Are you ready for the fourth Industrial Revolution?

By Casey Miller
Jan 25, 2019
Photo credit: Orbon Alija/iStock/Getty Images

The first Industrial Revolution used water and steam to advance human interests. The second used electric power for mass production. The third (the one we are in now) uses electronics and information technology to automate production. Today, the fourth Industrial Revolution is taking over, one that combines artificial intelligence, machine-learning, and robotics in fields as diverse as manufacturing to genetics and biotechnology. And it will forever change the way humans live, work, and relate with each other.

With such disruption taking over almost every industry, what will become of human work? And more importantly, what skills will be the most important going forward?

In one of The World Economic Forum's past reports, The Future of Jobs, 10 skills were deemed imperative for 2020 and beyond.

  1. Cognitive flexibility

    Imagine that your brain is a Cirque du Soleil training facility. Now imagine that all your modes of thinking (critically, artistically, empathetically, judiciously, mathematically) are like the balance beams, rings, trampolines, and parallel bars. How quickly and nimbly you can swing, jump, leap and spin between these modes of thought is your cognitive flexibility. As the fourth Industrial Revolution continues, how limber your mind is at seeing new patterns and quickly adjusting to make sense of those will be an indispensable tool.

  2. Negotiation

    As AI take over more automatable jobs, social skills will becoming increasingly important, if for no other reason that humans will be forced to work more closely with one another.

  3. Service orientation

    Service orientation speaks to our ability to ‘actively look for ways to help people’. And in the context of the Future of Jobs, this will mean that those employees (and companies) who can anticipate and fulfill customer needs will be the ones who will succeed. In practical terms, this means having a genuine desire to understand customers’ fears, beliefs, hopes, preferences, and values coupled with a fervent ambition to develop products and services that future-proof your company.

  4. Judgement and decision-making

    Big data will dominate the future, and the ability for employees to sift through massive amounts of information and come up with tangible, decisive actions will become more and more important.

  5. Emotional intelligence

    Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is comprised of 4 parts: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management.

    EQ informs every decision we make and, not surprisingly, positively affects organizations in a multitude of ways. In 2013, a study by The Hay Group found that 44 Fortune 500 companies with sales people with high EQ produced twice the revenue of those with average or below average scores.

    In another study, IT programmers within the top 10% of emotional intelligence competency were able to develop software three times faster than those with lower EQ competency. Finally, a recent study conducted by a Dallas Corporation measured that the productivity amongst its highest scoring EQ employees was 20 times greater than its lowest.

  6. Coordinating with others

    Collaboration is crucial in any work environment and, at least for now, is something that humans are better at than robots.

    "Human interaction in the workplace involves team production, with workers playing off of each other’s strengths and adapting flexibly to changing circumstances," the World Economic Forum report explains. "Such non-routine interaction is at the heart of the human advantage over machines."

  7. People management

    As promising as automation may be for efficiency and economies of scale, AI will never replace human interaction. That is why in the future, the managers (and their companies) that will thrive will be the ones who know how to effectively motivate their teams. This comes down to 6 elements: shared purpose, emotional intelligence, healthy conflict, transparent communication, uncompromised trust, and collaborative eco-systems.

  8. Creativity

    As the World Economic Forum senior writer, Alex Gray explains, "With the avalanche of new products, new technologies and new ways of working, employees are going to have to become more creative in order to benefit from these changes."

    "Robots may help us get to where we want to be faster, but they can’t be as creative as humans (yet)."

    Creativity, as Mr Gray describes it, is the ability to connect the dots across large data sets and interpret them with new, innovative ways. If you can do this, you will be in high demand in the future.

  9. Critical thinking

    The U.S. National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking defines critical thinking as the “intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.” 

    For now, humans who possess this skill will be in high demand. But beware! IBM’s supercomputer Watson and its legal-savvy companion ROSS are not too far behind humans in the critical thinking department.

  10. Complex problem-solving

    In a world filled with increasingly difficult, incomplete, or contradictory terms (think climate change, for example) having the mental elasticity to solve problems the world has never seen before in a landscape that is constantly changing will be one of the greatest skills. It is no wonder that at the top of the World Economic Forum’s list of most desirable skills for 2020 is the ability to solve complex problems.

Casey Miller specializes in helping organizations become places where employees are intrinsically motivated to work. His consultancy, Six and a Half Consulting, teaches organizations the six and a half pillars of leadership imperative to an engaged workforce.

Originally published by Six and a Half Consulting.