Updated: May 27
The core skills to thrive in the Innovation Economy
As discussed in Part 1 “The driving forces that will shape the Innovation Economy”, the biggest impact of new digital business models built on intelligent technologies will be the remodeling of roles, expectations and accountabilities of the worker. This is why we need to analyze how a majority of roles will be impacted as opposed to spending time trying to determine which roles will be more valuable in the Innovation Economy. As the dependency on intelligent technologies grow and workers’ interactions and relationships with these technologies expand, it will not directly correlate into the need for more STEM professionals as per our current archetype of these workers (i.e. Engineers, Information Technology, etc). We will need to reassess the skills required for all workers across all fields; medical, engineering, customer service, information technology, manufacturing, legal, leadership etc. We need to rethink the skills and foundational behaviors necessary to establish the conditions for our youth to experience a good quality of life in the wake of the Innovation Economy.
Understanding the interconnections of the skills required by the greatest number of future workers (our children) is a core element of Kids Hack Labs’ work and research.
The skill pillars are:
I will expand on each pillar in future blog posts but for this post I will provide an overview of the key attribute and behaviours that comprise each pillar. Part 3 of this series will provide insights about how we need to work with our youth to instill these skills and attributes.
It's important to keep in mind that I am not arguing that technological skills and other professional skills are not important; they are very important. It's about cultivating a mix of skills that includes a solid foundation of traditional professional skills supported by a full range of “high concept” and “high touch” skills. The key message is that youth still require the skills of the Knowledge Economy but they also need a set of complementary skills that will differentiate them in the Innovation Economy and provide the tool kit for success. These skills have received less than adequate mainstream attention and appear distant from the radars of our policy makers.
High concept and High touch skills
The terms “high concept” and “high touch” were coined by Daniel Pink in his book A Whole New Mind. In his book Daniel Pink speaks to the rise of “R” directed thinking. This is thought rising from the right side of the brain stimulating emotion, pattern detection and creativity. He also stresses the continued importance of the analytical and logical thinking associated with “L” directed thinking that were key in the Knowledge economy. However, it's this type of thinking that can often be mastered by a computer or reproduced by others with access to the same information. High concept and high touch skills are human skills that will empower youth to be creators and the empathizers.
Computational logic is the ability to approach problems, opportunities and challenges with deductive reasoning, creativity, critical thinking and active listening. Computational logic is a bridge from the Knowledge to the Innovation Economy. It's a skill that has been prevalent for a majority of workers since we transitioned out of the Industrial Economy. However, the attributes of creativity, design and synthesis are now arising as essential differentiators as opposed to simply having a couple of creative “types” on staff. Apple was a pioneer in embracing these attributes. They did not invent the mp3 player or the smartphone but their attention to design and creativity produced a mp3 player the public desired. Understanding the human side of design and synthesizing many concepts and opportunities into a signal device with the support of an App store led to a dominance in the smartphone market. Other companies actually had smartphones and mp3 players with core technologies that were superior; however, their workers lacked high concept thinking. Their technologically superior products were quickly swept to the sidelines by the R directed thinking embraced by Apple. With intelligent technologies, Apple may now be able to automate portions of their development but continuing to hire workers that have strong technological skills and outperform their peers in creativity, active listening and their ability to synthesize will determine how Apple will perform in the coming decade.
Emotional Intelligence includes social perceptiveness and persuasion, as well as leadership and service oriented attributes, all supported by strong active listening skills. Active listening is a skill that transcends all three pillars. The data analyst or programmer will no longer be separated from others as they build models or program lines of code, they will be facilitating higher touch interactions that will enable them to apply meaning to their work beyond the process. The process can be replicated by intelligent technologies or others. Emotional intelligence will increase in relevance in almost every profession. Doctors are now being trained to hone in on listening to their patients to better understand aliments and deliver diagnoses and prescriptions that intermix physical, mental and lifestyle interventions. As discussed in Part 1, traditional process based diagnoses are being automated or passed along to others. In the legal field, Lawyers will face similar situations. Automation along with a sustained increase in law graduates around the world will drive down the cost of some legal work.
When we think of a quality of life for our children, it is important to think beyond their role in the economy. A sustained quality life is associated with a set level of economic success; however, experiencing joy and a deeper meaning is also important to a good quality of life. Encouraging the exploration of empathy will allow our youth to elicit an important connection with themselves, others, and their environment. Daniel Pink even speaks of the importance of play in our lives.
Understanding the subtleness of human interaction will be important in the Innovation Economy. We live in a society of “plenty”. I can purchase a garbage pail for my bathroom designed by a famous designer at Walmart for $10. How will a company or person stand out in this reality. They will need to understand humans and provide insights that stimulate meaning. Stimulating meaning can lead to economic success and sustained happiness for your child.
Technological intelligence is the ability to absorb technological information through human eyes and make sense of it in regards to its current and future impacts, opportunities and consequences. The research into technology intelligence to date has been at the company level; the company's ability to identify technological opportunities and understand the implications of decisions. However, a company is an entity of its workers. A company’s success in technology intelligence will be based on the technological intelligence of its employees. I see technological intelligence as an extension of emotional intelligence. The design, creation and interaction with technology requires a human element that understands the technology landscape and how it intermixes with people. It is empathy through a technology lens. A worker’s daily interaction and dependency on intelligent technologies will increase - the working relationship will become seamless and their trust will grow.
Miss steps in deploying intelligent technologies, or new consumer products that fail to understand the human component or how the deployment interplays within the larger technology fabric can lead to poor performance of a company or even impact society. The failed experiment of pushing a new U2 album to people’s Apple products is a good example of Apple dropping the ball on technological intelligence. The impact can range from poor sales, security breaches, bad designs or consequences for a segment of society.
Human Resource departments are now shifting to hiring employees based on automated resume screening. A breakdown in technology intelligence led a company to screen out certain ethnicities via the automated review. The automated process magnified the exact human bias they were trying to eliminate. The goal was to select candidates for an interview based on qualifications. However, the algorithm was programmed with human bias. Those designing, testing and interacting with the intelligent technology failed to dive into the technology, its design or output with a high touch human lens. I expect a good debate could be had over such an intelligent technology; however, this type of screening innovation will be increasing in many different social interactions from applying for a job to entering a county. It's important these technologies are developed, observed and maintained with technology intelligence.
We need to continue our research into what skills will enable our youth to succeed and experience a good quality of life. Youth need to develop core skills associated with L directed thinking. These core skills demonstrated by engineers, doctors, programmers, and others during the Knowledge Economy lead to great successes and will continue to be important in the Innovation Economy. However, as information becomes more and more available, and the number of professionals graduating around the world with these skills increases, youth will need to complement these skills with higher concept and higher touch skills. These types of skills seem to many as being beyond children of younger ages but I believe they need to be instilled at a very young age starting in kindergarten. Kids in kindergarten learn the basic concepts of L directed thinking on day one; why not R directed thinking? Kids Hack Labs is incorporating the elements of these skills into our teachings.