The Future Mindset

In my previous post, I wrote about how Amazon’s drone delivery plan might change the way you order everything in the future. Drones are just one technology that may create thousands, even millions of jobs, within the next 20 years. How can you prepare your children – or yourself – for jobs that you can’t even imagine today?

You can’t know the exact skills, training, or experience you’ll need, but you can develop a mindset that makes you more ready for what the future holds. Here’s how.

Pick up the pace. If there’s one thing we know about the future of business, it’s that it’s moving faster and faster. In every work culture, there is a tension between people who want to get things done and the people who want to get it just right.  In the future, you won’t be able to afford the luxury of one or the other; you’ll have to get everything right and finish fast. Customer tolerance for slow response times is close to zero, and consumer loyalty is measured day by day. Your future boss will expect you to learn quickly, perform quickly and respond quickly.

Learn to thrive when things change. How do you react when things change around you? Do you groan about changing policies and struggle to learn new technologies? Not an option if you want to be considered a top performer. The average lifespan of new computer technology is 3 – 4 years, but software updates come out yearly; bug fixes come out even more often. How many times a week do your smart phone apps upgrade? You can’t afford to be the guy that grumbles about every change to his comfortable routine or who longs for the good old days. It’s essential to develop the reputation for being open to change. In fact, if your equipment is not being upgraded when everyone else’s is, that’s a very bad sign. You may be happy that you didn’t have to adjust to the latest version of Windows or learn a new mobile desktop technology, but your company may simply not view you as part of its future.

Make learning your personal responsibility. In the past, it was your employer’s job to teach you the new skills for your job. Learning was a passive process, from grade school through college and on the job. In the future, lifetime employability will mean taking responsibility for your own education. Information changes so quickly in fields like medicine and Information Technology that research and learning are part of the job. If you’re not moving your skills and knowledge forward, you’re falling behind; there is no standing still.  The same goes for regulations, polices and tax laws in many occupations. If you resist learning or feel that you shouldn’t have to spend your leisure time on work issues, you won’t be competitive in the labor market of the future.

Learn to tolerate uncertainty and ambiguity.  Steven Stosny, Ph.D., writing for Psychology Today, writes that “certainty is an emotional state, not an intellectual one.” Strong emotions, fueled by adrenaline or cortisol, make you even more certain that you are right, which explains a lot of office and family interactions. Stosny writes that, in order to feel certain, the brain must filter out much more information than it processes, adding to an already woeful error rate. “In other words, the more certain you feel, the more likely you are wrong.” He says that uncertainty, if we can tolerate it, “makes us more compassionate and more smart,” in part because we work longer at trying to understand issues and people when we are not sure about outcomes. We’re hard wired to feel anxious about not knowing what’s coming; that’s a very ancient – and effective – survival mechanism. If you can calm your anxiety, you can be more resilient in the face of change. And that’s the most essential skill for the future mindset.

“Uncertainty is an uncomfortable position. But certainty is an absurd one.” Voltaire

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