Figure 2. Impact of automation on certain tasks. Source: Own representation based on Autor et al. The advantage of the capability of machines for a human brain is able to efficiently compare a high number of X-ray images and at the same time scan them for common patterns.
What are Hard Skills?
Within this area, it is undisputed that the capabilities of machines clearly surpass those of humans. Regarding AI, the three variables of speed, volume, and complexity mark a comparative advantage of machines, since a human brain is limited in the cognitive capacity, due to biological reasons. Until recently, data processing was largely attributed to the human comparative advantage.
Today, data processing is carried out by machines in a very broad range of areas. Even gut feeling may appear as a multitude of information that humans form to a sentiment or opinion. Recent advancements in AI imply a shift in a skill set necessary to compete in the labor market. Robotics is able to change jobs in the field of craft industry through substitution. Likewise, AI might also cause similar developments in the more cognitive field, in more numbers-driven and fact-based occupations as seen in accounting or in legal professions. Therefore, it is likely that in many occupations different skills will be required.
This might move towards a skill set allowing for more non-linear work and social interaction. Creative, collaborative work as well as the communication of results is expected to become more relevant than physical or cognitive work. Hence, the need for cognitive, analytic as well as algorithmic thinking will be emerging in many roles.
Translating the human world into the machine world gains in importance next to the field of soft skills such as empathy and creativity. Specific in-depth knowledge in a domain remains still important. In this context, referring to the theory which employs the vertical bar of the T as the in-depth of expertise and the horizontal bar constituting the ability to collaborate across different fields. The term cross-disciplinary competences might be used in order to emphasize their importance.
When considering the baby boomer generation, that is currently exiting the working world, it appears that this generation paid less attention to the importance of soft skills. With that generation retiring, a change in valuation is likely to occur. The future of work seems to be increasingly difficult for individuals, who have a hard time adapting to new situations.
Implications for educational practice of the science of learning and development
It is assumed that the demand for the skill of personal adaptability is likely to increase. Simultaneously, cognitive skills are an important contributor to adaptability. Cognitive abilities go in line with the successful adaptation of new situations.
However, adaptability depends on personality traits, such as openness for change and the perception of chances and risks. The willingness to continuously gain the knowledge necessary and to be able to grow alongside the technological advances is essential for the future of work. For this to happen, enthusiasm is essential, as there is a mutual dependency between enthusiasm and lifelong learning. Both phenomena shall be complemented by curiosity, referring to the interest and openness towards the unfamiliar. That said, all three skills build the basis for the skills for continuous improvement.
In times of both more virtual and intercultural teams, the need for empathic behavior is likely to grow. Yet, empathy is hidden behind skills such as communication. Nonetheless, the ability to empathize can hardly be replaced and might become increasingly valuable.
4 Things You can Do to Turn Your Kids Into High Achievers
In general, individuals tend to be treated by a real person, equipped with the necessary skills to emphasize. One day there might exist nursing-robots, helping the elderly to wash their hands in the morning and to brush their teeth. However, even though the robots will be able to capture facial expressions, it will be hard for them to tell when a person needs comforting.
These subtle differences are hardly distinguishable and thus a replication via an algorithm proves to be extremely difficult. Communication in the sense of gathering and transmitting information, whether structured or unstructured, is deemed an even more necessary skill for the future. The need for communication is likely to intensify, as it is crucial to be as transparent as possible and to clearly explain envisioned changes within a company.
Additionally, the skills to communicate the value proposition of a product to a client and to have a meaningful conversation remain equally important. In the past, workers from older generations were less confronted with sharing information in a team, as more focus was placed on the individual results, instead of the ultimate outcome of a team. Thus, a shift in paradigm towards an increased importance of teamwork is visible. This implies a new paradigm away from the classical linear and hierarchic functions to increasingly flat hierarchies. At the same time, collaboration between individuals from different cultural and educational backgrounds becomes more common.
Individuals, who understand these mechanisms, will most certainly be privileged. Evidence for this development can be observed by the growing interdependence of organizations within these cross-company ecosystems, which, in turn, is a result of the intensification of complexity. Creativity constitutes another relevant skill in the future, as displayed in Figure 3. Nevertheless, the concept of creativity remains relatively unclear. Creativity may be regarded as a means to problem solving.
Creativity broken down is only the result of logic reasoning—something that can also be called intuition. However, intuition may be the consequence of experience that might unconsciously be reflected in a piece of art. When referring to creativity solely as applying something in a different context, then creativity may not be a key skill in the future, since computers will be able to substitute for this task. However, when referring to creativity as a fluid concept that cannot be traced back to a pure data processing mechanism, this might constitute an important skill for employees.
Creativity, in the sense of out-of-the-box thinking, in order to escape the borders of the norms and their structures will be crucial. In contrast, critical thinking refers to challenging an existing process and to question, whether a routine is still valid, or a task needs to be adapted. Challenging existing processes, being open for change, or becoming an early-mover in the market are vital in view of future requirements. Figure 3. Development of a skills cluster. Source: Own creation based on the generated and categorized findings.
There is a considerable amount of uncertainty, as always when making predictions for the future. This holds particularly true for abstract and intangible concepts such as soft skills. With regard to the soft skills cluster, as displayed in Figure 4 , a classification of the key soft skills into four main areas, according to their nature, has been conducted.
To gain a simplified view on how the possible technological advancements may impact prospective skill requirements, Figure 4 pictures the Soft Skills Model for the Future of Work. The model illustrates both, the destruction effect substitution as well as the capitalization effect complementation. However, through the capitalization effect, new businesses, occupations and industries will be created, and thus the need for continuous improvement may be amplified as well.
Through lifelong learning, inspired by enthusiasm and fueled by curiosity, the likelihood to be successful in the future labor market is likely to grow. The complementation effect may highlight human-machine collaboration. First, with the Routinization Hypothesis, it was illustrated that the routine tasks of a job are most likely to be overtaken by machines. On the one hand, this means that workers are enabled by technology, leading to use their very human capacity that a machine cannot substitute. Figure 4.
Soft skills model for the future of work. Source: Own creation based on both, the theoretical and empirical analysis. This, in turn, may imply that the demand for non-linear thinking may be highlighted. Linear thinking refers to the capacity of machines, which is suggested to be in favor to respect rule-based routine tasks, where machines can utilize their underlying set of data. Non-linear thinking, in contrast, refers to the out-of-the-box thinking capacity. Tasks that rely on non-binomial as well as out-of-the-box thinking, still do not lie within the framework of machines. Even though with continuing technological advances, this frame is likely to be widening.
Cognitive thinking skills, which refer to processing anything outside the given scheme, are considered the comparative advantage of humans over computers. Following this, the concept of out-of-the box thinking will shift alongside the technological advances.
Related Soft Skills for Hard Times: A Handbook For High Achievers
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