Learnability, the most important skill for our future

Back in 1980’s, Herzberg explained how our job should have an inherent element of learning and development. He termed it as “Job Enrichment” and explained that a job should be like a Concentric Circles; where in the person is hired with the skill to do the inner most circle but expected to do the work represented by the outer most circle. This makes learning an integrated part of our job.

Sugata Mitra, in his famous Ted Talk in 2014 excellently explains that the education system which we still use till date was developed by the Victorian Empire, where the need was to create and develop identical work force who can read, write and calculate exactly in the same way so anyone can be deployed anywhere across the globe and they can be operational immediately. But today the empire is gone and we are still using that system when we have a completely different challenge in our hands. Most executive or clerical tasks are now being done by machines or software and the key skill which is now expected from successful individuals is creativity and innovation, ability to think and do differently.

Sir Michael Mortiz chairman of Sequoia Capital in his keynote speech in September 2013 explained how the head count of modern day companies such as Google and Apple are much smaller than companies such as GE and Ford Motors. This is happening because human beings are being replaced by machines. It is also happening because general business activities such as Payroll, Learning and Development, Taxation, Recruitment, Travel Management etc., are being outsourced to specialized companies who use technology & specialist to perform the work much efficiently and economically than having this units built into an organization. So the organizations of today are more focused on their core business and not on these support services. Also due to rise of technology; especially the internet, people are working from anywhere across the globe and their services are being used on demand and being paid for these services. These organizations or individuals are not only providing their services, they are also continuously researching and learning better means of doing their work.

What is a common picture all these brilliant people are painting in front of us? It is that gone are the days where a college degree can guarantee you a successful career all your life! Our lives are becoming so dynamic and so does our work place that the skill you have today can be obsolete in few years down the line. No one needs an audio cassette manufacturing company or employees anymore. The role of postal services has been diminishing ever since the birth of the internet and email. The typists had to upgrade themselves to learn computers or else disappear in past. The blackberry developers had to cross train themselves to other mobile platforms such as Android or iOS to be in the job market. The list is endless.

This has given rise to a concept called “Learnability”. According to the Collins English Dictionary it means “The quality of being learnable”. In simpler terms it’s the desire and ability to quickly grow and adapt one’s skill set to remain employable throughout their working life. The success of an individual now depends not only on how skilled he/she are today but more importantly how learnable they are to new skills!

When a storm hits a forest the trees which are not ready to bent or swing are uprooted. But the ones who are ready to swing and adapt survive. The same now applies to all of us.

Be Learnable or be history!

Technologist, Investor, Writer