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Last night an old friend called me and asked for advice about his son’s education. He asked for the most future-proof education. I did not want to tell him what my first thought was.
As companies, what do all of us need to learn and teach each other to have the necessary skill sets to remain relevant in an onlinified and digitalised world?
We all witness the ongoing change and evolution every day, at work and in our everyday life. And it clearly demands the attention from all of us. Actually, we need to embrace it and adapt to it. We are in the beginning of a drastic or dramatic change, the advent of so-called the fourth industrial revolution, artificial intelligence making decisions unaided from human beings and IoT and devices that have learned to process unstructured information into meaningful and valuable knowledge and solutions.
A while ago, it seemed impossible that cars without drivers would drive and navigate safely alongside us. And soon perhaps trucks and buses without drivers will navigate safely alongside those cars. Today, solutions including AI barely raises an eyebrow, to the point that we are growing increasingly comfortable with, e.g. keeperless shops and bankerless trading.
And there are no patented answers of anything.
We must focus on and look at how we can create competitive advantage and generate value as humans and as companies. And it must be mapped within specific individual contexts.
In our companies, and in the way we operate them, we must start to embrace, value and reward those that I call ‘expert-generalist’—people who are avid and driven ’learners’ with interest in, and knowledge from a wide area of fields. We must search out and employ expert-generalists with the ability to draw upon expertise and know-how from numerous disciplines and apply that knowledge to multiple areas of importance within our respective companies and organisations. These people are usually very dedicated, ambitious, teachable, love to learn new things, embrace challenges and thrive in a diverse, ever-changing and in a project driven environment. They also typically have a knack for finding connections between independent pieces of input and unrelated ideas and are open to new experiences. These expert-generalists have the depth of expertise in one area, and the broad knowledge in other areas that are necessary for future leaders.
To help us to evolve, we must create formal learning paths and then reward the progress made among them. We shall strive towards learning-related skill improvement among our colleagues and start measuring the impact an increased skill and knowledge level has on our companies.
High client NPS, customer endorsements, industry recognition and verifiable instances of cross-pollination of ideas are all excellent indicators of a successful company knowledge in combination with a positive learning culture.
Simple question, what is your answer?
What about the advice for my friend’s son?
My first thought was that he needs to go to an education where he can become a Specialist generalist and then move forward and take a degree as Expert generalist. My answer was ‘I’ll get back to you’!