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New Skills are Required

Over the last decade much attention has been applied to a handful of skills for the professional worker. This is about the future of jobs, skills, and workforce strategy. To date, emphasis has been placed on some key skills: people management, coordinating with others, negotiating, and active listening. These are all good skills, and in many ways, are table stakes for a modern workforce.

But what skills will change the most and what is required for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR)?

As we look to the future of jobs and the most important skills required to succeed, these top three skills emerge: creativity, critical thinking, and complex problem solving.

With new products, new technologies, and new ways to work, employees and employers will need to be more creative to make businesses function cohesively. Disruption will drive more critical thinking and new business models will require more complex problem solving.

Think of a taxi driver. They require two skills: driving and the ability to read a map. Both of these skills are being replaced by self-driving cars and online map services. In airports, you order your meals on an iPad. Grocery stores have moved from self-service checkout to monitoring your activity and just billing you.

I have always believed in this formula, and as time passes, I become more convinced:

Killer Product = Function {Knowledge + Idea + Innovation}

Turning an idea into a killer product is insanely hard and the success rate is abysmally low.

Turning an idea into a killer product is a function of knowledge and innovation. Knowledge is the accumulation of facts and information, with new methods applied: Innovation. The plus (“+”) is the human, our talent pool, requiring new skill sets in the 4IR.

Is Angry Birds (product) a function of cumulative knowledge (Sesame Street characters) plus a new idea (a sling shot) added to the innovation of mobile technologies? It may look simple, but developing the concept is insanely hard.

Conventional thinking is a hurdle that must be overcome to free up creativity for true innovation to happen. When I traveled throughout Asia speaking about the 4IR and this Golden Age of Innovation, Fredrik Härén gave a presentation on ideas and the impossible. During this talk he asked members of the audience to imagine achieving the impossible and to write down their top three or four answers. His findings were incredibly revealing.

The majority of people wrote down the same answers: flying, walking on water, time travel, immortality, space travel, world peace, the ability to teleport, invisibility, discovering a cure for cancer, and proving the existence of God or even to be godlike.

If we were to ask a child the same question, their answers would be imaginative, limitless, and truly impossible: “I want to hold an elephant in the palm of my hand.”

Products are a function of knowledge plus innovation. The skill sets required for the future of work has changed. Generation Xers need to redefine their thinking about what is impossible.

In my next blog in this series, I will look at how the combination of new ideas and new technologies are transforming the workforce as we know it, giving way to the Rise of the Machines.

To read more, download The Golden Age of Innovation.

I’ll be taking this message on the road for Enterprise World. Learn more.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. To provide feedback, or if you would like to see additional topics covered in future publications, please add your comment below.

Mark Barrenechea

Mark J. Barrenechea is OpenText's Vice Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and Chief Technology Officer. A prominent thought leader, he has extensive experience in information technology and his vision is to enable the digital world to help transform organizations.

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