As big disruptive shifts hit the workplace we all get taken out of our comfort zones. Whereas once we felt in control, the stakes are evolving rapidly and our ability to adapt is falling behind. If we consider the recent gallup poll results that indicates that only a mere 30% of the workforce is actually committed to doing a good job, engaged, it really drives home the point that we may need to take a deeper look at the skills we have today, map them against the various trends that are impacting the workplace, and derive a view to the skills we will need moving forward.
A recent report published by the Institute for the Future (IFTF), does an outstanding job of identifying the key work skills and capabilities needed in the next few years (and arguably needed now). Here they are:
Steve Jobs once said ““Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something”. Sensemaking is all about the ability to connect things to create new ideas. Quoting Maria Popova, who has really crystallized this notion, in order for us to truly create and contribute to the world, we have to be able to connect countless dots, to cross-pollinate ideas from a wealth of disciplines, to combine and recombine these pieces and build new castles.
Relationships and the ability to connect with people becomes and remains a crucial capability, however, as John Hagel thoughtfully points out, influence and relationship-building will now come from asking the right questions, not necessarily having all the answers. In the age of the individual, you can no longer assume that every person shares the same goals, desires and motivators. Whether you are engaging with an employee or a customer, everyone is unique and wants to be catered to in a way that’s unique to them. The ability to connect with people in a deeper, more meaningful way whether they are colleagues or strangers will enable us to thrive in beyond the industrial age, get things done and solve complex problems. To do so, and despite the abstraction of technology, we must continue to develop capabilities to quickly understand other’s emotions, motivations and triggers and take a human approach to business.
Novel & Adaptive Thinking
As employment growth gets polarized into either ends of low-skill jobs or high-skills jobs, it is important that we always evolve our thinking towards the future to ensure we stay relevant. At the pace by which companies are changing, staying up-to-date is no longer enough. Taking self-initiative to constantly improve your skills, pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone, becoming a perpetual student, and quickly adapting to new realities will help ensure you are creating value and will keep you out of the cross-hairs for outsourcing.
The recent Harvard Business Review piece “How to say “This is Crap” in different cultures serves yet another reminder as to how important it is to be able to be effective in different cultural settings. Globalization is no longer the buzzword in corporate America, it is reality. Many of us work globally every day, interacting with a multitude of cultures, but those who know how to empathize and adjust their communications and style of collaboration, will always have an advantage when working across geographies and cultures.
No, this doesn’t mean you should think like a computer, but nonetheless, being analytical becomes center-stage as data is everywhere. You get it from all sorts of sources, whether you are sifting through dozens of emails, or crunching huge Excel spreadsheets. The ability to translate vast amounts of into actual insight is now, more than ever a critical skill. Many of us work with data on a daily basis, but to understand the meaning, the trends and patterns of what the data is telling us becomes paramount. Are sales tanking? Are people jumping ship? These are things you wouldn’t be able to tell just a single number.
New Media Literacy
Still printing your 50-slide powerpoint decks? The world of videos, blogs, and podcasts has changed the way we communicate and consume information. With an entire generation that was born digital entering the workforce, everyone will need to become fluent in digital and social media forms of communications in the same way that they currently assess a paper or presentation.
In the age of mounting competition and vast technological change, the capabilities needed to successfully differentiate a company and win in the marketplace are much broader than they were in the past. We can no longer rely on just bringing together groups of specialists to solve our most complex problems. Instead, companies are in need of Generalists (or polymaths if you prefer that word) with new, agile skills that can see the big picture, listen, synthesize ideas and connect the dots.
We live in a transitional phase between an old “business world” where mass production ruled and products and services were conceived in a lab and then rolled out to the masses and a “new world” where people-centric approaches are increasingly being used to create new products and services that are thoughtfully designed through interdisciplinary teams and collaborative processes. A design mindset refers to the ideas and attitudes by which a person approaches a situation. It is about focusing on human values and developing a deep understanding of the people that matter most to the problem we’re trying to solve. Through practicing empathy, whether through conversation, observation or experiencing, adopting a design mindset becomes a critical ingredient in the ability to execute successfully.
Cognitive Load Management
The shear amount of data and information that hits us in a short span of time has exponentially increased with streams in multiple formats coming from multiple devices. A tweet here, a text message or email there and pretty soon managing the flow and prioritization of all this information becomes a challenge. The ability to effectively filter and focus what on what really requires your attention becomes paramount. This includes effectively managing your channels, deciding where to participate vs. where not to and taking a disciplined approach to managing distractions as opposed to real priorities.
Whether you’re a fan of it or not, working and collaborating effectively virtually, whether on a simple task or a very complex challenge is a necessity as the nature of our work is globalized. Despite a variety of tools and technologies that are now available, we still struggle with being effective as members or leaders of virtual teams. Technologically, the future for virtual collaboration looks very promising with enterprise tech taking a page out of successful consumer ventures, but the virtual work also demands a new set of competencies and effort in order to ensure productivity in a cross-cultural, fully global reality.
In a world where staying relevant becomes a top priority (for individuals as well as companies), there are no guarantees that either of these skills will lead to success. The key becomes taking charge of your own destiny by evaluating where you are today and charting your personal map as to where you want to go.