Today like never before we are living in a world of rapid transformation and change. New industries rise and fall and the inter-connected unstoppable forces of globalization, demographic change and technology twist and toss all of us. In this landscape how do we identify the key skills that we will need from talent or hone our own skills? What will remain relevant and in demand in an age of shorter and shorter half-lives of firms and business models? And when we recruit talent particularly talent from outside how should we maximize the likelihood of fit and success?
The Six Cs
Six key skills will be essential in the future. Three of these have to do with individual competence -- Cognition, Creativity and Curiosity -- and three with how we connect with each other and the world outside our minds -- Collaborate, Communicate and 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.
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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 lackluster in cognitive or creative and other skills also flames out as these folks do not earn the 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. 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.
Creativity is connecting dots in new ways, looking beyond the obvious. This skill will be key as AI powered computers crunch data 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.
The 3Cs of Connecting: Collaborate. Communicate. Convince.
Being cognitively gifted, creative and curious will not be enough since we are living in a connected world where eco-systems, teams and linkages are how ideas are born, value is created and long-term careers are 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 APIs (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.
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. Learn to convince and learn to sell.
The 3 Is of Recruiting Experienced Talent from the Outside: Integration. Integrity. Impact.
It is rare that a company can avoid hiring significant talent from outside if it is serious about transforming itself to change and grow. New skills, new mindsets and new blood enhances the corporate genetic pool. But these hires are particularly fraught, and experience indicates that we need to evaluate for the 6 Cs but also look for three other critical factors especially when recruiting for senior roles. These are Integration, Integrity and Impact.
Integration is about how will the person fit in the culture of the firm. It requires multiple interviews (Zoom and wherever possible in person) and ideally many colleagues of the person being recruited should have an opportunity to be exposed to their future colleague. While often this is difficult it truly makes the onboarding and acceptance of the outside individual much easier.
Too many companies bring in a wunderkind who either fails to adapt or is chewed up and spit out by the organization. While "culture" may eat strategy for breakfast it honed its chewing skills by gnawing on the bones of outside talent.
Integrity and Impact need to be evaluated over time and require in-depth research.
Integrity has never been more important. In today's correctly sensitized environment this is not just about financial trust but dealings with people of different backgrounds among other things.
Impact on business can be measured through financial results, but also important is how the individual has built teams, grown people and dealt with long-term periods of stress or setback. Be careful of people who switch jobs every two or three years since it is highly unlikely that they architected the success they may claim.
Ex-bosses and ex-direct reports rather than colleagues and industry experts are usually the ideal people to interrogate since they can provide perspective, put things into context and provide a multi-faceted picture of the person.
In the end every one of us is responsible for our own careers. We should not outsource our future to somebody else. We should evaluate ourselves and our teams on the 6Cs and invest time and learning utilizing both company and external resources to keep honing and up skilling ourselves.
The future will not adapt to us. We must adapt, grow and transform ourselves for the future.
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