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The Four Shifts: Thriving in the Next Era.

This is the third of a series on The Four Shifts that are revolutionizing every aspect of society and business.

1.     Technology Shifts: AI, 5G, Biotech and Blockchain.

2.     Power Shifts: From Center to Edge. From Institution to Individual. Consolidated to Fragmented.

3.     Boundary Shifts: Office/Home boundaries. Blurring of behaviors. Mongrelized and Multi-Dimensional Companies.

4.     Mind Shifts: Generational Differences. Re-evaluation of Work and other institutions.

The first of the Series which describes each of these shifts can be read here.

The second of the Series which discusses some of the implications on Government, Education and Business can be read here.

This the third and the last of the series shares some thoughts on how individuals and teams can thrive in a rapidly shape shifting world by controlling what we can and aligning with the Force.

It is to build and hire for the Six C’s and hone, architect and sculpt our attitudes and mindsets with the Five P’s.

The Six C’s

Six key skills will be essential in the future to complement computers, co-exist with change, and ensure continuous re-invention.

Three of these have to do with individual competence (Cognition, Creativity, Curiosity) and three how we connect with each other and the world outside our minds (Collaborate, Communicate, Convince).

Very few people will be world class in all six areas, but we all need to grow to be very good in at least two in each area.

Many companies hire or tolerate unbalanced people who are ultra-strong in individual skills such as cognition and creativity but are terrible at collaborating or communicating and learn that these lop-sided folks almost never ever last.

Being great at collaborating and communicating but being lack luster in cognitive or creative and other skills also flames out as these folks do not earn credibility of insiders or clients. Similarly, brilliance without some basic people and communication skills always ends up poisoning cultures and eventually flaming out because the organization rejects these “smart porcupines”

The 3 Cs of Individual Competence

Cognition. Curiosity. Creativity.

Cognition is simply learning to think and keeping your mental operating system constantly upgraded. This requires deliberate practice and sustained work. Improved cognition is achievable.

But one must work at it and many of us are so swamped with keeping up with our daily workload that we do not invest in growing our skills and expertise. This proves to eventually lead to irrelevance as the needs for yesterday’s skill sets erode and one has not replaced them with a new set of skills for the future.

If we cannot upgrade our mental operating systems we will become less relevant.

Creativity is connecting dots in new ways, looking beyond the obvious and this skill will be key as AI powered computers, data crunch and co-relate faster than we ever will.

To be human is to be creative.

Creativity is at its heart the way we deal with a world of change by adapting, evolving, and re-inventing.

We need to learn and feed this inside us. The future will be about data driven storytelling and not just data or storytelling and the ability to leverage modern machines and algorithms to unleash connection and meaning will depend on creativity.

Curiosity is simply being alive to possibilities, questioning the status quo and asking what if? Today the key competitor or opportunity in any category comes from outside it.

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but the lack of curiosity killed the careers of many people. When boundaries between industries shift and our minds are like champagne corks swelling and no longer fitting into the past the key is not to accept but question the status quo.

AI co-relates and connect dots and look back but rarely anticipates forward and what is next. Humans ask why? as well as why not?

The 3C’s of Connecting

Being cognitively gifted, creative, and curious will not be enough since we are living in a connected world where eco-systems, teams and linkages is how ideas are born, value created, and long-term careers forged. For these we need to hone and build and train for three other skills.

Collaborate: Collaboration is key to work in a world where API’s (Application Protocol Interfaces) are not just about handshakes between software/hardware but between individuals with different skills, teams in different countries, partners, suppliers and much more.

As the world re-imagines and re-configures itself we need to be like Lego pieces and learn to fit and connect and combine with others to transform ourselves and our companies.

Communicate: Learn to write. Learn to speak. Learn to present. It may be so old school but watch the people who succeed, and they are good at communication. And all of these can be taught and learned.

But communication is not a one-way street and as important as it to write, speak and present it is as critical to be able to listen, to hear and to understand what others are saying with an open mind and a sense of empathy.

Convince: Every one of us is a salesperson regardless of what we believe our title is. This is true even if we do not sell anything at work. We must convince colleagues of our points of view.

We all must learn to convince and learn to sell.

Humans choose with their hearts and use numbers to justify what they did.

Humans are stories. Stories are data with a soul.

Convincing is often a soup of facts and stories.

The Five P’s

To thrive individuals and companies will need purpose, perspective, perceptiveness, pioneering, and persistence.

Purpose: Sooner or later those who succeed have a sense of where they are trying to go and some clear goals.

A star to steer by and outcomes to measure progress against.

If one does not know where one is trying to go it is unlikely one can get there.

Today in a world that is accelerating, changing and overwhelming with stimuli, data and news this is key or one is just tossed and turned by the latest blast of news and information.

In time this purpose or these purposes get chiseled into one’s individual DNA or the fabric and culture of successful individuals and companies.

When a company is successful it is often seen as driven by a purpose, it has teams built with individuals passionately aligned against a common outcome.

The passion many equate with those who succeed are usually driven by a focus and ferociousness of purpose.

Perspective: With time and experience comes a sense of perspective.

An understanding that the world does not revolve around oneself which allows one to become more empathetic, generous and invest in relationships.

A sense of perspective also brings with it the realization that life and career while in one way are short in other ways span decades and will bring a tangle of good and bad, ups and downs. To succeed one needs to grimace and march on in the bad times while not losing all sense of proportion and propriety when the force appears to be with us.

Machines do not yet have perspective. Their memory is not our memory. Everyone is a compilation of where they have been and what they have experienced and mining and learning from this history is key.

Perspective is also important to companies, so they see where they fit in their eco-systems and can determine both who to partner with but also to visualize their category broadly enough to see opportunities and threats outside a narrow slice of geography, time, or market.

Successful people and firms also put things in perspective when explaining and making their case. They place things in historical or other frameworks to build convincing stories.

Perceptiveness: The Cambridge dictionary defines someone who is perceptive as one who is “very good at noticing and understanding things that many people do not notice”.

This noticing and understanding can be about being emphatic in how one deals with people or seeing a niche or hiccup in a process that many may miss or to be self-aware of one’s weaknesses and mental models.

Perception will be key to ensure our relevance in a world of AI, diverse and globalized marketplace and generational differences in attitudes and behaviors.

Perception can be honed and grown and will be a key for success as it will be what helps differentiate carbon based analog feeling individuals from increasingly powerful silicon based digital computing machines.

Our perception and their power and precision will be what will drive profitable results.their roots tie them down but rather use roots to feed their wings to fly to the future. These innovations can be across a range of a company’s system from supply chain to logistics to customer service to pricing to engineering breakthroughs to re-thinking their business.

Pioneering:  Long lasting firms and successful individuals innovate, invent and are idea driven. They do not let their roots tie them down but rather use roots to feed their wings to fly to the future. These innovations can be across a range of a company’s system from supply chain to logistics to customer service to pricing to engineering breakthroughs to re-thinking their business.

To succeed as an individual eventually everyone needs to become who they are.

We need to find our voice and superpower and each of us in doing so pioneer by becoming special and differentiated in our own way.

Defining oneself is an act of pioneering.

Switching jobs, cities and goals are all acts of taking a different path and trading the known for the unknown.

In a world that will be shifting around us we need to be able to re-invent our boundaries.

Living is an act of constant resurrection and re-invention.

We are all capable of being pioneers.

Persistence: Part of persistence is continued practice.

Practice of a craft, a skill, an art.

A portion of it is patience and recognizing that the reaction to a thing is what will determine how the thing affects us and often not reacting but instead waiting is the most prudent thing to do.

A lot of persistence is recognizing that it is in the everyday doing, the everyday improvements, the everyday re-invention, and repair after setbacks that forge us in the foundry and furnace of industry and life.

It is sculpting each block of stone and placing them together that builds the cathedral.

Day by day.

Year by year.

The power of compounding skills, relationships, and returns.

How every “overnight” success comes to be…

Photography by Rishad Tobaccowala

Heads Down, Heads Up and Heads Together! In a shape shifting world one of the big shifts is how and where we work. On this weeks episode of What Next? Annette King, group CEO for the Publicis Groupe in the UK on the impact and opportunities post-Pandemic work culture is offering brands and the communications industry. Learn what the pattern of talent movement, including the Great Resignation, can teach us about the future of the work space.

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