The battle for emerging talent: Work is changing and technology is moving fast. Pervasive tech like AI will reach across industries at a rate that schools won’t be able to produce. The need to attract this talent and the concessions needed from employers to attract and retain them will be fascinating to see unfold.
When it comes to designing the future of work, one size fits none. Discovering success isn’t about a hybrid model or offering remote work options. Individuals and organizations are looking for more freedom. The freedom to choose the work model that makes the most sense. The freedom to choose their own values. And the freedom to pursue what matters most. We reached out to successful leaders and thought leaders across all industries to glean their insights and predictions about how to create a future that works. As a part of our interview series called “How Employers and Employees are Reworking Work Together,” we had the pleasure to interview Andrew Lane, co-founder of innovation consultancy and tech company, digby, who are leading experts in the architecture and design industry’s foray into the world of web3. At digby, Andrew leads strategy for luxury brands in A&D who are looking to explore the worlds of blockchain, metaverse and AI to help advance their business strategies and improve ways in which they’re connecting with their customers.
As co-founder at digby, Andrew draws from over two decades of digital business and Web 2.0 leadership experience to help heritage-rich global brands navigate their first steps into Web3, blockchain and the metaverse, with a focus on delivering brand value and new revenue and customer engagement opportunities. A seasoned entrepreneur, intrapreneur, speaker, and educator with deep expertise in emerging technologies, Andrew made his career building and leading teams and organizations from startups to multinational corporations through change and transformation. He’s spoken at leading conferences in multiple industries, designed and delivered innovative courses for prominent colleges and universities in digital media and technology, and sat on numerous boards and councils aligned to helping organizations and individuals chart their course into new territory. Andrew is also a co-host of Barriers to Entry, a web3 and emerging tech podcast for the architecture and design industry, and a co-founder of Interior Design Magazine’s Metaverse Architecture & Design (MAD) Awards.
Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Our readers would like to get to know you a bit better. Can you please tell us about one or two life experiences that most shaped who you are today.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been eager to experiment and try out new things. It started out when my dad put me in front of a microphone as a 9 year old broadcasting hockey games on local cable. When I got to high school, that transitioned into producing countless videos for school functions, eventually leading to my first career in TV and early digital media production (trying hard not to date myself here). Pretty quickly, linear and broadcast video began to feel old with the rise of the web and YouTube. That transition culminated with the rise of social media and content marketing when I had opportunities to work with some of the world’s best brands to help them navigate their first steps into that space. Since those early experiences I’ve always enjoyed the process of being able to experiment in a space where it was difficult to say anything was ‘wrong’ because they were creative businesses where you were often rewarded for experimenting and trying things first.
Let’s zoom out. What do you predict will be the same about work, the workforce and the workplace 10–15 years from now? What do you predict will be different?
As the pace of innovation continues to accelerate, new skills will be needed to stay ahead which will require companies to search harder for, and be more accommodating to talent. This will lead to new practices and policies around flexibility for many industries. With those factors in play, massive change is the way in which we collaborate to move the ball forward day to day. The pandemic-born Zooms and Teams calls we all know too-well will evolve in ways that bring tools together into 3D spatial (dare I say ‘metaverse’?) experiences to drive smarter locationless collaboration.
That said, perhaps my strongest belief is that to be their most effective, humans will always need to be together. Maybe we won’t need that in-person connection every day, maybe not even every week, but for companies to be able to form identities, have culture, spark innovation and truly be great, we will always need to bring our people together for the kinds of creative and interpersonal collisions that make work (even if only briefly) not feel like a job.
Designing work spaces in both the physical and digital environments that make all of this possible will be one of the most exciting challenges of the years in between.
What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?
Invest in your young talent and give them opportunities. Our population is aging and the incumbents at the top don’t have the bandwidth to stay on top of innovation in meaningful ways. Lean into your student pipeline. Provide them meaningful work, always leave the door open for their ideas and listen when they present them. Nearly a third of the workforce will be born after 1995 by the middle of this decade. The future belongs to people who grew up with a tablet and the experiences they’ll demand as employees and consumers will be difficult to fathom for anyone who didn’t.
What do you predict will be the biggest gaps between what employers are willing to offer and what employees expect as we move forward? And what strategies would you offer about how to reconcile those gaps?
In the race to innovate and return to some semblance of business as usual in the early months of the pandemic, the corporate world showed employees that the daily trip to the office might not be as necessary as they’d long believed it to be. With cities sprawling and commute times only getting longer, the timing couldn’t have been worse.
With one of the fundamental truths of the five day work week completely disrupted, employers have a chasm to climb back across to level set things with prospective employees. To close it, we’ll see significant work from employers to highlight the many benefits of their organizations to try and differentiate themselves. That said, I’d imagine the number of employers that do away with their designs on a more traditional in-office work arrangement will be minimal. The long-standing tradition of the 5 day in-office work week will (and should) change, but employers who sacrifice bringing their employees together in the short term to appease them will lose out in other more important areas of culture and potentially innovation in the long term.
What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?
The workforce is about to be handed over to digital natives for the first time when simultaneously the largest and most non-technical group in the workforce for the last 40 years, the Boomer generation, is retiring en masse.
The innovation we’ve experienced in the last 20 years is only going to accelerate through this paradigm shift and while it’s hard to predict exactly what they will imagine and create, I know I can’t wait to see it.
Our collective mental health and wellbeing are now considered collateral as we consider the future of work. What innovative strategies do you see employers offering to help improve and optimize their employee’s mental health and wellbeing?
Design thinking is a huge opportunity for employers in times like these. Too often, historically, organizations have employed top-down approaches, effectively telling employees the benefits that they should feel grateful to receive.
Employers that win will flip that script and actually bring their employees into the process to design programs and perks that will truly make an impact for their employees. That all starts with an investment in understanding the employee and then a further investment in how they respond to and demonstrate their newfound understanding. It’s not easy, but the playbook exists.
Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?”
- The balance of power between employees and employers: Employees briefly grabbed it back and have caused employers to need to bend and evaluate their position, but ultimately, the employers hold the cards (and the paycheques) so it will be interesting to see where this trend nets out in the coming years.
- The battle for emerging talent: Work is changing and technology is moving fast. Pervasive tech like AI will reach across industries at a rate that schools won’t be able to produce. The need to attract this talent and the concessions needed from employers to attract and retain them will be fascinating to see unfold.
- Artificial intelligence meets intelligence: While AI is the tech du jour, it’s just the first in a wave of technologies that organizations must learn to adopt into their processes. AI won’t replace people, but people who use AI will replace people who don’t. Organizations need to put this philosophy at their core.
- The workplace’s continued evolution to ‘hybrid’: We’re still in the silent pictures phase of creating this movie and the requirement to design true hybrid work experiences (physical and digital) will be imperative. The companies that get the mix right for the culture they’re looking to achieve will be the early winners
- GenZ is coming: The coming digital native generation of talent (~30% of the workforce by 2025) is coming and will demand experiences and tools that are not currently commonplace. How employers adapt to meet their needs and, more importantly, welcome their ideas into corporate strategy will define the innovators of the next decade.
I keep quotes on my desk and on scraps of paper to stay inspired. What’s your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? And how has this quote shaped your perspective?
The quote “those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it” has always resonated with me.
As a (very) amateur historian, I appreciate the perspective of history as it reminds you of the importance of understanding that with every change and obstacle we face, there are lessons to be learned from many who came before us. At the same time, it’s a reminder that on a daily basis we have the opportunity to learn from our mistakes and do better the next day. In both cases, it provides a great opportunity to take a breath, evaluate, and move forward through a situation with confidence and the benefit of experience.
As a bonus quote, I also love the saying, “head in the clouds, hands in the dirt”. I’ve always tried to live this way personally and professionally — allowing myself to dream big, but willing to do the work to make it happen.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He, she, or they might just see this if we tag them.
It’s tough to pick just one but I think I’d have to shout out to ‘the dawg’, Scott Galloway. I always enjoy his takes on business trends, corporate and brand strategy and more, but I also know he’s a strong skeptic of a number of growth areas I believe in, perhaps most notably “the metaverse”. I’d welcome the chance to both pick his brain but also share some different perspectives than the Apple/Microsoft/Meta-centric vision for the future of the 3D spatial web that his point of view feels focused on. I’m convinced it will be a new breed of company that will emerge, much like Facebook, Linkedin and others did at the dawn of Web2.0 — we just haven’t seen the rise quite yet.
Honorable mention to Open AI Founder, Sam Altman. He’s single handedly turned big tech on its ear and can’t wait to see what’s next.
Our readers often like to continue the conversation with our featured interviewees. How can they best connect with you and stay current on what you’re discovering?
I’m always such a fan of people reaching out to say hello and learn more about what we’re doing. You can learn more about us at www.meetdigby.io and can get in touch at [email protected]
To keep current with what we’re discovering, I co-host a podcast called Barriers to Entry on how web3 is impacting the architecture & design industry along with my business partner, Tessa,, and Bobby Bonnet of SANDOW Design Group. You can find it on the SANDOW Surround Podcast Network, or wherever you get your podcasts.
And of course for some thoughts and what’s new from digby, follow us on Linkedin.
Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.