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Greg Hutchins

Customer Care

The Future of Everything Is Risk-Based

Risk is becoming our lens for everything from managing, to working, and even going to the store.

Published: Tuesday, July 28, 2020 - 12:02

My recent epiphany was that the lens for all work and even for everyday living during the next few years will be risk-based. Why do I make this case?

In January 2020, my company was selected to participate in the largest pitch fest in the Northwest, TechfestNW, which was originally scheduled for April. Think “shark tank” but in front of a live audience of venture capitalists and entrepreneurs—1,000 or so folks. The idea is to take your start-up idea, distill it, and pitch it to investors. Kind of fun. Kind of scary. 

Our pitch that we worked on in February 2020 was: “The future of engineering is going to be risk-based.” We had risk training, consulting, and other products that we wanted to launch to a broader audience. So, we decided to see if we could get traction and feedback.

Well, February and March passed. Covid-19 became a pandemic. We were all in quarantine mode. As you can imagine, TechfestNW was moved from April to August 2020. We prepped for August.

Uncertainty and risk

Two popular words in most news programs last spring were uncertainty and risk. So, we changed our pitch for the August pitch fest to: “The future of all work is going to risk-based.”

Two more months passed, and we changed our pitch yet again for the August pitch fest to: “The future of all living and working is risk-based.”

How did we start on the future of work journey?

Years ago, I was chairing a City Club of Portland economic development study. Portland wanted to become the Northwest’s “Silicon Forest” much like California’s Silicon Valley. Portland attracted Intel to build a number of labs in the Portland metro area. I thought it would be good to have an Intel speaker talk to a City Club luncheon. So we invited Gordon Moore, one of the founders of Intel, to give a keynote at City Club.

Moore coined the eponymous Moore’s Law that predicted the number of transistors on a microchip doubled every two years. We wondered whether Moore’s Law applied to people, engineers specifically? We wondered if technology impacted engineers’ employability much like it impacted transistors.

A simple example may help explain this. Let’s say you graduated from UC Berkeley with an electrical engineering degree in a leading-edge discipline such as machine learning, robotics, or artificial intelligence. Let’s say that the amount of knowledge in the field doubled every four years. 

So, you graduated from college at age 22. Knowledge in your field doubled by the time you were 26, and then doubled again when you were 30. This means the amount of information or knowledge in your discipline had quadrupled or grown four times since you graduated from college.

As an engineer, are you still employable if knowledge in your discipline has expanded four times, and you haven’t kept up? Or are you career toast?

It seemed common sense that technology has impacted, some would say disrupted, tech careers.

Our next epiphany was that we’re all tech workers in one form or another and are impacted by technology. Think apps and smart phones. We were all subject to Moore’s law but with a different half-life. The half-life (i.e., the time where our personal knowledge is half of current knowledge in a field) of a mechanical engineer could be six years. The half-life of a computer scientist could be three years. The half-life of a quality engineer might be eight years. Anyway, you get the idea.

The Working It project

This question became the driver for our pro-bono activities to help engineers and scientists be marketable and employable. For years, we did professional development for ASQ, PMI, IEEE, AIP, and many professional organizations.  

We developed WorkingIt.com as a platform for professional development. Every six years, we updated the Working It book (Amazon.com Services, current edition 2019). Our basic message was that technology is the great disruptor of work, careers, and jobs. So, stay current in your field if you want to continue to be employable.

The state of the quality profession

We could see technology was changing the quality profession. Our consulting billables in quality were drying up. ISO 9001 registrations were slowing down. Lean and Six Sigma consulting and training were also slowing. We saw the handwriting on the wall. 

In 2000, we started writing about the future of quality in Quality Progress (I was a founding writer of “Career Corner”), Quality Digest, and other magazines. Our basic message in the first 2000 article for Quality Progress was: “There’s a lot of talk about the future of quality and quality management. First let me put your fears to rest. Quality is alive and well. It won’t disappear. It’ll just morph into something that reflects market needs.”

The “something” was that the future of quality was going to risk-based. From 2000 to the present, we’ve evangelized this message. ISO 9001 adopted risk-based thinking. More quality professionals moved to risk. And now we go one step further: We say “the future of everything is risk-based.” 

Future pieces

As we see Covid-19 cases around the world spike, in this series of articles I’m going to write about the “new normal” and about how risk is becoming our lens for managing, working from home, and even going to the store. We’re going to look at the future of work and, more specifically, how it’s going to impact our quality profession.


About The Author

Greg Hutchins’s picture

Greg Hutchins

Greg Hutchins is an engineer, certified enterprise risk manager, and the founder of the Certified Enterprise Risk Management Academy, Made in the U.S.A., WorkingIt.com, and Quality + Engineering.



Great stuff Greg....will look forward to your future articles