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Datum objave: 14.04.2019

Ekkehard Ernst

Meetings can be made better

Ekkehard Ernst

Ekkehard analyses the impact of macro trends and policies on employment, wages and inequality. His current focus lies on understanding trends and scenarios for the Future of Work, in particular related to technological change (artificial intelligence), financial and housing market developments, demographic change, and migration. In his work, he focuses on the use of dynamic panel methods that are derived from structural, theoretical models. In addition, he develops new labour market indicators exploring financial mathematics such as real option theory and term structure analysis as well as quantitative linguistics for communication analysis. Currently, he is working on a new book on the Future of Work and the coming "Workers paradise".

Meetings can be made better

Organising a meeting that is productive and efficient for all participants is a fine art. What does that primarily involve in an age of qualified knowledge workers? Young management and design specialists have sought out trends and innovations on behalf of Konica Minolta.

One of the many pearls of office wisdom says that ‘life is too short for long meetings’ – and the employees and managers who get through too many meetings each week would probably add: ‘and my working week is, too’. But how can the quality of meetings be improved? How can they be designed in a more efficient and productive way? What motivation, ideas and technical tools can contribute to meeting participants being truly satisfied with the end results?

International motivation: a meeting of business and design management

The Konica Minolta Business Innovation Center (BIC) Europe has set itself the task of developing new ideas and offerings for the working world of the future, together with academic institutions, start-ups, innovation partners and customers in Europe. In this context, master’s students studying Design Management at IED Barcelona (Istituto Europeo di Design) have been entrusted by Konica Minolta BIC Europa with a piece of pioneering project work: three teams are to research the subject of ‘Improved Meeting Experience’ and develop ideas for the improvement of meetings within companies.

Wanted: innovations that improve meetings

As part of a holistic approach, a wide variety of innovations that can improve not only the meetings themselves, but also the perception of and experiences from the meetings that the participants have, are being sought. Aspects that are primarily relevant for highly qualified knowledge workers. The master’s students entrusted with the project came from different subject areas. Among other disciplines, communications designers, landscape architects and Web developers worked together in the specialist teams. Together, they put contemporary meeting experiences under the microscope, made interesting enquiries and tracked down various trends. Here is a small insight into the world of work and meetings in the future.

Impressions from the final presentations by the Design Management students at IED Barcelona

Problem gathering: why are some business meetings efficient and others not?

Endless efficiency? The meeting trends of the future

In times of constantly optimised efficiency and the pressure of high expectations, more and more employees and managers feel tired, stressed and burnt out. There are often too many meetings – and all the rooms look the same. An important trend for the future is redesigning meeting rooms and furnishing them in such a way that people feel good there and can communicate well. Rooms that have a good, healthy atmosphere and radiate ‘energetic signals’ to the mind and body were sought and have been found. Colours, plants and materials play an important role in this: if meeting rooms are successfully designed in a more natural way, the participants have the simultaneous benefits of greater relaxation and concentration.

Relaxed productivity: feeling at home – but in a carefully planned way

Another interesting trend identified by the students was giving more space to sensory experiences in meetings. Thus, some team leaders plan the first meeting with a new group somewhere comfortable and relaxed, such as a nice cafe. Or with the experience of eating together and talking in a relaxed way – whether it is in a restaurant or provided in-house by a caterer – they ensure that paying attention to one another and working with each other is more successful from the start. Innovations such as intelligent glass that changes according to levels of light or temperature are one way to ensure more or less visibility of a meeting in an open-plan office as required.

Trends, tools and meeting technology of the future

The teams of young specialists also dealt with various technical tools: an exciting trend is the assessment of meetings through ‘real-time content analysis’ in order to better ensure that everyone stays on top of the subject. To this end, keywords and the most important results of a meeting are recorded and a report is generated automatically. Meeting participants who often ask themselves why they actually have to attend certain meetings even though only a fraction of the topics discussed relate to their job might love the idea of the ‘Your Turn’ app: in future, this could be used to ensure that each individual only sits in on the meetings where their attendance is genuinely required. Sounds good, right?

Life is too short for long meetings. Meetings can be made better. #jobwizards


Ekkehard Ernst - Home page

Dr Ekkehard Ernst (ILO) speaks at the ESM

Seminar, "Future of Work Scenarios"

Dr Ekkehard Ernst is Chief of the Macroeconomic Policy unit at the International Labour Organization (ILO), where he is responsible for analysing macro- and socio-economic trends and changes in the World of Work. Specifically, he not only looks at shifts in taxation, monetary policy, financial market regulation, international investment and productivity, but also delves into analysing macroeconomic policy options to improve the world of labour. Before joining the ILO in 2008 he worked at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the European Central Bank (ECB). He has published in the area of labour market reforms and on the role of financial frictions for unemployment developments as well as the impact of financial market reregulation on job creation. Dr Ekkehard Ernst has studied in Germany (Mannheim, Saarbrücken), France (Paris) and the United States (University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Santa Fe Institute) and holds a PhD from the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (France). He became an IZA Policy Fellow in July 2011.

This is an ESM research internal seminar. If you would like to attend, please write an email to

Modern Diplomacy

Artificial intelligence: Opportunity or job-killer?

There is little doubt artificial intelligence (AI) will play a major role in the future of work – a future that has already begun. Think, for example, of self-driving cars, algorithmic stock market trading, or even computer-aided medical diagnosis.

The rapid advances in AI have the potential to create new opportunities, higher productivity and better earnings, but there are also fears they could cause job losses and a rise in inequality, with a lucky few appropriating the benefits of AI while leaving others behind.

So which way will it be?

The answer is, we can be moderately optimistic, provided policy-makers and social partners adopt the right measures. This is the conclusion of a recent research paper I wrote with some ILO colleagues.

AI-based digital technologies may allow larger segments of the labour market to improve their productivity and access better paying occupations, which in turn may help promote inclusive growth.

It’s worth remembering that historically, productivity and living standards have increased as a result of specialization and the transfer of more tedious, arduous and routine tasks from human labour to machines.  Modern farmers using sophisticated machinery are clearly better off and more productive than they would be if they used self-made tools to plough their fields.

The large reduction in capital costs brought about by AI applications, together with the fact that the direction of technological change is, at least in part, driven by the relative supply of low compared to high-skilled labour, means developing countries stand to benefit.

In many cases AI users don’t need to know much about how the technology works or to provide sophisticated input into the devices they use. Rather, their day-to-day use will allow AI-based tools to generate advice based on overall best practices combined with local circumstances. This creates low entry barriers for the spread of these new technologies and allows training and education to be focused on core numeric and literacy skills.

This means that even countries that lack the resources to teach the skills needed to produce AI applications can make wide use of such applications, creating large potential growth benefits.

However, if the opportunities are to exceed the risks, policies need to be adjusted, at both national and international levels.

This will include helping the workforce adjust. With technologies evolving rapidly, education and training need to go far beyond the school years, so that workers can be up-skilled or retrained as needed during their careers. Life-long learning will need to become a reality if the world of work is to benefit from these new technologies, now and in the future.

So, skills policies are essential, but they will not be sufficient.

We need to ensure the diffusion of new technologies around the world and open up access to data. Policy-makers and social partners also need to ensure that individual companies cannot gain market dominance and so exclude others. In this regard the observed rise in market concentration among digital firms is a matter for concern and needs to be tackled head on.

We need to devise tax policies that level the playing field among companies, boost international cooperation and ensure social dialogue, so allowing technologies and their benefits to be shared more effectively.

This issue is highlighted in the landmark report, Work for a brighter future, that the Global Commission on the Future of Work published in January, which will be discussed at this year’s International Labour Conference in June.

The ILO is well suited to provide this important platform for exchange of experiences and to support countries and social partners in adjusting and negotiating the necessary information and policy recommendations.


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