I wish the quote above was my own. It hails from Dame Minouche Shafik, Director of LSE. It elegantly captures the main points from the Minerals Week panel discussion I participated in on global competitiveness and future trends a while ago. Here are my thoughts on the topic. 

I covered several trends and zeroed in on two: bringing digital to life, not just the right tools, but the right people with the right skills to use them effectively; and collaboration – something we are historically quite clumsy at. These trends are core to amplifying the potential upside our industry creates, and segue neatly with the constantly morphing future of work.

Technology is changing the way we work, hire, engage and create value. Within Newcrest, it has democratised problem solving and accelerated innovation, optimising each step of the value chain. Predictive algorithms reducing mill and conveyor drive downtime, reinforcement machine learning to improve crusher production, immersive VR autoclave operator training increasing memory retention.

They are only one side of the coin. These investments will not realise their desired outcomes if people don’t readily accept and adopt the changes technology will bring. It is nonsensical to invest so much in the right tools, without paying equal if not more attention to the people who will ultimately be using them.

The reality is workers may have to upskill continuously simply to stand still financially.

While digital solutions will empower employees to make better decisions, they will also cause upheaval as highly manual tasks are automated. We shouldn’t fear this – what an amazing opportunity to expand job roles, redefine talent sources, and revolutionise how we reskill and retrain. The future of work requires rapid learning of technology and tools, where the knowledge worker and value-enriching tasks become the norm. Rapid advancements that are cutting edge today may not exist in 5 years’ time, and this necessitates building flexibility and agility into our mine, capital and human resource plans.  

Success = not just the right people with the right skills, but the right mix of people both in workforce and delivery teams.  

We need a new breed of worker – an intoxicating hybrid blending the very best of social skills (influence, persuasion, EQ, teaching others) with processing ability (active listening, critical thinking, reasoning, comprehension) and cognitive prowess (creativity, mathematical reasoning). It is about balance. STEM skills are important, sure, but they are insufficient in isolation.  

In the not too distant future, qualities such as curiosity, empathy and sincerity will be sought after because these are key to nurturing an innovative mindset and an open culture. In our increasingly hyper-connected world, the ability to authentically connect with people is critical to cut through the noise and inspire change.  

The pace of change is not slowing down, we simply cannot afford to rest on our laurels while more nimble counterparts try new approaches, embrace innovation and fail the right way (ie. fail fast, fail cheap, then get up and learn quickly from what didn’t work to turbo-charge the rate one arrives at the “right” solution).

Grades are declining, productivity is plateauing. This calls for a collaborative 21st-century approach to share and uncover new ideas, reinvent business models and reimagine work paradigms. We need to get over our inane fear of maintaining competitive advantage or protecting IP. 

Be more open not just with what hasn’t worked, but also with what has.  

A new sharing economy will kick-start partnerships with entrepreneurs, innovators and other METS companies within Australia and abroad. The game-changing Newcrest Crowd crowdsourcing platform won the METS Ignited Collaboration award at last year’s International Mining & Resources Conference. The winner from the first challenge, which aims to improve water recovery efficiency in the tailings process, has gone on to start his own consultancy servicing our industry. It demonstrates that opening our business problems to the world – does not mean our slice of the pie gets smaller. Rather, the pie gets bigger, for all of us. But we need more. It’s through close collaboration – industry, government, academia – it’s only by working together – that we are able to be bolstered, not embattled by these trends.  

Newer technologies such as social media and mobility have made the world more transparent, accessible and accountable – in the past, our culture evolved with the technology. However, for the next leap of technological progress, we need to simultaneously work on the cultural leap as well.