What will you need to succeed in the workplace of the future?
This is the third in the series of blogs that I have written on the effects of the fourth industrial revolution. In my last blog I had talked about the effect of automation and robots on employers and employees and what actions both should take to be ready for 2020.
In this blog I am going to examine the critical success factor as far as people are concerned, as behavioral competencies will become critical in effectively leading teams and businesses in an era of fast change and uncertainty. I have therefore picked up the thread from one of the presentations made during the world economic forum which explored which competencies/skills would be required to succeed in 2020.
The infographic above was part of the report on the future of jobs presented in the world economic forum and gives out a comparison between the competencies/skills which define success in 2015 and those which will become critical in 2020. If we look beyond the obvious which is, that the sequence of all competencies other than complex problem solving has changed and that “Active Listening” and “Quality Control” have been replaced by “Cognitive flexibility” and “Emotional intelligence” we see an interesting pattern which emerges in the top competencies required in 2020.
The top three competencies are about how we deal with the fast changing environment to come up with better/newer ways of doing things. The “better/newer” could be better products, better service or better solutions. We could bunch them together as competencies dealing with “Innovation”.
The next three competencies are about getting these things done through people, so these are about how we interact with people who could be in our teams, our peers, our customers, our bosses or our customers. These could be bunched together as “People” competencies.
The next three are about running the business, so these competencies get utilized in our day to day running of business operations, dealing with suppliers and customers as well as other relevant stakeholders in the organization. We could bunch them together as “Business operations” competencies.
The last one, “Cognitive Flexibility” is one of the two new entrants and to my mind is one of the most critical competency/skill which will be required to succeed in the fourth industrial revolution. As per Wikipedia “Cognitive flexibility has been described as the mental ability to switch between thinking about two different concepts, and to think about multiple concepts simultaneously.”
Another accepted definition is that Cognitive flexibility represents someone’s ability to shift thoughts and adapt his or her behavior to an ever-changing environment. Levels of cognitive flexibility are reflected by your ability to disengage from a previous task and respond effectively to another task—or to multitask
If we examine this competency based on these two definitions, we realize that “Cognitive Flexibility” is the one competency which is going to differentiate the great performers from the merely good. There are three basic facets of this competency. In this fast changing and to use the common expression, “VUCA” world, the ability to concentrate totally on one idea while having a number of other concepts/issues/problems at the fringe of consciousness is going to be critical to one’s ability to function effectively. The second part of this competency is about disengaging completely and then focusing on the other task/tasks to handle it in an effective manner. The third and to my mind the most important aspect of this competency is the ability to adapt your behavior to an ever changing environment.
These three components of “Cognitive Flexibility” taken together, or in isolation, have an effect on a leaders performance in the other three competency buckets. Unless a leader has “Cognitive Flexibility” it is unlikely that he/she will be able to effectively utilize the other three competency sets to achieve the optimum results for the organization.
So, the mantra for succeeding in the workplace of the future is optimum utilization of Innovation, People and Business Operations, in that order, using your “Cognitive Flexiblity”…
In the next blog I will talk about how to assess and then develop these competencies.
Rajiv is the principal consultant at R Square Consulting. This is third in a series of blogs, which will discuss the effect of the fourth industrial revolution and the competencies required to be successful in the workplace of 2020. Rajiv can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for any query, discussion or any professional requirements.
About R Square consulting : R Square consulting provides end to end services in the field of building leadership and managerial capability to include leadership development interventions based on a holistic blend of exploration, reflection, action learning and coaching, assessment centers and various Organizational development interventions.
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