The 100-year life – blessing or curse?


Professors Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott lay out their vision for people who will live to be 100 or more in their book, The 100-Year Life. One area they explore in detail is work. How many occupations will people have in their lives? How will they transition from one phase of life to another, and from one occupation to another?

A lot is being said about “the future of work”, due to increased automation in manufacturing and services, robotics and artificial intelligence (hey, Google!). In addition, the lifespan of large companies has shrunk. In 1958, an S&P company had a lifespan of 61 years. Today, it is less than 18 years.

The saying, “What was good enough to get you here will not be good enough to keep you here,” is truer now than ever. So, how can people and businesses deal with the issues of increased longevity, decreased business lifespan and skills becoming obsolete? (Eg. I am dictating this using voice recognition software; sometimes I use a transcription service.) The only way forward I see is for everybody to continuously learn – and not just technical skills.

In their recent book, Forever Skills, Kieran Flanagan and Dan Gregory explain the 12 skills they believe will future proof life for all of us, no matter our age. The skills they talk about are portable, i.e. they can be used in any job, in any industry.

One of the common mistakes small businesses and self-employed people make is not keeping their skills up-to-date and not learning things for the future. Time and/or money pressure is one reason; another is they are so engrossed in the work they’re doing, they cannot see the world is changing and they are being left behind.

It is also common in family businesses for the owners’ children not to receive enough training and learning, other than for what the business requires at present. If those businesses are sold, the adult children may struggle to find and transition to a rewarding job.

Businesses of all kinds and sizes should look at how they can help their employees gain portable skills, which will mean better opportunities if they have to or want to leave their job. Some business owners will object to this based on cost and its apparent irrelevance to current operations. However, if you want to attract the best people, you need to have the best environment, and that is not always about money.

One of the 12 skills Flanagan and Gregory say we need to succeed is self-control. This means we all must take stock of where we are and what we need so we can control the controllable when it comes to skills acquisition and future proof our lives.

So, how can you future proof your business and its people? If you’re unsure, email me at

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