• Technological advancements of Industry 4.0 are fundamentally altering our lives, work and our relationships with others.
• ‘Digital’ is the game-changer for individuals, businesses and governments, alike.
• Being skill-ready is equivalent to being job-ready.
• Learning is one of the key skills in the digital era.
Back in school… What did you think about your career?
Are you there yet?
Did you stop mid-way?
You never started?
You had no expectations?
You are beginning now?
You never gave it a thought…
You followed what your peers did…
You clearly knew what you wanted to be later in life…
You gave it a damn…
You thought unlike above…
Well! When I was in school, the only options worth considering, in line with the prevalent view, were medical or non-medical (engineering) streams. If anyone wanted to pursue commerce or humanities, it raised eyebrows. In a sense, you can say our intelligence was gauged or we were judged based on what subjects we opted in high school. This mindset was commonplace and primarily driven by a certain belief that engineering and medical professions were more rewarding and respectable than others.
Most students preferred to opt for the conventional path with the least resistance. Those who desired to pursue unconventional fields of their interest were left in a lurch and many quit even before trying. I had a deep inclination towards the fields of writing and sports but pursued none, early on. Instead, I opted for non-medical with economics as my additional subject; later graduating in B.Sc. Mathematical Sciences, and following it up with an M.B.A. in Marketing (&HR). Few of my friends did end up as engineers though.
Over these years I have understood that:
• The choices you make matter.
• Listen to advice but decide for yourself.
• What you do out of your life is no business of others.
• If you think too much about what others think, you will always be in the wrong place.
All in all - Life is not 0 or 1. You may be pushed to believe it is so, but it is up to you, what you make out of it. It is your life – Go for it! This is also true for your career. (Replace life with career in above…) Yes! It is your career – Go for it! Those who have come a long way building their careers, or are striving to carve out one, or still, others imagining to build their careers, all will agree – It is a lot easier said than done. Isn’t it?
We are amidst a technological revolution that is fundamentally altering our lives, our work and our relationships with one another, with each passing moment. The digital age is bringing massive changes in the nature of work, the way information is being obtained, and in the way, decisions are being made. This didn’t happen overnight. It has been following a path we never bothered to take a look at. It caught our attention, and we began exploring and talking about it, only when a lot around started to change.
Many of us still don’t know about it. Yet others, don’t consider it worth pondering – thinking it to be quite a business thing and much unrelated to our lives. Why should it concern us? Where are we headed? What should we know about it then? Pause a bit! Take a look at the infographic below:
In 2019, I decided to head to another state from Delhi by my car. Till then, I had never driven outside Delhi. I started from my home at 5.30 am and reached my destination in about 8 hours. It was sheer fun! Thanks to the GPS system that guided and suggested the fastest route to my destination.
In the middle of the pandemic, we missed going out shopping and vising our extended family and friends. Birthdays, anniversaries and other occasions to celebrate together were lonely affairs for most of us. Thanks to advancements in technology, we could still send gifts to our loved ones and order things of need right from the comfort of our homes. Work from home (WFH), schooling from home (SFH), e-meetings, e-parties...all became possible when our physical movement outside was restricted.
We have come a long way and now are in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. It is primarily driven by ‘digital’ and is fast reshaping our lives, our businesses, and the future of work. The technologies propelling Industrial Revolution 4.0 are artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, cloud computing, quantum computing, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), biotechnology, robotics, Internet of Things (IoT), 3D printing, and many more.
What characterizes Industry 4.0? In simple terms, it embraces the fusion of physical, digital and biological worlds of humans, and is about the growing utilization of new technologies and innovations.
Amongst the four industrial revolutions, the impact of the fourth is unprecedented and far-reaching for the human race. The pace of Industry 4.0 is disruptive and it is evolving with a quantum leap. It can be said, its impact is panoptic – encompassing every industry, every nation, every individual. The touch of technology is magically transforming everything around us. Industrial Revolution 4.0 is a phenomenal new manufacturing concept – Smart Manufacturing – for achieving better working conditions, and improved levels of quality and production. It involves industrial automation and the integration of new technologies of production.
Human-machine interaction is not new to us, but this interaction has now reached an all-new level. Industry 4.0 is enabling human-machine communication throughout a highly networked environment. This is made possible with automation technologies such as IoT, cloud computing and cyber-physical systems (CPS). The ensuing changes to the human world are heralding a new era of transformation, a digital shift, in existing production, management as well as governance systems.
The underlying concept of Industry 4.0 is ‘cognitive automation’ – a subset of AI that uses innovative technologies such as neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), cognitive reasoning, emotion recognition, and data mining to emulate human intelligence. Simply put, cognitive automation employs technology to solve various problems with human intelligence. Implications of such automation are robots replacing humans; information flow taking place at a phenomenal pace; and perfect synchronization of all processes.
The transformation of such an impact, pace and scale calls for enormous changes to our existing workplaces and workforces. Technologies are fast evolving and giving way to innovations, and deceleration in the pace of innovation is not likely in the near future. With the rise of ‘digital’, jobs are transforming and so is the work culture.
On the flip side, the workforce is struggling to keep up with the increasing pace of advancements in technology. The tried-and-tested philosophy is giving way to test-and-learn; offering flexibility and agility to people, processes, and organizations; replacing older, rigid structures. According to a World Economic Forum report, job growth is expected to be driven by seven key professional areas that include, care, data, AI, content, sales, marketing, cloud computing and engineering. As jobs evolve, so will the skills needed to perform them.
When I decided to switch my line briefly from ‘content’ to ‘market research' to acquire new skill sets, people in my professional network, my family and friends, and even a few of my clients were skeptical of my decision and discouraged me to join a Market Research firm. I nevertheless, joined the organization and completed about two years there. It was challenging to enter a domain I hardly knew anything about and had to begin from scratch. No weight was given to my previous work experience and I was treated at par with any fresher in the field.
It was a fierce and constant battle that I had to wage within, of challenging the status-quo that knowledge and experience brought with them in me. I had to switch to the mode of learning from the mode of knowing. But all the struggle was worth it. When I say so, I don’t mean to say you too must leave your established careers to learn something new from scratch. You can build on right from where you are, even while being fully engaged in your current roles and in your existing capacities.
Most of us tend to confuse knowledge with learning and use the two almost interchangeably. Let us explore a bit more on it. Our education system is primarily built around knowledge acquisition and memorizing facts. That is quite different from what learning is. The education system should actually be teaching us how to learn.
I remember my first drive to a hill station. It was not easy. With many around not pleased, they coaxed me to drop the idea of driving on my own to a hill station and insisted on booking a cab or hiring a driver. My uncle, whom I was supposed to visit on this trip, phoned me and said: “Once you learn to drive you never forget it. Basics remain the same whether you drive on a plain or a mountain. Begin early, drive at ease, stay focussed on your goal. If you keep driving in different terrains, you will only get better at your skill.” I not just visited my uncle at this hill station but also drove to two others on the same trip. This stayed with me and my first drive to a hill station was amazing – a learning in itself.
In one sense, we can say that knowledge is static in nature, while learning is a dynamic process or a skill in itself. Knowledge may erode over time, but learning stays forever with us. Knowledge and learning together enable a person to exhibit relevant competency to be successful in a particular role or job. While our education system may help us acquire knowledge, but to stay relevant to changing workforce and workplace dynamics, we must continue to engage unhesitatingly, in lifelong learning.
In current times, intelligent, innovative technologies and machines of Industry 4.0 are reshaping the very demand for jobs, skills and tasks. The skills that are growing in demand are taught less often in classrooms today. And those that are taught are fast becoming obsolete and less useful. Hence, the need for skilling, re-skilling and upskilling is imperative.
The global workforce is witnessing a reskilling exigency and it is not surprising. Pandemic is only deepening this urgency further. To stay abreast of the changing times, continued skilling, re-skilling, and upskilling opportunities and efforts are indispensable. According to an intriguing report by McKinsey, over 100 million workers in the world’s eight leading economies, including the U.S., the U.K., China, Germany, Japan, Spain, France and India, will need a change in their professions by the year 2030.
Global Chairman of PwC, Bob Moritz says: "Even before COVID-19, the rise of automation and digitization was transforming global job markets, resulting in the very urgent need for large-scale upskilling and reskilling. Now, this need has become even more important."
Managing Director of World Economic Forum, Saadia Zahidi says: "Millions of jobs have been lost through the pandemic, while accelerating automation and digitization mean that many are unlikely to return. We need new investments in the jobs of tomorrow, the skills people need for moving into these new roles and education systems that prepare young people for the new economy and society."
India Country Manager of LinkedIn, Ashutosh Gupta says: "Skills are expected to become the new professional 'currency' this year as workers from different generations rely on learning new skills to future-proof their careers, at a time when industries continue to strengthen their remote operations". He adds: “Reimagining employee skills and roles to welcome the post-pandemic ways of working will be crucial to building resilience for companies across sectors”.
Research studies suggest that professional skills are fast becoming obsolete. Today skills have an estimated ‘half-life’ of about 5 years, while the more technical skills are at just 2.5 years. The short shelf-life of technical skills means an unceasing effort to re-skill is required to stay relevant. In today’s digital era, it implies there is an urgent need for those in the labor force to evolve their knowledge and skill on an ongoing basis to make the right decisions and stay relevant. Isn’t it? There is a pressing demand on us to be even more productive and innovative in times to come. As such, we should consider the ‘spirit to learn’ (embrace lifelong learning) as one of the top skills in itself.
In his book ‘Wise Guy’, Guy Kawasaki, Chief Evangelist Canva (Ex-Chief Evangelist Apple) writes: “The key to career success is to acquire unique skills that are valuable. Unique skills that aren’t valuable don’t matter. Valuable skills that aren’t unique don’t set you apart. Life is good when you are unique and valuable, so be the best at something that’s in demand.”
He also urges those in or entering the workforce to adopt a growth mindset: “Learning is a process, not an event. It doesn’t end when you complete your formal education. If you’ve ‘got it made’, risk your self-image and pride by trying something you’re not good at. No matter how much you know, you can still learn more. The more you learn, the more you learn (and earn).”
Image Credits: Gerd Altmann , Evgeni Tcherkasski , Oberholster Venita , Pete Linforth ,Prashant Sharma , and Jan Kosmowski on Pixabay ; Balint Horvath on ResearchGate.net