Creating Innovators

Fascinating discussion on the New York Times and GigaOM about the changing work landscape, the kind of skills people need to have to thrive, and the capacity of education systems to give young people those skills.

No experience necessary, just polymathematics — GigaOM Pro.

Some highlights for me: Thomas Friedman at the NYT:

I tracked Wagner down and asked him to elaborate. “Today,” he said via e-mail, “because knowledge is available on every Internet-connected device, what you know matters far less than what you can do with what you know. The capacity to innovate — the ability to solve problems creatively or bring new possibilities to life — and skills like critical thinking, communication and collaboration are far more important than academic knowledge. As one executive told me, ‘We can teach new hires the content, and we will have to because it continues to change, but we can’t teach them how to think — to ask the right questions — and to take initiative.’ ”

My generation had it easy. We got to “find” a job. But, more than ever, our kids will have to “invent” a job. (Fortunately, in today’s world, that’s easier and cheaper than ever before.) Sure, the lucky ones will find their first job, but, given the pace of change today, even they will have to reinvent, re-engineer and reimagine that job much more often than their parents if they want to advance in it. If that’s true, I asked Wagner, what do young people need to know today?

“Every young person will continue to need basic knowledge, of course,” he said. “But they will need skills and motivation even more. Of these three education goals, motivation is the most critical. Young people who are intrinsically motivated — curious, persistent, and willing to take risks — will learn new knowledge and skills continuously. They will be able to find new opportunities or create their own — a disposition that will be increasingly important as many traditional careers disappear.”

Stowe Boyd at GigaOM:

I recently wrote about research from the Federal Reserve of New York, which shows that over the past 30 years, the number of workers employed involved in routine occupations — following explicit instructions and obeying well-defined rules — has dropped by 20%, matched almost exactly by the growth of nonroutine work, which flexibility, creativity, and problem solving.

So, businesses today and in the future will be hiring folks for their capacity to learn and inhabit the role they are hiring for. The role is becoming more of a hashtag, and less of a definition of scope or the implied resume of the person. It is no longer a slot that a person fills, and not really even an occupation to be occupied. Titles like ‘Product Ethnographer’, ‘Researcher’, or ‘Chief Digital Officer’ now feel more like map headings, indicating the realms we are exploring.