Welcome to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the era of Industry X.0. More so than any era that preceded it, this one offers Dutch organizations and our economy endless possibilities, maintains Youri de Koster, Igor Lelieveld and Anne Laure Rouw.

How? ‘By growing human capital in terms of quality, not only quantity. The Fourth Industrial Revolution brings about two inescapable transitions. The first is a technological one, where concepts like artificial intelligence, augmented reality, virtual reality, intelligent automation and robotics are constantly turning our world upside down, offering both additional physical as well as cognitive capabilities. The second transition is the human one, and, in fact, perhaps has even more impact than the former. Of course, they are not mutually exclusive.’

‘Yet, what’s key is the awareness that the technological transformation needs to unfold in such a way that it enables employees from all levels in the organization to become “smart workers”. Because that’s what makes this revolution unique: the fact that this time it’s the people - the human capital - who are the essential component of the Intelligent Enterprise. To cut a long story short: the smart workforce is the answer to the million-dollar question ‘how should organizations deal with all the changes and innovations in the revolution?’ Being the knowledge economy the Netherlands is, a world of opportunities awaits us. This is underlined in recent Accenture research, which indicates that Artificial Intelligence has the potential to increase corporate profitability in 16 industries by an average of 38 percent by 2035.’

The Super Smart Workforce

‘Smart workers are employees equipped and amplified by intelligent, innovative technologies, making them even smarter as their cognitive reasoning and knowledge are extended. This workforce possesses competencies - knowledge, skills and abilities - to keep organizations relevant and successful. It has found a smart way to gather all valuable, relevant data available in an organization, without having to worry about possible information getting lost in the face of ageing workforces.’

‘A technical maintenance engineer in a production environment can now focus on potential high-risk and/or high- impact maintenance tasks, identified by all kinds of smart monitors, data analytics on all recent production data (which parts needed the most intensive hours), sensor data (pressure, corrosion, temperature etc) and parts information (how recently has maintenance been done, which parts have been replaced etc?).

The same goes for financial institutions where ‘back in the day’ people would spend hours reading blogs and articles to gather much-needed valuable information before making informed investments, nowadays, many of these establishments utilize systems to find exactly that same type of vital information. This leaves the decision-making in the hands of the people and frees up precious time for them to focus and improve on other areas. It’s important to highlight that this doesn’t mean that jobs will be lost; it merely means they will evolve. The fact that the more menial parts of jobs can be automated allows human beings to focus more on core tasks, which often include complex thinking and higher-order reasoning.’

The Virtual Assistant is Dead: It was Murdered by the Digital Colleague

‘There’s no denying: some things can be done more efficiently by digital colleagues. It’s what we used to call “the virtual assistant” - but that person has died and was replaced by a digital colleague. The squeaky tape with a robot-like voice that was only able to follow simple, similar instructions has become a knowledgeable co-worker who is able to understand context and offer interesting, new insights to data 24/7. What’s more, it challenges you to look at things from a different perspective. So not only is it smart in and of itself, it is focused on enhancing your intelligence through a collaborative process of sorts.’

Smart Workers will be Everywhere (only you won’t know)

‘Inevitably, in ten years from now, digital colleagues will be ubiquitous in companies; in reception, HR or in the R&D department analyzing data - anywhere. The true beauty of these intelligent enterprises is that, by then, you won’t even know if you’re dealing with a real person or a digital co-worker. What you do know is that he’s extremely smart, just like you. We have all become smart workers with greatly developed skill sets, all part of a collective, smart workforce.’

‘Meaning that in a decade from now, the human capital will have grown enormously, with the same amount of people, just much more smart than they were before. If we utilize the knowledge to amplify our people correctly, we manage to perfectly execute the aforementioned human transition from the knowledge workers to smart workers. Embedding artificial intelligence into an intelligent workforce can hopefully lead to an impressive increase in employees' IQs.’

The Virtual Assistant is Dead: It was Murdered by the Digital Colleague

Dutch Competitive Advantage

‘In the Netherlands, we are excellent at gathering knowledge and utilizing it appropriately. That’s why this era fits us like a glove. Whereas countries like the United States and Germany rely more on production systems and national initiatives that are focussed on utilizing the new intelligent technologies for these systems, our core strength is knowledge. Human capital - knowledge and intelligence – is the Dutch number one collective possession, and, ultimately, our strongest USP. Just look at our workforce, which consists predominantly intelligent, skilled people.’

‘That’s why the Intelligent Enterprise we find ourselves in, soon will offer endless possibilities for the smartness of our workforce and the impact it - our country - can have on a broader scale. Embedding artificial intelligence in our knowledge, skills and abilities is what will keep us ahead of competition in the global game. This means that it is our time to shine and, if we seize the right opportunities, we’ll reap the rewards for years to come.’

‘But before we get ahead of ourselves, it’s important to focus on the ‘how’ first. Integration of innovations should happen in a way that employees feel involved, committed and genuinely empowered. Make sure the human transition into the smart workforce is not overlooked or deemed less important than the technological side: it’s this smart workforce that will ensure we’re a cut above the rest, and, simply by being such a smart country, we’re already leading the pack.’