What do you need to learn to keep your job?


You know that AI is coming for you, right?

A third of current jobs will be done by computers over the next 20 years. If you want to know if your job is at risk, type it in here.

There are a number of changes happening in the world of work – and these are foundational changes – changes in the very nature of society itself, enabled by interconnected technology.

Technology is enabling a move from the traditional industrial approach of cramming everyone in a large space and giving them small tasks as part of an assembly process to networks of smart people working together to create value.

The choice facing us in the future might be as stark as either choosing to learn more and create value that cannot be done by a computer, or learning how to clean and maintain the computers and automated cars that do the jobs that we used to do.

In an article in the McKinsey Quarterly, Amy Edmondson and Bror Saxberg point out that most organizations focus on the money, leaving it to their employees to worry about learning.

This might have been ok in a world where all people had to do was “do”, but not in a world where they have to “think”, “create” or “decide”.

It’s not enough to get a traditional education and then come into the workplace and never open a book again. In modern organisations you have to be ready to learn all the time, and learn while doing your job.

The military is very good at this. As Josh Bersin points out, they only really do two things: fight and train. Most of the time, they train.

They make a big deal of sitting (or probably standing) after an exercise and working through what worked, what didn’t and what they would do differently next time.

Learning doesn’t have to be classroom based and formal any more. For individuals, the amount of information and support out there to learn almost anything is staggering.

Just take Coursera, for example. This site has free courses that you can take that range from programming and management to abstract painting and dinosaur paleobiology.

Organizations have to create the conditions that enable people that work in them to learn. That means giving them time and space to experiment, research, get feedback and think.

The skills needed are not just technical ones, but also social – skills that make it possible to work collaboratively across organizational boundaries.

The challenge is making learning part of the daily routine – you need to learn as you race along doing your job day to day.

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