The Future of Work: The shift towards the 100-year life

A Conversation with Lynda Gratton

The 100-year life. What kind of life can you imagine should you live to be 100 years old? Learning at schools, graduations, working for a company, then the golden years after retirement? This type of lifestyle will no longer survive. In the words of one economist: "We may have to work beyond the age of 80 if the 100-year life becomes the norm." If so, how do people prepare for it? What should companies do to respond to such a big change? What technology can do for it?

We invited Lynda Gratton, a professor at the London Business School, to talk about "the future of workstyles."
(December 8, 2017 at the Fujitsu Digital Transformation Center)

Key points in the era of the 100-year life

Lynda Gratton, professor at the London Business School
She is the author of books such as The Shift and The 100-Year Life. As a world leading authority on human resources management theories, she is also a member of the Council for Designing 100-year Life Society, formed by the Japanese government.

The multistage life

"Japan is unique in its ability to live longer than anyone else," Gratton said in her opening remarks. "Japan is the first country in which large numbers of people over the next five or six decades will live to be over a hundred."

Traditionally, people tend to consider life in three-stages: the first for education, the second for employment, and the last for retirement.

But Gratton thinks this paradigm is at odds with the 100-year life: "It's obvious those three stages no longer fit the purpose. Instead, what we are beginning to see is a multistage life in which we do many things at different stages."

・How to learn skills necessary for the 100-year life

Gratton mentioned skill learning. During the 100-year life, we have to continually reskill, because having a single skill or ordinary skills will not help us traverse a long life. Gratton suggested that we acquire new skills and knowledge as we progress through life.

Her co-author of The 100-Year Life, professor of Economics at London Business School, Andrew Scott argues that we have to work until 75 to 85 to live a 100-year life. "You probably are thinking, 'I don't want to do that if I am going to be working full-time without any breaks, without any other way of living,'" Gratton said. "And that is why we think people will change the way they work."

The importance of reskilling lies in its broader perspective towards life. One might want to explore the world to have a deeper understanding of human beings and different cultures and races. In UK, young people take off for a 'gap year,' during which they travel the world. "Why don't we do that at the age of 40 or 50 or 60?" Gratton asked. "Why don't we take more time out in our long life to explore the world?"

・Changing workstyles for each life stage

Secondly, we might not want to work full-time, but part-time, perhaps to look after children or to develop some skill. "In a long life, we have opportunities to build our own business. We call that the independent producer; actually creating our own business," said Gratton.

Lastly, during retirement, life after the age of 65 to 100 is a very long time. We should consider, instead, much more of a phased way of retirement, where people can work until their 70s.

"The first implication I see of what happens when people live to a 100 is that we will move from a three-stage life to a multistage life," said Gratton.

Developing "intangible assets"

In her speech, Gratton also emphasized the importance of individuals' intangible assets. "When we think of assets, most of us think about money," Gratton said. "In a long life, money as a tangible asset is important, of course. But actually what helps you in your 60s and 70s is not having more money, but rather having intangible assets."

What Gratton terms "intangible assets" are something like personal qualities. She explained the three types of intangible assets.

1. Productivity

The first is one's own capacity to be productive. Especially at the age of 60 and beyond, one has to have skills that other people acknowledge in order to make a reputation. In order to maintain it, one has to continue learning throughout one's life. Also, it is important to surround oneself with friends and colleagues from whom one can learn. Advanced technologies, such as artificial intelligence, may help us.

2. Vitality

The second is vitality, which means being physically and mentally healthy. However good, people's ideas and talent mean little without good health. Deep friendships are also key. Some research shows that people live longer because they have great community friendships. Long working hours are harmful to vitality. To build one's life, a person needs time with their children, with their partner, and with the community. "All these things make us human in this human-centric world," Gratton explained.

3. Transformation

The last is transformation, which is our capacity to change. None of us is going to be able to begin life with a particular set of skills and keep those skills throughout life. We have to change. At any point in time, each of us has a number of possible selves. We can be many different things. In order to change, we have to know ourselves and must be prepared to make tough decisions.

Social networks are also important. If one can interact with people who are different, then it gives one the opportunity to imagine being someone else.

"Some people find the idea of living to a hundred very frightening. I don't think it needs to be frightening," concluded Gratton. "I think it could be one of the greatest gifts that we as humans have. But to really make that gift, we have to understand that our lives will no longer be simply three stages. And we also have to put more emphasis on building not just our tangible assets, but also our intangible assets."

Transforming the way to work
How can a company help their people change the way to work?

After Gratton's speech, she was joined by Yumiko Kajiwara, a corporate executive officer in charge of human resource development at Fujitsu, and Iwao Nakayama, a corporate executive officer and head technology evangelist at Fujitsu. The topic of their discussion was how to change the way to work and how AI empowers us at workplaces. Yoshikuni Takashige, vice president of marketing strategy and vision at Fujitsu joined them as the moderator.

How are we to view 100-year life as an opportunity and change the way we work? The discussion drew from examples of Fujitsu's initiatives such as the "Idea Generation Workshop," which brainstorms visions for reforms, as well as the "Comeback System," which would broaden working opportunities. The second half of the discussion revolved around the topic of whether AI will become a threat.
More details of the discussion can be viewed at the site indicated below.

A Conversation with Lynda Gratton



Lynda Gratton
Professor, London Business School
Member of Council for Designing 100-year Life Society
Head of the Future of Work Research Consortium and the author of best-selling "The Shift" and "The 100-Year Life"
Iwao Nakayama
Corporate Executive Officer
Fujitsu Limited
Evangelist in AI and other Fujitsu technology
Yumiko Kajiwara
Corporate Executive Officer
VP, Vice Head of Global Human Resources
Fujitsu Limited
In charge of human resource development and diversity promotion at Fujitsu
Yoshikuni Takashige
VP, Marketing Strategy and Vision
Fujitsu Limited
In charge of portfolio strategy for Fujitsu's products and services and marketing strategy