As a young boy I learned to play chess. Looking back, it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made, largely because it taught me the value of looking ahead, predicting outcomes and pivoting as needed.
Recently I spoke at a TEDx program about the future of jobs in our rapidly changing world. The audience was stunned when I reported that in 10 to 20 years, 40 to 50 percent of today’s jobs will no longer exist or will be greatly marginalized. However, so many new jobs will be created by the second industrial revolution that today’s “skills gap” will continue to grow from today’s over 5 million unfilled jobs in America.
McKinsey & Co. recently predicted that the second industrial revolution is 10 times faster and over 300 times as powerful as the first industrial revolution. According to McKinsey, this equates to over 3,000 times the impact of this industrial revolution versus the last one. A mile-high tsunami wave of change is coming – whether we become obsolete or indispensable depends on critical decisions we make today.
The good news is you can learn how to make better decisions. In the best-selling book “Decisive,” by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, four villains that disrupt our decision-making are revealed: Narrow Framing, Confirmation Bias, Short-Term Emotion and Overconfidence.
Narrow framing refers to focusing on the obvious while ignoring outlying options. Confirmation bias means searching for information that confirms our established opinions. Short-term emotion is defined as allowing emotion to cloud our decisions. And overconfidence … well, we all know people who think they know more than they actually do. Overconfidence will be a killer decision flaw as the massive change of the second industrial revolution plays out.
Understanding these decision flaws, then proactively preparing for your future, will ensure that you will be an indispensible treasure in the work force. Those who actively participate in some (if not all) of these tactics will rise to the top.
1. Be Good at What You Do – Studies show that more than 70 percent of workers don’t take the time to learn and develop high-level skills for their current job. Being good may not be enough in tomorrow’s world. Become a master at what you do.
2. Sharpen EQ Skills – Emotional Intelligence (EQ) has been shown to be one of the best predictors of whether someone rises to the top in his or her organization or gets booted out the door. EQ denotes a high ability to shift gears in different social and business settings, saying the right thing at the right time and knowing when to listen and when to talk. If you think you may have an EQ deficit, hiring a coach could mean the difference between a great future career and a mediocre one.
3. Continually Explore Better Processes – Perfecting and evolving the work process is critical for a business’ long-term success. What might this mean to individual employees? Processes that have worked in the past might not always be the best for the future. Being the one who brings bigger and better techniques into the company’s fold sheds light on that person’s value and sets him or her up for continued success.
4. Sharpen Practical Creativity – Employers say it’s hard finding people who come up with good ideas they can implement. It may be harder to sharpen your skills in this particular area, but there are things you can do, even if you’re not prone to creativity. Surround yourself with creative mentors and teammates. Go to conferences outside your industry. You’ll be surprised how, combined with a strong process, your productivity can improve.
5. Network Smarter – Good networking includes going to workshops and conferences in and outside your industry. Great networking means seeking out several people every week to have coffee with who are successful and listening intently, even if there isn’t an obvious benefit to you short term.
Solid decision-making and preparing for the future are mandatory for me as a successful business owner and professional financial planner. The future stars around you are preparing by watching TED talks and figuring out how to make themselves absolutely indispensable to their organization. Are you ready to surf the tsunami wave of change that is coming, or be crushed by it?
Dennis Stearns is president of Stearns Financial Group (www.StearnsFinancial.com), an award winning fee-only financial planning and investment management firm with offices in Chapel Hill and Greensboro.