Uncertainty about job loss due to technology grows every day. However, no matter how much we speculate in this regard, there is currently no certainty of how many jobs will be destroyed, and much less how many new jobs will be created. Regardless, we still speculate about what the antidote will be. This antidote will result from an appropriate combination of knowledge and skills that, as professionals, will immunize us against the dangers of the future.
What is certain is that professionals must constantly adapt because our previous knowledge no longer guarantees us anything. For that matter, it guarantees us less each day. We need not wait for robots or artificial intelligence to leave us unemployed or client-less, because another professional is more prepared to do a specific task. Either you adapt, or you get left behind.
With the intention of discerning clues that could provide us some certainty, I have attempted to find the combination of knowledge and skills that should improve our ability to adapt.
First, attitude. Attitude, which is essential when it comes to improving our abilities, alludes to the way we act, and to our stance on something. Our attitude depends upon extrinsic motivations (the approval of others, a desire for recognition), but above all, it depends upon intrinsic motivations (the enjoyment of reading a literary classic). Our incentive would be to find the “why” behind our actions, our motivation. What defines us, what prioritizes the future, what awakes the real meaning of what we do, and what drives us to do what we do from the heart. Attitude is crucial to learning, to the point that, with the number of free resources available online, it can be stated that the problem is not a lack of accessibility to knowledge and technology. Therefore, the gap is neither technological, nor digital; it is motivational. It is all a question of attitude.
The technological empowerment to choose. We live in a volatile and complex moment in time, where technology and digitalization are the protagonists of a historic tipping point that affects all areas. This age brings with it both real threats and enormous opportunities: to modify the economy and companies; to generate threats, such as insecurity or lack of privacy; to open the debate on the future of cities or the evolution of the species; or to propose changes in the educational or energy models, because they are outdated and unsustainable.
Collaboration has always had an important role, but the Internet and digitalization are more conducive than ever of sharing knowledge or any asset, including work. Likewise, the digital manufacturing driven by the maker movement can introduce important changes to our methods of producing objects and organizing work. We should empower ourselves technologically to make conscious decisions and good use of the positives promised by the digital world, lessening our risks, and building the projects and the world that we want.
Nonetheless, curiosity still moves the world. It is a key characteristic in the present and in the future. As indicated by the conclusions of the FFWi-InfoJobs Study on curiosity at work in Spain, organizations need professionals who are curious, restless, interested in keeping up with the latest trends in their sector, and who are capable of questioning established norms and processes. Curious professionals have the initiative to explore, recognize experiences and opportunities, and propose new solutions for situations where the usual formulas no longer work. The curious serve as “critical yeast.” They are agents of change. This is what John Paul Lederach, a specialist in conflict management, proposes with his critical yeast theory. Lederach uses the manufacturing process of bread as a metaphor: while dough is made mostly of flour, it is important to remember that the yeast (of which very little is added) is what makes the bread turn out well. The yeast is the vector of change. Being a curious professional means generating necessary change so that organizations can adapt successfully and be relevant.
Ethics. Solving the world’s problems is not only a matter for politicians, the public sector, or NGOs. Businesses can no longer limit themselves to creating jobs and wealth for their shareholders. Brian Solis, one of the most prominent experts in digital marketing, stated that “we stopped doing business as usual, and started doing business that matters.” Thus, a new generation of companies is working to alter the main industries. Their mission is intrinsically linked, both to their benefits, and to their potential to change the world.
Change (for the better) can only be realized with a firm purpose and solid values. I maintain that the professionals of the present (and future) are those able to imbue their activities with a more ethical outlook. A principle of behavior based on the concept of what is right and what is wrong. Ethics means “to do good when no one is watching.” The most ethical professional is/will be capable of building more trust with customers and with their team, and will find opportunities to create more added value for organizations in the long-term, without conflicting with the creation of value for customers.
And, last of all, empathy. Empathy is a skill that imparts the ability to understand others and correctly interpret their thoughts, moods, and motivations, and generally explain their decisions and ways of acting. Therefore, empathy is key in helping us relate to others, and work and collaborate as a team.
That’s it, a combination of five ingredients to find the antidote for the future. It is not coincidental that none of these characteristics could be substituted by a robot, or by artificial intelligence. In any case, they are abilities that will help us to better coexist with future scenarios. Each of these characteristics can be considered transformational assets that increase our likelihood of successfully facing the uncertainty of our adaptation and transition, to become professionals without an expiration date.