“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” – Stephen Hawking
Every now and then I get a question where I completely understand what they’re after but it’s framed in a way where I can’t help myself from questioning its validity.
This time the question was something like: “What skills will be most valuable in the future? And don’t give me some spiritual bullshit like ‘being able to adapt’…”
I get it. They’re after some tangible hard skills. But I’m curious why the “ability to change” is considered “spiritual bullshit” since it’s the reason mankind (warts and all) has arrived at its current state?
The truth is that things do change.
You can look at answers like coding, interpersonal skills, technical skills, etc, but those things can change tomorrow. Something unforeseen happens and all the skills you’ve picked up are null and void.
What do you do? Do you sit down, cry and moan about how everything you’ve prepared for and learned just went down the drain?
Those things aren’t all useless. I mean, you’ve gained valuable experience and insights. But what you need to do is to adapt. Adapt as fast as you can.
The world doesn’t care that you spent the last 15 years educating yourself in whatever. It doesn’t care that you owe hundreds of thousands in student loans and have a degree that’s no longer as useful.
Sorry, the world just doesn’t care.
I’m not saying this to be mean. I’m saying this so that someone might read it and go: “Hm, well… I might want to reconsider my options.”
People can listen to what everyone else is saying and attempt to predict the future, but nobody knows for certain what the most valuable skills and characteristics will be in 2020.
Right now people are predicting that VR is going to be huge, that the economy’s going to do this or that, and the end of manual labor with robots taking over those tasks.
Alright, eventually technology will likely be cheaper and more effective than human beings. That’s almost a given.
I don’t mean we should ignore those things if we’re in that field. However, we shouldn’t be so blinded by projections of the future that we can’t accept that something might come out of left field and upend our businesses and careers.
Look at the history of Blockbuster, Kodak, Borders, Pan Am, and to a certain extent the music industry.
All situations where they failed to adapt.
Alright, perhaps it was time for them to step aside and leave room for the next thing. But they didn’t need to. They were more than capable of innovation and change.
The question is, why didn’t they? Culture? Stubbornness? A lack of interest?
We can do an in depth autopsy to understand all the pieces that were at play. But the bottom line is that for one reason or another they failed to adapt.
Now, to balance this rant out here’s a short list of what the experts at World Economic Forum project the most valued skills in 2020 will be.
And what if they aren’t?
Well, there’s a backup plan.
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