"The key is to embrace disruption and change early. Don't react to it decades later. You can't fight innovation." Ryan Kavanaugh (Businessman)



Yesterday, I wrote a post about how industry disruption is becoming more common, not less.  I talked about how people in all sorts of industries should be aware of how their jobs could change or be eliminated by advancing technology.



In response, my friend Charles asked "What are we going to replace these jobs with? If automation only distributes wealth to a small percentage of the population, while causing job loss for a large percentage of the population, how will it be sustainable?"



After a highly enlightening conversation on the subject, we decided that it is often much easier to see how new tech will disrupt existing jobs and harder to see how it will create new jobs.



Hours after our conversation had ended, my family decided to watch a movie called Hidden Figures.  On the surface, the film is about a group of brilliant woman working for NASA as human computers in the 1960s, and their fight to gain the respect they undoubtedly deserved. However, the story is much more than that.  It's a story about people adapting to industry disruption.



Caution, if you haven't seen the movie, this is a bit of a spoiler.



One of the primary characters is a mathematician by the name of Dorothy Vaughan.  She works at NASA, as a human computer, calculating the thousands of variables required for spaceflight.  But there is a disruption, and job loss on the horizon for Dorothy.  NASA is installing an IBM 7090 Data Processing System, which can process 25,000 equations a minute, vastly faster than any human computer could hope to achieve.  Rather than throw up her hands in despair, Dorothy rolled up her sleeves, learned Fortran, and made a job for herself and the rest of her department running the computer system.  



If you had told these women about this new computer that would disrupt their jobs, they would have been totally justified in only seeing how it would cause them to become redundant. Because Dorothy took the initiative and learned about the disrupting force, she found a new career hidden inside. She adapted.



This is a mockup. Publish to view how it will appear live.

Andrew Epps