A recent survey was commissioned by Google, who asked 400 CEO’s of top multinationals in the world a simple question on the lines of: ‘In the face of advancing technology, automation and artificial intelligence, what are the key skills needed in the changing workplace today and into the future.’ What was astounding about the results was not so much the findings but just how little companies, schools, universities and individuals are addressing these key needs.
The top give answers given by these leaders in the world were:
- Problem Solving
- Critical Thinking
The stupefying deductions were twofold. Firstly, how #1 and #4, problem solving and critical thinking, are being completely undermined by the very same technology that is creating this need! Research after research is finding that technology, and Smartphones in particular, are, in short, making us stupid. Any time we are faced with a problem, Siri, Alexa or a quick google search will give us the answer. Any time we want to drive to a destination, a satnav will guide us there whilst our brains remain in neutral. And every hour of every day we are bombarded with so much information from emails, messaging, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media, that there is simply no time to think, let alone solve problems in a clear, strategic or tactical manner. Einstein reportedly once wrote “I fear the day that technology will surpass human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots”. Whether he wrote it or not, I wouldn’t argue one cent. We are overwhelmed with both technology and information, and scientists are discovering that our brains are actually changing shape to cope with this bombardment. How we respond to this is not easy but ditching the smartphones regularly during a day would appear to be the main one in order to develop the skills identified as the top and fourth most important needs of today.
Secondly, on results #2 and #3, what is total astonishing is a practice that I have been writing about for several years. That is, whilst most companies will incorporate some leadership and personal development into their training and development calendars, teamwork and communication are, in 95% of companies, relegated to a once a year ‘teambuilding day’. That is the fun-based activities, such as burling structures, doing a ropes course, crossing a gap with two planks of wood and a barrel and other such activities. And whilst these are excellent run days, they will provide one benefit only; fun. Fun is a critical part of any corporate calendar and there is definitely a place for these days, but doing these alone in the hope of building high perfuming teams who can communicate effectively, is the height of naivety.
Teamwork and communication, two of the top three skills these 400 CEO’s identified as the most important key skills workers need today – the ability of a team of individuals to work and communicate together in order to overcome the immense challenges of today – need training, learning and development. They require an awareness, understanding and practice in the models, concepts, psychology, coaching skills, tools and techniques that only structured and regular team coaching and communication programmes can deliver. Development which won’t be achieved by that once a year teambuilding morning or afternoon.
400 CEO’s delivered a conclusive verdict. And more and more companies are gradually coming round to the realisation that these skills need addressing urgently. It is hoped our education system, so lagging behind the world we live in today, will also catch up with this realisation.
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