Critical skills in times of change.

December 14, 2018 - Posted by Aesthetic

The exponential rate of technological change is being felt across every industry, and finding the balance between adapting while also retaining a sense of focus and deliberation in business strategy is a challenge for every organisation. Adapt too quickly, without appropriate change management strategies, and face upheaval within your organisation and/or customer confusion regarding your service offering. Adapt too slowly and join the ranks of businesses that have become complacent— think Kodak, Borders, Blockbuster. These factors are front of mind for our team at Aesthetic, not only through the lens of our own operations, but as a partner to organisations that are continuously evolving to meet the needs of their customers. As strategic and creative advisors for everything ‘brand’, we take every opportunity to keep abreast of trends. So, when Top 100 Futurist Heather McGowan spoke in Melbourne earlier this month, we were there!

There is no template to prepare for change when the factors are unknown, to pivot an organization to adapt to change (and then pivot again), or to maintain relevance while adjusting to the impact of automation—each organisation must forge their own path. So, organisational elasticity, as well as fostering a similar mindset in employees, is increasingly important for companies to adapt successfully. Like a light-house, the status quo is both a comfort and a danger. Be wary of clinging too closely to its shores—instead, use it to guide your path to find new opportunities. McGowan’s advice for companies finding their way during times of change and technology evolution, is to ‘let curiosity be your handrail’. This is such a powerful perspective. To the curious mind there is a bounty of inspiration within technological innovation, and the companies that succeed will be those that are not afraid to explore uncharted waters.

During times of change and technology evolution, let curiosity be your handrail.

The need for deeper curiosity is matched to a growing need for uniquely human skills such as the ability to collaborate, communicate and think creatively. These skills are defined as non-cognitive (also known as ‘soft skills’), and the labour market is increasingly rewarding people that demonstrate strengths in this area. The benefits of soft skills skills stretch beyond the ability to interact effectively, as people with these capabilities are also more adept at managing change, interacting with others, and learning new skills. In school, non-cognitive abilities have a positive effect on student achievement levels, and in the workplace these abilities translate to greater productivity. Fortunately, soft skills can be taught, and there are plenty of resources to begin this organisational journey (this article from Forbes is a good place to start).

McGowan spoke about the ‘old’ vs. ‘new economy’, the former funnelling the workforce into an educate—work—retire model, while the latter requires the workforce to engage—learn—recondition. The ‘new economy’ can seem daunting; to create and retain success one must always be looking for opportunities to learn and develop. There is no point that a person can confidently say they have completed their professional or personal growth, and for those that embrace change this presents endless opportunities. People graduating today will, on average, have 17 different jobs, so the ability to adapt is critical—but not just for the younger generation. Those that have been in the workforce longer are also likely to experience the impact of job instability and a much more mobile workforce, so they too will benefit from investing in their non-cognitive skills. Career mobility presents a risk to people’s ‘sense of self’ as traditionally, many people define themselves by the work they do. So, in the ‘new economy’ resilience, as well as a strong personal brand, will become increasingly important. Personal brands help people communicate their unique perspective and value-add to peers and potential employers, and they can be especially powerful when amplified through new media and technology.

As a team of passionate brand strategists who are always striving to innovate, investigate emerging technologies, and pursue new creative ideas, we’re inspired by the imperative for continuous learning. At the same time, McGowan’s emphasis on the importance of personal brand has encouraged us to put a little bit of the magic that we pour into brands every day, into ourselves.


Further reading:

Seven Facts on Noncognitive Skills from Education to the Labor Market
Research: Technology Is Only Making Social Skills More Important
Why your company should prioritise soft skills