“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn” Alvin Toffler, author and futurist.
Alvin Toffler was on to something. To be prepared for a rapidly changing future, we need to learn how to learn, and we need to apply these principles consistently. Access to learning could not be more abundant. Information-rich websites such as Coursera, Udemy, Edx, Youtube, Khan academy, Linked in Learning, doc.Microsoft.com, AI4all and others, offer free or low-cost training, to those with internet access.
However, there are some critical personal skill sets that we need to master or enhance over time, which will serve us beyond automation and elimination of routinised jobs.
Learning agility is our ability to learn and apply with velocity while being able to detect patterns in different scenarios and reuse these in new contexts. What skills help us to unlock learning agility? We discuss these skills at a high level here.
Kobe Bryant RIP was the living embodiment of a growth mindset. He coined the term mamba mentality to represent the work ethic it took to succeed. He was known to practice every detail of every skill, watching reels of replays of past performances, to learn how to improve. In her book Mindset, Carol Dweck talks about recognising the language and perspectives of people with a growth mindset, vs those with a fixed mindset. People exhibiting a growth mindset believe they can incrementally increase their performance, and so challenge themselves to continuously learn a skill in which they are genuinely interested in acquiring. It’s important to know that most of us operate within both mindsets; this is a spectrum where some people are higher and lower on the scale. An essential take away about mindsets is that you can actively change it. The brain has the amazing ability to rewire itself, with training. Mindset opens the door for every other skill to enter.
Something can be made new by a change in its physical state, use, or perception. Creativity can be a novel idea, or interpretation, beyond that which was previously known. Another feature of creativity is being able to translate an innovative concept into imagery; a choice of words that conjures up possibility and value in the mind of the other person. To cultivate creativity, start by asking “What if…” What if questioning sets constraints, and focuses the mind on answering a question which theoretically does not have an answer today. Give it a try!
A close relative to creativity, curiosity is the questioning skill. It captures the essence of how our children learn, and it breaks down borders between people, cultures, abilities. Curiosity enables us to be open to understanding what is different from ourselves. Ask questions of others, and also importantly of yourself. You may find that you have long-held beliefs that you have not interrogated in a long time.
Emotional Intelligence (EI)
Also known as EQ or emotional agility, EI is our ability to recognise and codify emotions within ourselves and others and manage or adjust our behaviours to achieve our goals. (Wikipedia). Daniel Goleman’s famous book on the topic outlines five critical aspects of EQ.
Developing self-awareness through internal and external interactions, regulating your emotions by slowing down your actions, exercising empathy “walking a mile in their shoes” and understanding what motivates and demotivates both self and others. Finally engaging and building rapport with others, understanding their perspectives and preferences go a long distance in developing great communication skills
Excellent communication is mostly the product of active listening, and this skill incorporates more than the ear. It involves understanding the choice of words, tone, pitch, of the voice, and observing other cues; body movements, posture. Listening is the job of all the senses.
Excellent collaborators are adaptable to different cultures, styles and approaches, and can build deep connections and trust even when challenged. Collaborators understand that to achieve their goals; it’s better to create a diverse network who share a common goal but may contemplate different paths to accomplish it. They build trust and nurture relationships. It’s essential to have a genuine interest in the other when interacting to become an outstanding collaborator
A long, misunderstood word. The most intriguing definition of resilience is that it is about how you recharge, not how you endure (HBR). Resilience has as one of its arches the idea of self-care; the ability to retreat, rebuild and repair in a regular cycle of expansion and contraction, energy expenditure and recovery. This skill understands that the mind and the body need to work in unison to deliver the best outcome. To become more resilient, introduce routines in your day which incorporate meditative time, and some form of invigoration for the body.
Complex Problem Solving
This skill requires rapid synthesis and sensemaking to distil the critical information for decision making. It requires a strategy for breaking down the problem while drawing from a range of different experiences and knowledge to arrive at a reasoned judgement or decision. It requires knowing the outcome needed, the data at hand, and the ability to draw information from other stimuli in the environment, including the ideas of others. This skill can be developed with cerebral as well as physical challenges. Joining an activity club to take on a challenge you have not previously done can be a great way to shape this cognitive ability.
The person of significant influence can enrol others in a vision of the future, in a goal that is greater than self alone, without changing that persons underlying values or motivations. It is the skill involved in drawing the best out of another, toward a higher purpose.
Enhancing your physical strength, dexterity and equilibrium enable higher sensory perception of your environment. Pushing yourself to acquire physical capabilities can have a substantial impact on your mental acuity as well. To improve this, take on yoga, climb a mountain, go sailing, ride horses. The idea is to push yourself beyond your known limits in your physical world too.
People with cognitive flexibility are able to shift their thinking from one concept to another and even from one context to another very quickly. It embraces other skills such as curiosity and helps to generate the adaptability needed for multi-tasking and complex reasoning. To develop this skill, consume a broad variety of mental stimulations; books, videos. Video games. Follow people that inspire you. Treat all with whom you come into contact as a person of interest.
Having a strong command of your native language supports the generation of fluency in the context of selling ideas and influencing others. Native-level proficiency in another language also adds a different level of nuance and can enhance one’s ability to communicate. To develop fluency, practice reading and writing often, and take up a foreign language as a past time. Consider also acquiring musical skills; as this helps to sharpen auditory perception.