As I highlighted in my first two blogs on this topic, change is the only constant, and the ability and willingness to learn and change will be the hallmark of the winning leaders and companies of the 4th Industrial Revolution. My uncle is the proud owner of a gold watch after a lifetime of service at the same company – a living proof of a past era. In my age group of 45-50 year olds, the average career span at one company runs anywhere from a few to 10 years, while the next generation of workers may not even look to be employed by traditional companies. Instead they might rather be self-employed; selling their skills and services to multiple organisations, and perhaps covering multiple areas of interest: from consulting and freelance writing, to yoga instructor. We truly are a diverse set of people living in an exciting time!
We are the consultants, leaders and unique individuals making up today’s workforce, and designing the solutions and services of tomorrow. However, with the rapid pace of change in technology, business models and human collaboration - how do we ensure that we as individuals have a role to play, not only today, but also five or ten years from now? I have asked this question of established business leaders, entrepreneurs and academics alike, and the common theme in all of the responses is: “Life long learning”.
The need to update skills and stay on top of current developments may not come as a surprise to any of us. I have had life long learning as a key personal value since the beginning of my career, when I attended a Stephen Covey training on “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, and connected with the 7th habit: “Sharpen the Saw”. However, there is a potential downfall for many of us leading busy lives today: It is easy to fall into the trap of prioritising what is “urgent and important”, while forgetting to set aside time for things of vital importance that don’t appear urgent at the moment, such as investing in ourselves and our continuous learning. Furthermore, updating our skills within a narrow field of expertise alone may no longer suffice, although the world still needs experts in every field. The ability to understand key trends in multiple fields, and inspire new ways of thinking in a diverse workforce, will be the key to innovation and unlocking new ways of adding value.
American writer and futurist, Alvin Toffler, said: “The illiterate of 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” In my view, the best advice for tackling the rapid changes affecting all of us in the 4th Industrial Revolution, is to stay curious and make time for learning new skills. With the increasing complexity facing all organisations, there will be ample demand for professional services companies willing to extend both the technology and human knowledge of their people.
Guest blogger Nina Gullerud has over 20 years of experience in strategy, business development and management in the IT industry. With a keen interest in the intersection of technology and business strategy, Nina is exploring what technological advancement means for management and self-management in a time where the only constant is change. While the news is flooded with gloomy prophecies about robots taking our jobs, this blog series focuses on how we can embrace the opportunities the 4th industrial revolution and its technological innovations can provide to service-based businesses - and what it requires of us.