Dare to Learn

Sep 30, 2021

“It is man who created me, but it is I who shall be master.” These are the first words spoken by the monster that has just been brought to life by Dr. Frankenstein in one of the many movie versions of Mary Shelley’s 1818 masterpiece.

Since the first industrial revolution, humankind has been split into two opposing factions: the optimists, who believe that technological progress leads to a general improvement in people’s lives thanks mainly to job creation; and the pessimists, who hold the exact opposite.

Both perspectives are supported by valid arguments. But today we live in a society marked by exponential, disruptive technological changes, the effects of which drive a speed of implementation never seen before. So the questions you should be asking are:

In a context of continual transformation, how should I behave? What skills should I leverage and which ones should I learn?

With markets, demand, competitors, products and production technologies are changing at lightning-fast speed, how do I plan business activities?

For people who management role, what’s the key to making sure that the company stays competitive and employees and colleagues stay relevant?
To answer the last question, to stay competitive and relevant successful companies invest in ongoing skills training for their work force, both to keep up with incessant technological innovations (or hard skills), and to reinforce and enhance personal abilities (or soft skills). Because
to stand out in world that’s constantly changing, there’s an ever-greater need for group skills.

All of us, both personally and professionally, have to learn to navigate by two fundamental coordinates: keep listening/learning and stay connected, with people. Not listening means cutting yourself off from the context; if you don’t know where you are, you’ll have a hard time figuring out where to go. Disconnecting from people means giving up on listening to them, but the paths that others travel can lead you to opportunities that you never would have thought possible travelling on your own path.

Everyone, from students to professors, from top managers to retirees, from introverts to fervent networkers – we all need to commit to a requirement we can no longer put off: to reinforce and refresh the personal skills we’ll need to face the changes of the future.

Here are just a few, taken from the lists compiled by the World Economic Forum and the OECD:

leadership, empathy, team building, autonomy, flexibility, adaptability, planning and organizing, problem solving, communication.

Possessing these skills is important to be sure, but they take on value only if there’s a common thread connecting them all. And for the soft skills of daily life, the fil rouge is the ability to create, manage and maintain interpersonal relationships over time. Some are naturally good at this, others not so much, but it’s a skill that we can (and must) acquire, with effort and constant training, applying practices that come in relational moments called ‘networking.’

After forty-some years since the introduction of the first computers, we’ve finally learned a lesson: ‘they’ win the race in speed and precision, while ‘we’ can still win the ‘race’ of relationships, by growing empathy, creativity, the ability to create people/discipline connections in various contexts.

To contend with machine learning we have to become learning machines. To sum up the skills that we need to develop, we can use the 4C’s: Creativity, Critical Thinking, Contextual Intelligence (the
ability to link different disciplines) and Collaboration.

Why collaboration? Because problems have gone from complicated to complex, calling for the capacity to build collaborative relationships with other units in the same system. But first we need to know how to create this system and maintain it over time.

We can respond to Frankenstein’s monster by saying that human beings will stay at the center of this umpteenth revolution, with our knowledge, connections and relationships, based on trust and mutual respect. As long as we focus on continuing technical training, and we take special care to build up our soft skills, which are indispensable in a world that’s changing day by day.

Gianfranco Minutolo, Author of “I robot non sanno fare networking (per adesso)” [Robots don’t know how to network (yet)], available in Italian,
Paolo Gallo, Speaker, Executive Coach and Author of “The Compass and the Radar”

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