Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof. —John Kenneth Galbraith

Does your current skill set give you what you need to survive and thrive in the new world?


The Pace of Change

According to the World Economic Forum, the 4th Industrial Revolution will usher in a set of technological changes that will render our current capability inadequate. In fact, the WEF’s list of skills has been substantially reordered and updated since it was last published in 2015.

Disruption is certainly at the heart of the shift. Different industries are affected at different rates and the impact will vary across the globe. For example, it has been noted that the financial services sector has yet to experience radical transformation, unlike media and entertainment.


The People Paradox

A significant catalyst for change is technological advancement. Yet, the skills that will see you thrive in an era of AI and robotics are entirely human. You will not find skills associated with technical capability (coding, engineering, writing, building, supply chain management) anywhere on this list.

The list of top 10 skills can be largely divided into two categories:

  1. Cognitive capability – Can you think critically and laterally? Solve complex problems? Make sound decisions?
  2. Interpersonal skills – Can you engage with others and bring them with you? Can you connect on an emotional level? Can you motivate, inspire and persuade?

The interesting thing about the change from 2015, is the emphasis on the former category. Cognitive capability will be more important than ever before if you are to seize the opportunities of the 4th Industrial Revolution. The computers won’t be doing the thinking for us.


The List

  1. Complex Problem Solving
  2. Critical Thinking
  3. Creativity
  4. People Management
  5. Coordinating with Others
  6. Emotional Intelligence
  7. Judgement & Decision Making
  8. Service Orientation
  9. Negotiation
  10. Cognitive Flexibility


The Challenge

Have we set ourselves up for success?

We should question both our working and learning environments. We should insist on flexibility and currency with how we learn and what we learn. This needs to start with our primary and secondary education systems. Rote learning, if it ever was of value, is clearly now a waste of time, energy and brain cells.

Teaching our children to think for themselves will stand them in good stead to be successful adults in the new world — even if it means the essays might be more difficult to mark. Teaching them to get along and manage the fall-out of disagreements without too much parental intervention will make them resilient in the real world — even though it challenges our modern, hyper-involved parental practice.

Tertiary and technical education providers need to look at the skills they impart and ensure they are still relevant within the big picture. They need to connect what they teach with how industry functions and stop retreating to the ivory tower. At the same time, we need them to guard the pedagogical high ground.

Finally, workplace educators, trainers and consultants (of which I am one) must use the advantage of their nimbleness to bring the communities they serve the most up to date, relevant and advantageous techniques in a manner that is accessible and appropriately challenging. We can’t chase the perfect 10/10 on our feedback sheets at the expense of adding real long-lasting value.


The Mindset

All 10 super skills are available to EVERYONE. You don’t need to be an org psych to understand emotional intelligence. You don’t need to be a cutthroat business executive to learn the art of negotiation. You don’t need to be a mathematician to solve complex problems. You certainly don’t need to be able to draw to be creative.

The seeds of the super skills are bestowed upon you by virtue of being human. You can make the most of them with a growth mindset and a little curiosity.



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