The robots are coming and you better be prepared. They might not wipe out humanity, but they will certainly be gunning for your job.

In a world where artificial intelligence and robots will be able to carry out many of the tasks currently done by humans, a special set of skills will allow a certain set of people to thrive.

Yeah you guessed it. These skills are Renaissance Man skills. The time of the expert-generalist has come.

The importance of being able to take in lots of information from various sources and then apply it in different ways will only rise. The people who are able to do this effectively will be rewarded.

With the world changing at the speed of light and becoming more and more unpredictable, the ability to work in a multi-disciplinary and agile way will make a person anti-fragile. Their value will skyrocket.

The key will be to make sense of things quickly, and then embark on a course of action. You will have to take in information, determine what it means, and then make a decision based on this information.

What skills and abilities are necessary for this?

Take in information stage: curiosity, know how to deal with information (especially in an era of information overload and fake news).

Determine what it means stage: creativity, abstract thinking skills, critical thinking, logical reasoning.

Make a decision: problem solving skills, emotional intelligence (not fall for biases).

Joseph Aoun, educator and author of the book “Robot-Proof: Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence” believes that the way to be able to do all this is to change the way you learn.

He proposed a new curriculum which is based on life-long learning and called it “humanics”. This involves an integration of technical and non-technical skills. A set of technical literacies (like working with data, and other technical skills), should be complemented with a set of human literacies (like creativity and psychology).

“When I talk to business leaders, they tell me that they are seeking people with strong technical skills. But most of them quickly add that they also would give their right arm for more systems thinkers—“quarterbacks” who can lead diverse teams by seeing across disciplines to analyze them in an integrated way. And every student should be culturally agile, able to communicate across boundaries, and think ethically.”

The way you will get ahead is if you construct a learning curriculum for yourself, which will combine different skills, abilities and knowledge areas.

All these things are very relevant for each other. Knowledge is a set of facts and theories that serve as the fundamental inputs for skills.

If you want to apply skills in order to do a certain activity, then you need to have a certain amount of knowledge in order to do that.

Skills can be subdivided into generic cross-functional skills, and technical skills.

Generic skills consist of two types: cognitive (to do with information-processing and problem-solving), and non-cognitive skills (social skills like giving presentations and behavioral skills like perseverance). These can be easily transferred from one job to another.

Technical skills on the other hand, usually consist of job-specific skills and cannot be transferred so easily.

Abilities are the capabilities (physical or mental) that are needed in order to perform a job.

Which knowledge areas, skills and abilities do you need for future work and how do you get them? We will use the O*NET groupings of skills (and their definitions) in order to examine this further.

The first thing that you need is to know how to learn. This came up as a highly important skill among the various surveys, but is also fundamental if you want to be able to improve your skills and knowledge.

Special category (Learning): learning strategies, instructing, active learning, education and training.

  • Active learning: Understand the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.
  • Learning strategies: Selecting and using training/instructional methods and procedures appropriate for the situation when learning or teaching new things.
  • Education and training: Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.
  • Instructing: Teaching others how to do something.

How do you get these skills? Learning is a complex process. First you will need to identify what things you need to learn and then come up with a strategy to learn them. In this blog, I will try to start focusing a bit more on different learning strategies and methods.

A good place to start is by reading about the strategies that a former chess master and champion martial artist used in order to learn his skills:

Josh Waitzkin and his art of learning.

Then you can follow that up by reading about the most effective learning strategies:

10 Learning Techniques Rated According To A Scientific Study.

Skills: systems evaluation, systems analysis, complex problem solving, critical thinking, judgement and decision-making, coordination, monitoring.

  • Critical thinking: Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.
  • Complex problem solving: Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.
  • Judgement and decision-making: considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one
  • Coordination: Adjusting actions in relation to others actions.
  • Monitoring: Monitoring/assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
  • Systems evaluation: Identifying measures or indicators of system performance and the actions needed to improve or correct performance, relative to the goals of the system.
  • Systems analysis: Determining how a system should work and how changes in conditions, operations, and the environment will affect outcomes.

To learn more about critical thinking and problem solving, start by reading these articles:

How to be a critical thinker and develop your mental powers.

Bayesian thinking and thinking in probabilities.

A short lesson on first-principles thinking.

Abilities: originality, fluency of ideas, deductive reasoning, inductive reasoning.

  • Fluency of ideas: The ability to come up with a number of ideas about a topic (the number of ideas is important, not their quality, correctness, or creativity).
  • Originality: The ability to come up with unusual or clever ideas about a given topic or situation, or to develop creative ways to solve a problem.
  • Deductive reasoning: The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.
  • Inductive reasoning: The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).
  • Problem sensitivity: The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing there is a problem.
  • Information ordering: The ability to arrange things or actions in a certain order or pattern according to a specific rule or set of rules (ex. Patterns of numbers, letters, words, pictures, mathematical operations).

The ability to combine information is the key to some of the skills on critical thinking that are outlined above. It is also incredibly important for being able to analyze systems.

Read these articles to get you started:

Combinatorial knowledge is the key to many innovations – find out how to apply it.

How to combine building blocks of knowledge and come up with great ideas.

Knowledge: psychology, sociology and anthropology.

There are many knowledge areas that you will need to master, but there are some areas that are becoming more and more essential. Robots will be able to do all the routine stuff, but one thing that they will not know how to do well is to understand humans.

That’s where a human will still have added value. By learning about things like psychology, sociology and anthropology you will be able to better understand why humans do the things they do and how societies function and thereby give direction to the activities carried out by robots or other humans.

One very important finding coming out of cutting-edge psychology research is the fact that humans fall for cognitive biases. This makes them susceptible to make bad decisions and fall for things like fake news. Taking this into account can help to improve your decision making, and also be able to choose the right information among the myriad of garbage that the world is flooded with now.

In order to find out more on cognitive biases, you can read:

A short summary of my cognitive biases framework.

When making a decision, you can use this checklist in order not to check whether you are falling for cognitive biases or not:

The checklist to help you avoid cognitive biases and make better decisions.

Putting it all together

The future is unpredictable. You never know what will happen. That’s why you need to be prepared for anything.

The skills, abilities and knowledge areas that I outlined above will help you become anti-fragile in whatever happens next. By working hard on yourself, you can beat ahead of all the rest of the people that are procrastinating. In an era of robots, you can be the boss.

Read More:
The expert-generalist is making a comeback.

How to robot-proof your career.

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