The digital breakthrough, the fourth industrial revolution or the era of smart systems – a feared child has many names. However, there are not that many reasons for a negative or worried approach. Using the tools produced by this breakthrough, people can significantly reduce the effect of the three D’s (Dull, Dirty and Dangerous) and shift the focus of work to where a human is better and more apt than a machine. We can use the freed capital and competence resources to create something new, something that we currently do not know much about. Similarly, the tools of the digital era allow people to solve the major challenges and problems that are facing humanity – from the sufficiency of food to active climate engineering. This new era only looks oppressive if we are looking at it with the logic of days past. Overlapping systemic changes encourage us to set up rules for the next era in all markets. If you are not involved in this process, you need to settle with the rules drafted by others, and these will probably be disadvantageous to you. The leading position in terms of digitisation is in the hands of the highly educated. Finland has the highest educated people in the world. It would be startling, if we, as a highly educated nation, were in a poor position, considering the current digital breakthrough.

Production is highly specialised. The production chain of even the simplest products may involve as many as 500 specialised parties. The Jumbo Jet, together with other aircraft of a similar size, consists of more than six million components. We are in the habit of talking about subcontractor chains and subcontracting, but is specialisation in the end trampled by the words we select? Is this situation dependent on something else? In the era of smart systems, it is only natural to seek partnerships and specialisation from all parts of the world. Transparency and the reduced significance of distances have encouraged us to look both near and far. Yet, we still hear about projects where the buyer aims to enable unpredictable suppliers, unexpected competitive benefits or completely new ways of value generation. A genuine joint production or product development seems to be as rare. Industrial design is on a path of For People – With People – By People, and something similar is also happening in subcontracting. Digitisation, combined with robotisation and automation, enable volumes of something we have not even been able to imagine. This is why it is daring to continue a subcontracting relationship with straightforward assignments, even if a deeper and more extensive partnership were possible. We often wish for more expertise in marketing and sales in Finland. Would now be the time to look for smarter procurement practices?

However, the need for specialisation is not eternal. We are moving from self-sufficiency via specialised production towards full self-control – a market masterfully steered by the customer, i.e. a person. Artificial intelligence will facilitate control and system-based selections in stages, until we reach a point in which a system, together with its production dimensions, automatically takes care of everything for which specialisation has been needed. That is when societies will be interested to know who controls these systems. And for good reason: we can be holders of highly advanced systems or subcontractors that helped create them. The level of our wellbeing depends on these selections, at least to some extent. Overall, selection is the key word in a digital breakthrough, considering that drifting and repeating do not lead towards any positive development. We can make selections in all areas of our lives. A voting democracy is not enough.

The digital breakthrough will probably give birth to a 30-year golden age, during which the humankind will take significant and world-changing leaps forward. The table is set- now is the time to see what it offers.

llkka Halava
Prime Frontier Oy

Futurist Ilkka Halava will be a keynote speaker at the Alihankinta 2016 exhibition. He will discuss the main themes of this year’s exhibition: digitisation and management from a future perspective. Welcome to the opening at the Tampere Exhibition and Sports Centre at 10 am on Tuesday 27 September.

Ilkka Halava (M.Sc. (Econ.), CBC) is a futurist, foresight coach and CEO of Prime Frontier Oy and Future Works Oy. He is one of the most popular speakers and advisors in Finland, and he has worked with more than 270 different organisations. A leading expert in sociocultural changes, Ilkka has taken part in a number of private and public development projects with Finnish and international organisations for more than 25 years. Prime Frontier Oy is a strongly future-based company, specialising in the development of working life. We want to understand the real structures of the current situation and see to the near future, while producing services that benefit owners, management members, employees and customers. Further information: