Why Learn & Adapt are the highest valued soft skills you should teach your kids

Why Learn & Adapt are the highest valued soft skills you should teach your kids

Original publication on Medium.com on December 16th 2018

The jobs of the future don’t exist yet — but we know they’ll require some serious social skills

An education is supposed to prepare you for the future. Traditionally, that meant learning certain facts and skills, like when explorers arrived in America or how to calculate an answer using long division. Today, curricula have shifted to focus on a more global and digital world, engaging students in subjects like cultural history, basic computing skills, and writing code.

Yet, the challenges our kids will face will be much different than those of our generation. Most of what a typical student learns in school today will no longer be relevant by the time they graduate from college. A study at the University of Oxford found that 47 percent of today’s jobs will be eliminated over the next 20 years.

Over the next few decades, much of what we “know” about the world will no longer be true. The computers of the future will not be digital. Software code itself is disappearing, or at least becoming far less relevant. Many of what are considered good jobs today will be either automated or devalued. We need to rethink how we prepare our kids for the world to come.

Understanding Systems

The subjects we learned in school were mostly static. The answer to two plus two was always four. Interpretations of certain subjects may have differed from place to place and evolved over time, but we were taught that the world was based on certain facts. We were evaluated on the basis of knowing those facts.

Yet, as the complexity theorist Sam Arbesman has pointed out, facts have a half-life. As the accumulation of knowledge accelerates, those half-lives are shrinking. For example, when we learned computer programming in school, it was usually in BASIC, a now mostly defunct language. Today, Python is the most popular language, but will likely not be a decade from now.

The best way to prepare for the future is to develop the ability to learn and adapt.

Computers themselves will be very different as well, based less on the digital code of ones and zeros and more on quantum laws and the human brain. We will likely store less information on silicon and more in DNA. There’s no way to teach kids how these things will work because nobody, not even experts, is quite sure of that yet.

Kids today need to learn less about the present and more about the systems future technologies will be based on, such as quantum mechanics, genetics, and the logic of code. Economists have consistently found that routine jobs are most likely to be automated. The best way to prepare for the future is to develop the ability to learn and adapt.

Applying Empathy and Design Skills

While machines are taking over many high-level tasks, such as medical analysis and legal research, there are some things they will never do. A computer will never strike out in a Little League game, have its heart broken, or see its child born. So it is very unlikely, if not impossible, that a machine will be able to relate to a human like other humans can. That absence of empathy makes it hard for machines to design products and processes that will maximize enjoyment and utility for humans. So design skills are likely to be in high demand for decades to come as basic production and analytical processes are increasingly automated.

We’ve already seen this process take place with regard to the Internet. In the early days, it was a very technical field. You had to be a highly skilled engineer to make a website work. Today, however, building a website is something any fairly intelligent high schooler can do — and much of the value has shifted to front-end tasks, like designing the user experience.

With the rise of artificial intelligence and virtual reality, our experiences with technology will become far more immersive, and that will increase the need for good design. For example, conversational analysts (yes, that’s a real job) are working with designers to create conversational intelligence for voice interfaces. Furthermore, virtual reality will clearly be much more design intensive than video ever was.

The Ability to Communicate Complex Ideas

Much of the recent emphasis in education has been around STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and math) and proficiency in those areas is certainly important for today’s students to understand the world around them. However, many STEM graduates are finding it difficult to find good jobs. On the other hand, the ability to communicate ideas effectively is becoming a highly-prized skill.

Consider Amazon, one of the most innovative and technically proficient organizations on the planet. However, a key factor to its success is its writing culture. The company is so fanatical about the ability to communicate that developing good writing skills is essential to building a successful career there.

Think about Amazon’s business and it becomes clear why this is the case. Sure, it employs highly adept engineers. But in order to create a truly superior product, those people need to collaborate closely with designers, marketers, business development executives, and others. To coordinate all of that activity and keep everybody focused on delivering a specific, high-quality experience, communication must be clear and coherent. So, while learning technical subjects like math and science is always a good idea, studying subjects that delve into the art of communication — like literature, history, and philosophy — is just as important.

Collaborating and Working in Teams

Traditionally, schoolwork has been based on individual accomplishment. Growing up, you were supposed to study at home, come in prepared, and take your test without help. If you looked at your friend’s paper, it was called “cheating” and you got in a lot of trouble for it. You were taught to be accountable for achievements on your own merits.

Yet, consider how the nature of work has changed, even in highly technical fields. In 1920, most scientific papers were written by sole authors; by 1950, that had changed and co-authorship became the norm. Today, the average paper has four times as many authors as it did then, the work being done is far more interdisciplinary, and it is done across greater physical distances than in the past.

Make no mistake: The high-value work today is being done in teams. This will only increase as more jobs become automated. The jobs of the future will not depend as much on knowing facts or crunching numbers as on humans collaborating with other humans to design work for machines. Collaboration will increasingly become a competitive advantage.

That’s why we need to pay attention not only to how our kids work and achieve academically, but also to how they play, resolve conflicts, and make others feel supported and empowered. Value has shifted from cognitive skills to social skills. As kids will increasingly be able to learn complex subjects through technology, the most important class may well be recess.

Perhaps most of all, we need to be honest with ourselves and make peace with the fact that our kids’ educational experience will not — and should not — mirror our own. The world they face will be far more complex than that. It will be much more difficult to navigate than anything we could imagine back in the days of Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

Written by Greg Satell

Consider these 4 points to inspire and retain your best millennials !

Consider these 4 points to inspire and retain your best millennials !

Original publication in Gallup.com on October 28th 2019

For years now, millennials have been criticized as job hoppers, easily bored and over-entitled.

The critique is so widespread and well-known that it hardly seems worth investigating. It should be — because it’s not true. Millennials are as likely as anyone else to be loyal to their workplace.

If they get what they need from it. But most, apparently, do not.

According to Gallup data, only 29% of millennials are engaged at work. The national engagement average is 34%, which means many more millennials than their elders feel uninspired, unmotivated and emotionally disconnected from their workplace.

Those are the millennials with the least reason to stay, so they leave. In droves. Millennials are three times more likely than their elders to say they’ve changed jobs within the past year, 10 percentage points less likely to expect to be with their current employer in a year, the most likely to be looking for a new job, and the most open to whatever opportunities might come along.

What Millennials Want

This may seem mystifying to business leaders — why would millennials be so disengaged? They’re treated the same as everyone else, so why would they leave?

The answer is in the question. Millennials don’t want to be treated like everyone else. Their elders may be satisfied (though satisfaction is a poor workplace metric) with a mediocre job, but millennials are not. They’ll keep looking until they get what they need, which includes:

A sense of purpose: More so than others, millennials are motivated by mission and purpose. Of those who say they don’t know what their organization stands for and what makes it different, only 30% say they plan on staying in their position for at least another year.

High-quality management: 58% of millennials say “quality of manager” and “quality of management” are extremely important to them when applying for a new job. For a millennial, their job is their life, so a bad manager will quickly drive them away.

Chances of advancement: Perhaps because they have lower net worth and higher student debt than other generations, millennials (50%, compared with 42% of Gen Xers and 40% of baby boomers) are most likely to say advancement is extremely important when looking for a new job.

Millennials are as likely as anyone else to be loyal to their workplace.

Not coincidentally, what millennials want is the same thing everybody wants in a job. Millennials just want it more and are less likely to wait around to get it. Their refusal to settle for less increases businesses’ turnover costs, which bleeds $30.5 billion from the U.S. economy every year, according to Gallup estimates.

However, leaders who focus on employees’ growth and advancement, who select managers for talent, and who know their company’s purpose can engage millennials.

Those who do will keep millennials.

Those who don’t will train another company’s employees — and wonder why millennials just won’t stay.

Written by Jennifer Robison

4 levers to grow as a purpose-driven compagny

4 levers to grow as a purpose-driven compagny

Original publication in Forbes on October 31st 2019

As untamed capitalism and corporate greed come under increasingly fierce and widespread siege, the business world has begun to respond, loudly.

In August, the elite CEOs of the Business Roundtable lobbying group released a statement promising to move away from the decades-old corporate belief in “shareholder primacy” toward a more holistic, purpose-driven approach that “serves all Americans.”

Let’s be clear: this move is a huge milestone in the recent history of management. After all, the signers of this statement lead organizations that take in a combined $7 trillion in revenue and employ 15 million people. However, whether the group’s stated goal of shifting commitments actually transpires remains to be seen.

The advantage of purpose-driven companies

Still, the business roundtable’s announcement, while greeted excitedly, shouldn’t have come as a huge surprise. Over the 11 years since the start of the fiscal crisis, more and more attention has been paid to the ethical, social and environmental responsibilities of co~rporations.

Yet businesses that do operate with a sense of purpose and of bettering society reap economic benefits. Recent studies have shown that the performance of companies with a clear sense of purpose grew by 10 times the median rate of companies on the S&P 500. 

What’s more, purposeful organizations appeal to younger people just entering the workforce. This generation has grown up connected in unprecedented ways by technology to a global community, alert to what threatens it and attuned to social justice. To reach these new or future workers of the Greta Thunberg generation, companies can’t ignore social ethics.

How to promote purpose throughout your business

Purpose is a word that packs a punch. It’s an idea whose meaning, while lofty, may be easily grasped. But attaining a sense of purpose can prove daunting, especially in the context of business and its more practical economic goals.

This can be seen in the gap between society’s expectations of businesses and its perception of results: just 39% of people think that organizations work with the goal in mind of improving the quality of life and well-being of their employees and surrounding communities.

It was with this challenge in mind that I, along with my colleagues A. Lleo-de-Nalda, C. Rey, A. Alloza and N. Pitta, set out to research the promotion of purpose in business. And to develop what we call the Purpose Strength Model compiling the successful techniques and strategies drawn from analyses of 25 purposeful businesses.

How can CEOs and managers promote purposeful business? It’s helpful to first recognize the three pillars of purpose: 

1) Coherence, or the alignment between what a company says and what it does.

2) Authenticity, or the true motivation and intention behind the things a company does. 

3) Integrity, or the naturally occurring behaviors that help maintain a purposeful drive. 

Then, it’s necessary to understand the first and most fundamental step toward building and sustaining purpose, which is constructing a shared purpose that enters the minds and hearts of all employees and inspires them to do their best, most purposeful, work.

How exactly can this communal purpose be achieved? Our model presents four factors, or levers, to attend to while sowing purpose in your organization: 

1. Strategy. The company should define a strategy for the development of a clearly defined purpose. This may sound simple, but it requires deep, prolonged reflection and understanding of corporate responsibility and ethical objectives. This strategy should include specific mile markers to be met along the road to purpose. 

2. Leadership. Company leaders must be depended upon to capably transmit the company’s purpose to employees so that it enters their minds and hearts. This leadership includes directors who promote purpose from the top of the organization and, so that purpose permeates each employee, leaders at all levels and divisions of the company.

3. Management. Systems of management and organizational procedures that guide day-to-day work and ensure that purpose is remembered each day. The organizations we studied saw fit to integrate the company’s purpose into all daily aspects of work including budget planning, talent recruitment and performance assessments. 

4. Clear communication is paramount to demonstrating that what the organization is, what the organization says it wants to be, and what it is perceived to be, all align. 

By following the model of companies who are ethically and financially successful, managers can help lead their companies into a thriving, purposeful future.

By Nuria Chinchilla

What can dishwashing teach us ?

What can dishwashing teach us ?

Original publication in Medium.com on June 27th 2019

A monk told Joshu, “I have just entered the monastery. Please teach me.”

Joshu asked, “Have you eaten your rice porridge?

The monk replied, “I have eaten.”

Joshu said, “Then you had better wash your bowl.”

At that moment the monk was enlightened.

One night, I used a plate and a bowl for dinner. The next morning, they were still sitting on the counter. I was about to leave when I realized: I should wash these.

As I was rinsing the bowl, I remembered this story. I found it years ago. Leo Babauta shared it. He says:

“Remembering to do these things when we’re done with the activity isn’t just about neatness. It’s about mindfulness, about completing what we started, about being present in all we do instead of rushing to the next activity.”

I’ve always liked doing dishes. I think this story explains why. It’s comforting. Satisfying. Mindful. There’s the water, the scrubbing, and you always get an immediate result. Then, it’s on to the next item. Nothing more, nothing less.

Still, there is something deeper to this story. A much more profound message.

“It’s: don’t get your head caught up in all this thinking about the meaning of life … instead, just do. Just wash your bowl. And in the washing, you’ll find all you need.”

What if washing dishes isn’t a chore at all? What if it’s a refuge? A ladder out of the fuss of everyday life and into our hideaway. A sanctuary. A little pocket of peace, where all you have to do is be. Where no stress can reach you. No looming deadline, no existential fear, no weighty decisions to make.

When I chose to clean my bowl, I thought it was a small gesture. A sign of tidiness. But when I did it, I found it was so much more. In fact, it was everything. Enough. All I had to do was wash the bowl.

Nothing more, nothing less.

I’m not a monk and I’m definitely not Joshu. But I know this: We can transfer this enough-ness to all our activities. Folding laundry. Sending an email. Getting coffee with a friend.

Some tasks feel inherently comforting, but all tasks offer comfort if we let them be enough. Whatever we do, if we do it with intention, if we put in our whole heart, the outcome won’t matter. Because we did what we could. Because we were there. What more could we ask from ourselves than that?

Life is big, but it’s made of small moments. Small interactions, situations, and many small tasks. We can spend our days worrying about the incomplete parts of the puzzle or we can choose to look intensely at each piece. Zoom in. Get a close-up. And shape it until it fits.

Like the puzzle, we’ll never be perfect. We have just entered the monastery. But every day is a new chance to be there. And every day, when we’re done eating, we’ll need to wash our bowl.

Written by Niklas Göke