Your job is gone, but not the way you think.
You won’t have to be a genius or technologist to build the future, rather the opposite. We feel scared today because all everyone talks about is tools. Companies and people alike could tackle their challenges if they re-focus.
I have worked in innovation for over 20 years, and technology was always the side-show. The future is more inclusive than you think and you are already part of it.
This article is based on my recent talk at the Service Design Fringe Festival in London and notes from the Service Design Network Global conference in Dublin. It is part of my book available for pre-order for only 10 more days here.
Tools never solved anything. Let’s get that straight and out of the way. Google does not just search, and Amazon is not only delivery, the iPhone did not succeed because it had more features, Apple does not just do devices. If you would be given Usain Bolt’s body at the very moment when he broke the world record, would you have been able to do the same? Rhetorical question, with the answer, no, tools need a mindset behind them.
Mindset is the most significant gap we are facing today. What is particular about today is that businesses are not factories and we don’t have to be robots anymore. A single skill and silo-ed person has become the most inefficient and outdated part of any company today.
I am looking at a generation of digital natives that grew up during the .com boom, and their LinkedIn profiles are as cluttered with growing skillsets and a blinding list of job descriptions and responsibilities in their roles.
This variety and evolution of multi-disciplinary people is the symptom of a new mindset, which has created startups and what we like to call innovation. It has very little to do with the technology involved. The differentiator is people who are outcome based, rather than focused on a single skill within a unique context.
We were de-skilled, and we are still feeling the echo of the concept that people need to be turned into obedient robots for a company to work.
Over the last ten years, I have been increasingly in projects, where cross-disciplinary skillsets created more value than silo-ed verticals.
My recent project was mainly about activating dormant skills and value within a large corporation, and the numbers looked astounding.
Stefan Moritz from McKinsey Customer Experience had some impressive numbers on how much people are bored or inactive at their jobs. You want to improve? Take action!
50 years ago Alvin Toffler predicted temporary, ‘Situational Groupings’ would be how society solves future challenges. He also predicted a move away from the factory and closer to reality. Service Design and other human-centred practices are doing that to unlock new value for companies.
New tools, like Jake Knapp’s Google Design Sprint can be learned within a day. This commoditisation of tools and processes means everyone will have a variety of problem-solving capabilities to create future value. I have learned a handful of new tools or languages ever year. So will you. The tools won’t matter but the way you use them will.
Using multiple skills or tools that represent capabilities is a pivotal shift from the single-skilled genius value of the past. This makes statistical sense as a combination of capabilities more easily creates value and opportunities than the single best genius in one tiny niche field.
Bringing multiple skills together means aligning language. A new common language will be needed so why not start today? Comunication is about 40% of every transformation and change. Let’s build the future language of the polymath.
The future is more complex, so are we. Let’s use our complexity to align with the future.
How can we prove the value polymaths create for companies? It is evident that they create value but has it has not been measured. How do you measure horizontals rather than verticals? The educational system doesn’t value it yet, neither do recruiters or employers. Esko Kilpi has already asked the question, Scott Galloway is telling graduates to learn more skills, Harward Business Review is leaning in.
The markers are all there for ‘polymaths’ to replace ‘geniuses’ as the value driver. Technology has been commoditised. Let’s talk about it.
Join me for the unofficial start of the ‘I am not a polymath’ community. (below)
Have you ever felt like your skills are not used?
Have you ever struggled to get the rigt peple inta project?
Are verticals what keeps you from creating new value and opportunities for your business?
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Join the community here.