How to beat the robots – 10 key skills for the future

By March 16, 2017Featured, Insights, Technology
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While automated systems are set to replace humans in many roles, emerging technologies will also open up new possibilities and create demand for new skills. So how can we beat the robots in the jobs market – and what can we do to prepare?

According to the US-based think tank the Institute for the Future (IFTF), here are ten key skills we will all need:

1. Sense making – despite advances in artificial intelligence, robots still cannot understand the difference between the same word used in different contexts, or the real significance of what someone says. This type of critical thinking or sense-making is a skill workers will need to capitalise on in the future, says the IFTF.

2. Social and emotional intelligence – another advantage humans have over machines is their ability to understand others’ feelings and build relationships. Social skills have always been important in business and will become even more so as we work with larger groups.

3. Adaptive thinking – the ability to deal with the unexpected and come up with novel solutions is a requisite at both ends of the pay scale – in highly skilled management jobs and low-skilled manual roles. Not surprisingly these are the jobs least likely to be replaced by computers, unlike those in the middle of the pay scale which are easier to automate.

4. Cross-cultural skills – as research has proved the benefits of diversity, businesses are placing greater emphasis on employing staff from different backgrounds. The ability to get along with people young and old, from different cultures and with different mindsets will be increasingly important.

5. Computational thinking – with ever more data at our disposal, workers will need to learn how to use it as a basis for decision making, and run simulations to test different options. Understanding how computers ‘think’, how data is gathered and what are its limitations will be essential skills for managers.

6. New media literacy – as new media extends beyond the social arena and into the office, we will all need to learn how to use it in our reports and presentations. As well as text and PowerPoint, managers will need to be proficient at using videos, pictures and interactive media.

7. Transdisciplinarity – while the 20th century was the age of the specialist, the 21st century requires workers with broader knowledge, as emerging areas of science and technology bring together different disciplines. According to the IFTF, the ideal worker of the next decade is “T-shaped”—with a deep understanding of at least one field, and the capacity to converse in the language of others.

8. Design mindset – greater use of sensors, software and new insights into the human brain offer greater potential to improve efficiency. Managers will need to know how to plan projects and design work processes for optimum effect.

9. Cognitive load management – bombarded by data from every direction, future workers will need the ability to deal with information overload, and focus on what is important.

10. Virtual collaboration – as we increasingly find ourselves working with people in other locations, we will need to learn how to communicate and collaborate effectively and find ways to overcome the isolation of remote working.

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