The Industrial Age was a period that focused on employing new manufacturing processes, resulting in some of the world’s greatest inventions – flying shuttle, the spinning jenny, the water frame, the steam boat, the steam engine, steam powered train, and the factory system, many of which are still used to this day.
The system of development supported the need for professionals to know a trade, follow directions, get along with others, work hard, and be professional, efficient and honest. My mind begs to question, however, why we continue to have the same mindset and capabilities almost 180 years post the Industrial Age, when the business environment is not nearly the same.
The Industrial Age has long since given way to the Knowledge Age, where knowledge and ideas are the main source of economic growth. Professionals are required to think deeply about issues, solve problems, collaborate, communicate within various platforms, keep up with technologies, and handle large amounts of information. As we become more embedded into the Digital Age, it requires employees, leaders and organizations alike to develop a different mindset, and capabilities, to make sense of the VUCA environment.
At a conference I recently attended, the term ‘Digital’ was still being equated to social media platforms, and various digital technologies. In doing so, the understanding established is that by mastering the use of these digital platforms and technologies, one becomes a digital master. The Digital Age of the future, however, is about employing different approaches to creating and unlocking new business value, exceptional customer service, and agile internal processes.
The Future of Jobs Report by the World Economic Forum asked CHROs and Strategy Officers from leading global organizations about the current shift in business strategy, specifically for employment, skills and recruitment across industries and geographies. There is a marked difference in the skills necessary to thrive in the Digital Age between 2015 and 2020.
In a span of just 5 years, the order of importance for the top 10 skills will change significantly. With Robotics and Automation taking over much of the data related work, skills such as negotiations, and cognitive flexibility become secondary, as technology recognizes the patterns and trends, earlier analyzed manually by human beings. Given the crucial responsibilities of the workforce of the future, I feel the need to take a step back and assimilate everything I have learnt till date, and process how that can aid me in preparing for the workplace of the future.
In doing so, I realized that up until I graduated school 10 years ago, I was taught to work in the same manner as my parents had done, and their parents before them. In other words, I was taught to be a product of a ‘one size fits all’ model for career development – performing certain roles and progressing to a position depending on seniority. The reality, however, is that the Digital Age belongs to those who can imagine things through a different lens, create value, lead change and growth, and adapt to thrive in the Digital Age, the core mantra of which is ‘technology plus people’.
Becoming a digital master starts with developing the mindset needed for operating in the Digital Age – agility, measuring learning, employing design thinking, and motoring ahead at bullet speed, skills we are far from developing, and have a long way to go with. With the right tools, mindsets, and training, we find ourselves seamlessly transitioning from the Industrial Age to the Digital one.