It’s no surprise that the coronavirus is causing an enormous economic downfall. It certainly seems like we’ll be feeling this global recession for years to come. We would do well to accept it sooner rather than later: the future is digital.
Technology is a lifesaver
From the moment the virus started to spread, the existence of modern technology has been a blessing for many of us. It helps us out in countless ways. Artificial Intelligence can be used to identify symptoms of coronavirus on lung scans. The same applies to abnormal breathing. Drones help make sure safety measures are kept in place. Chatbots talk to people to advise them on COVID-related matters. And scientists reach out via online platforms, sharing their knowledge, analyses and research findings with the public. Even after the pandemic, technological innovation will make a difference as an aid to recovery from the economic crisis.
The COVID pandemic has accelerated digital transformation. Organisations are making the final switch to remote working. What does that mean for employees? What should they know and learn? Which skills and qualities will help them get their jobs done? And which skills will become redundant? Research by the World Economic Forum (WEF) showed that “a sufficient investment in more human, softer skills such as leadership, creativity, emotional intelligence and critical thinking would significantly reduce the number of jobs lost to automation.” Forbes recently published an article on why soft skills are no longer just a nice addition to your resume, but an absolute requirement. So, which skills will you be needing the most?
According to the WEF, by 2020, creativity will be one of the most important skills for employees, along with complex problem-solving and critical thinking. “With the avalanche of new products, new technologies, and new ways of working, workers have to become more creative in order to benefit from these changes.” Teaching people technological know-how is rather pointless if they can’t work with it creatively. Teach people to come up with their own solutions and don’t stick to the status quo. If technology is going to eliminate repetitive tasks, human creativity will be vital to innovation and progress.
2. Reading the room
The ability to ‘read the room’ is an important skill described by science journalist Daniel Goleman. It starts with emotional intelligence, which means you aim to approach others with respect, kindness and empathy. This ability can help you excel in your career. New studies – such as conducted by Goleman – show that emotional intelligence can be subdivided into twelve categories, from self-awareness to teamwork. In other words: it’s extremely valuable to strike a balance between these different competencies. This mixed skillset, labelled ‘reading the room’, is not just about managing your own drives and emotions, but also about understanding those of your team members. You have to be attuned to non-verbal cues, be an active listener, realise how much time you spend talking and how often you allow others to take centre stage.
A plain graph isn’t very imaginative or inspiring. If you want people to truly care about something, you’ll have to weave your data into an appealing story. A story that sucks people in and that people can relate to. Technology is an abstract concept to most people, so it’s exactly in this digital age that stories will become more important than ever. They don’t just trigger the verbal regions of our cerebrum, they activate our entire brain. An effective story is relatable, surprising, exciting and is told without unnecessary embroidery.
In times of digital transformation, those who connect and build bridges are of vital importance to the team. This goes beyond empathising with others and bringing people together. You have to strive for synergy, really engage people, and have them encourage each other to generate new ideas.
5. Asking questions
World-renowned Dutch writer Harry Mulisch once said: “That question is too good to spoil with an answer.” Good questions yield creative answers and - ideally - a quest for solutions. If you can make your questions provocative, they’ll challenge people: “What’s stopping you from achieving that goal?”, “What’s the most important thing for you to focus on right now?”, “What will make you call this project a success?”
6. Critical thinking
Contrary to what the word may suggest, critical thinking isn’t about rejecting ideas, or giving in to negativity and pessimism. It’s actually the most objective way of assessing information and preventing prejudice from rearing its ugly head. Step one: you learn to recognise your biases and distinguish facts from opinions. Step two: you balance arguments, keeping emotional information in mind. Step three: you draw your conclusions, taking into account all the relevant information.
7. Cognitive flexibility
Adjusting your goals and managing expectations. For most people, those aren’t easy feats. Letting go of long-cherished dreams is hard. Deep disappointment can keep haunting you, making it difficult or even impossible to think of creative solutions to your problems. All of this is due to a lack of cognitive flexibility. In other words, the ability to change your point of view, think differently and adjust in an ever-changing environment. This is linked to your ‘learning agility’: your capacity to learn and unlearn frameworks and habits when faced with transformation. Uncertainty shouldn’t be a threat. It should be an opportunity to see things in a new light.