless they do this other thing.

Will Speed Save You?

If someone asks what business are you in, whatever you tell them is most likely going to be a lie.

Because the reality today is you are not in banking, automotive, retail, or services. The only correct response is you’re in the business of change. In some acute cases, like the ones cited in the Oxford study, you better be in the business of changing.

Yesterday you did something the world valued. Maybe you were a hardworking journalist for a local newspaper or ran a small department store. Today, Alexa woke you up and mentioned…don’t bother coming into work. In fact, there is no work now. The company’s kaput. A robot took over your job and wants you to clean out your desk, preferably before 9 am. The robot’s boss — also happens to be a robot — is really on her case about the messy desk.

Bigly doesn’t help any either.

Today, of the largest 500 companies in the world, the top five are digital giants Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Alphabet (Google), and Microsoft. Six years ago in 2011, there was only one digital company represented in the mix. Did we lose track of the past 2,000 days? Google was a startup when most companies ruled out any chance it might amount to anything. If you were disrupted by any of these, the signposts were unmistakeable. Or were they? There’s one way to find out. Let’s look at the facts.

Here’s a crash course in disruption from Yahoo. As you will see, this story has nothing to do with innovation and everything to do with inability to react fast enough to change we see coming:

  1. 1998: Yahoo refuses to buy Google for $1 million so that Sergei and Larry could resume their studies at Stanford. Ouch.
  2. 2002: Yahoo tries to buy Google again for $3B and Google wants $5B. Google today is worth nearly $7y00B. Double ouch.
  3. 2008: Yahoo refuses to sell itself for $40B to Microsoft
  4. 2014: Yahoo sells to Verizon for $4.5b (penalties due to cyber attack reduced the value by $300mm)

What About Your Career?

If you were born in 1925, the average lifespan of a company was 75 years. It was conceivable your children could retire from the same company you worked for all your life. Now, the average company lasts less than 20 years and heading down to 15 by 2025. It means employees will change companies at least three times in their careers — if they stay with the same organization.

Start with AA’s first rule: admit we have a problem. If we are in business we will be disrupted. The question we should be asking is do we have the right team in place and do we have the right thinking on the team?

Go forward, Step Back, Think, Think, Think.

I am a believer in retreats, the kind where everyone wears their morning workout gear and wonders why didn’t they set a dress code.

I am also a believer in strategic retreats, the kind that George Washington performed by escaping from the British instead of declaring surrender, which infuriated them. He disrupted the disruptor. The result is we have a country.

The first kind of retreat — getting away to clear your head — will allow you to gather your thoughts on how to pull off the second kind — finding a niche that is disruption proof.

As a third option, I would gather the team for an exercise in differentiating innovation from disruption by assigning the reading list below. Those who would simply blame the startup engine of Silicon Valley for their trouble are making excuses. Customer disturbance is the culprit, not change.

A Reading List For Disruption Fighters:

  1. Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
  2. Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future by Martin Ford
  3. The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution by Walter Isaacson
  4. The Age of Cryptocurrency: How Bitcoin and Digital Money Are Challenging the Global Economic Order by Paul Vigna and Michael J. Casey
  5. Big Bang Disruption: Strategy in the Age of Devastating Innovation by Larry Downes
  6. Digital Disruption: Unleashing the Next Wave of Innovation by James McQuivey
  7. Digital or Death: Digital Transformation — The Only Choice for Business to Survive, Smash, and Conquer by Dominic M Mazzone
  8. Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation by George Westerman
  9. The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail by Clayton Christensen
  10. Exponential Organizations: Why new organizations are ten times better, faster, and cheaper than yours by Salim Ismail, Michael S. Malone, Yuri van Geest, Peter H. Diamandis
  11. Chaos Monkeys: Inside the Silicon Valley money machine by Antonio Garcia Martinez
  12. The Open Organization by Jim Whitehurst
  13. The Innovators by Walter Isaacson
  14. The New Digital Age by Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen
  15. The Net Delusion by Evgeny Morozov
  16. From Gutenberg to Zuckerberg: What You Really Need to Know About the Internet by John Naughton
  17. Turing’s Cathedral by George Dyson
  18. The Information by James Gleick
  19. Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies by Nick Bostrom
  20. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
  21. The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr
  22. This Machine Kills Secrets by Andy Greenberg
  23. Countdown to Zero Day by Kim Zetter
  24. Pax Technica by Philip N. Howard
  25. Future Crimes by Marc Goodman

Author’s Bio

Jeff Cunningham is an advocate for enlightened global leadership, which he calls the most valuable natural resource in the world.


He is a Professor at ASU’s Thunderbird School of Global Management and was the former publisher of Forbes Magazine, startup founder, digital content CEO, and ran an internet venture capital fund.

He travels the globe in search of iconic leaders. As an interviewer/host, he created a YouTube interview series, Iconic Voices, now co-produced by @Thunderbird, featuring mega moguls from Warren Buffett to Jeff Immelt. His articles on leadership have been featured in the Arizona Republic, LinkedIn and Medium via JeffCunningham.com.


His career experience includes publisher of Forbes Magazine; founder of Directorship Magazine; CEO of Zip2 (founded by Elon Musk), Myway.com, and CareerTrack.com; venture partner with Schroders. He serves as a trustee of the McCain Institute and previously as a trustee of CSIS and Middle East Institute, and as an advisor to the Nobel Peace Prize Committee.

He has also been a board director of 10 public companies.


The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Thunderbird School of Global Management or Arizona State University as a whole.