WEBINAR: The future of work hangs in the balance – or does it?

The future of work hangs in the balance – or does it? This is where creative thinking comes into play. Preetesh Sewraj, CEO of The Loeries, Henley Africa dean Jon Foster-Pedley and Biznews’s Alec Hogg debate.

The changing world of work – a Hogg with Henley webinar – with emphasis on the creative industry, with Jon Foster-Pedley, dean of Henley business school, with today’s guest, Preetesh Sewraj CEO of the Loeries.

The Loeries is an awards festival  for the advertising industry. Preetesh you joined in the beginning of April?

The Loeries is the only major festival whose rankings go into the Global Walk Report and that helps identify some of the best talent  in our industries. We’re a non-profit organisation that supports the brand communication industry.

Can you take us through your presentation? 

There are many awards in the advertising space and because of the challenges of Covid-19, they’ve all been cancelled. Instead of postponing we’re gonna hold this Loeries creative week but this event is to understand how we deal with pandemics and massive challenges. This will be the first major event to bring some of the great thought leaders together from across the board. 

Brilliant. Other examples of how other businesses are dealing with Covid-19. Capitec has turned half its branches into call centres – 963 out of 1,000 staff can work from home. We’ve got dark kitchens for restaurants. Why shouldn’t we have dark retail operators? In future, we might just be phoning them.

Some industries are going to thrive, anything that’s online.  The challenge is how do we transition into virtual and online.

Larry Page, co-founder of Google, a few years ago said property values in cities would drop to 5% because people are going to move offsite. We are accelerating now into the digital world.

Technology is really catching up with some of the nuances of what we can do face-to-face. There are better AIs, better connectivity, better cameras, better skills, and just better preparedness among people.

There’s nothing like a crisis to force you into new ways of thinking!

Preetesh, the Loeries is an event where the who’s who of the creative industry come together. With social distancing, one would presume that they might be able to come together but they have to perhaps sit at different tables. How have you been thinking this one through?

Jon alluded to it earlier, there’s a lot that you can do on a virtual environment but there’s also a lot of nuance that’s lost if you don’t have that physical contact and as long as safe and it benefits society, we will ensure we have a physical environment and a physical event in November.

It’s just a question here around creative thinking and why do you think we need innovative thinking?

Businesses need to have creative thinking. If you have the ability to analyse your environment and analyse the problems even if the problems don’t exist, to have that forward thinking to think about how can you create solutions that’s going to benefit society, that results from creative thinking into an idea. That idea results in tangible innovation of some sort and that innovation is actually what results in movement within an economy and boosts an economy forward. I think creative thinking really is at that only step at the start of where we actually start from to actually move economies forward. 

Chris wants to know about the future of work. What do we tell high-school pupils and how should they prepare for the future?

The environment’s constantly changing. To succeed, one must have the ability to adapt and be adaptable. The reason that all of us are sitting here today is purely because throughout our history we’ve had ancestors who have changed and adapted to environment. 

When Warren Buffett was asked about the future of work by school pupils, his reply was to ask them who they would invest in out of their classmates, they selected the one that’s always reliable, the calm one.

Reliability doesn’t mean you must be stodgy and remain static. Dependability and being trustworthy are enormously important too. Most of our minds are pretty smart. Reliability comes to people in different times of their lives. The neuroplasticity argument says we don’t stop evolving till 28. You are creative and you can do lifelong learning so I think learning to learn is really important as a life skill.

Trustworthiness is important. There is a lot of fake news. If you can be the one that people trust, with reliable information, then that is a great contribution. Brands are all about trust?

They are because you have to think about brands. In the same way that I know who Alec or who John is: it’s the same way when you buy into a brand, it has a personality. How do you maintain your brand image/your brand equity over time? How do you maintain that trust? 

Just like human being, sometimes brands will fail and have issues because of the people behind them. You also have to think about as an organisation and how do you restore trust in a brand in difficult situations. How are brands going to be after Covid-19 lockdown?

Is it just not all about high EQ?

I think the EQ idea is fascinating. How do you get EQ (emotional intelligence)? There is empathy, where you understand the feelings or problem for an individual, but Empathy is understanding the system, their nature, the nation, the people, and the communities. 

Perhaps, coming out of this South Africans will be even more trained in EQ because we can see around us how others are suffering perhaps more than then we might be.

The big challenge is that none of our kids can thrive unless all of our kids thrive so we cannot live in a world with a high Gini-coefficient – that is anti-creative, anti-everything, anti-honest, and is anti-human. You can’t build a thriving nation with those dynamics.

On the psychological level, sadly when one is impacted by a tragedy such as this, a little bit of selfishness comes and goes. We go back to a point where we want to take care of ourselves and our family first. The only way we’re gonna move forward is to come out of this by trying to improve the situation of everyone around us because the benefit of that is greater for the whole of society and for us in the end of the day.

You talk about education, Jon. How do you replicate your models of going online to schools?

I think the education thing is fascinating. It’s absurd to us so that we think education is going to university for three or four years and that’s it for life. We can take mass education, infrastructure needn’t be national. It can be global. Accreditation of education needn’t be national. It can be global. It doesn’t even have to be academic. You can have bodies of people of really leading companies and organisations that you trust who will put some form of accreditation on the education not going through the universities.We need to give it to everybody and we need to do that fast.


Tertiary education, we need a lot more balance right now. The data is clear that people who study some of the more creative subjects are better leaders within society and that’s within business, within organisations. and more society forward because of the ability to think creatively.The education space must a greater respect for the diversity of education.

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