Future Thought: Smarter By Design

As our world continues to change fast, planning for the future is imperative. New technologies offer automation of those repetitive and mundane tasks that chew up our precious time freeing us up to do things differently.

Welcome to the new era of thinking: Learn, Think, Do.

Learning.

Our brain’s natural plasticity implies we are lifelong learners, capable of taking in new information, encoding memory and embedding new habits across our lifespan. Traditionally education has focused on preparing our children to be ready to enter the workforce with a particular set of skills. With current thought now predicting that the upcoming generation may have perhaps 17 different jobs in five different careers, the need for on-going learning will become the new norm, so as to keep up to speed with new technologies as introduced, and to up skill when appointed to a new role.

Thinking.

A survey of 400 senior HR Managers revealed critical thinking to be the number one skill set required for the future workplace, a finding also made in the New Work Smarts Report released recently by The Foundation of Young Australians. The FYA identified this as an urgent need to prepare the upcoming generation to deal effectively with automation, globalisation and flexibility.

Data overload already contributes to the malaise of overwhelm and under thinking. Too much information makes it harder to filter what is relevant, valid and appropriate to the task at hand. Cognitive load management or avoiding having too much to think about at any given moment is essential to maintain clarity of thought and access to our logic, analysis and reasoning.

The FYA report further predicts an increase of 30% more time being spent on learning skills on the job, 100% more time problem solving, 41% more time on critical thinking and judgment, 77% more time using STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) and 17% more time on interpersonal and communication skills.

This will require us to override our need for speed and to choose consciously to slow down our thinking processes. While this may feel like a waste of time, especially when experiencing time pressure, scheduling in time to think critically is invaluable to overcome our inbuilt unconscious biases, stress and emotion that can unwittingly lead us to jump to conclusions, make bad decisions or show poor judgment.

Doing.

Smart work is about applying our knowledge and thought more mindfully. The brain loves automation because it saves on mental energy. Our habits and rituals enable us to get through the day on lower power bills. The problem arises if we become complacent in our thinking because we “know,” and fail to check whether conscious intervention is appropriate. This is about being aware of when to switch off from autopilot to focus on important tasks and notice what’s happening around us at any given moment.

Future work is also expected to be increasingly people-centric requiring higher levels of autonomy, empathy and emotional intelligence. Our social intelligence will increasingly take center stage enhancing how well we communicate with each other, our level of collaboration and creativity. We already have these skill sets. What will be different will be their prominence in how we go about our daily work.

Your cognition is how well you think, learn and remember. Never has there been a more important time to discover more about how your brain is set up to work at its best and elevate your cognitive (brain) fitness.

The times they are a’ changing and so are we. To be match fit, future focused and fully adaptive, it’s time to rethink how we think.

What do you see as the greatest challenges we face for the workplace of the future?

How well do you feel prepared for the expected changes in how you will be doing your work in the next few years and beyond?

Are you fearful or excited to see what the future might bring?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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