And the top professional skill of the 21st century is …

The World Economic Forum has just published the list of the 10 skills you need to thrive in the fourth industrial revolution.

Not only do they rank these top skills in 2015 but also the ones in 2020. because they are forward thinkers. Not forward thinkers enough if you ask Stowe Boyd though, as this has ignited some sorts of arms race in terms of #FutureOfWork concepts on his blog.

Yet, for regular chaps interested in #PresentOfWork, this is solid enough work for us to draw on :

The report asked chief human resources and strategy officers from leading global employers what the current shifts mean, specifically for employment, skills and recruitment across industries and geographies.

The aim of this first episode on the topic is to help you make this pivotal information actionable for your organization. In order to do so, this post won’t supercially skim through the report adding some noise and intellectual speculations. Rather is aims at helping you thoroughly thinking it through. Don’t want to sound like patronizing but “helping you thoroughly thinking through” means asking questions. Clayton Christensen and Jason Fried both think this is the right way to understand so it might be worth giving it a try.

The objective is twofold. First, it is to help you figure out what this information does mean in the context your organisation. Second, it is for you to benchmark your organizational development strategy, to give a hard look and see if it fosters such skill development.

The second part of this blog post will come with some hints on how to develop this oh so precious skill  …

And the top professional skill is … tada !

Ladies and gentlemen put your hands together for Complex Problem Solving !

top 10 skilss

In France, in the last year of high school we learn philosophy, the first discipline we have to pass for the Baccalauréat. The first thing we are taught to do in a philosophy dissertation is to provide a clear definition of the concepts in the subject. So let’s start to try and define what we’re talking about.

What IS a problem ?

Problem Solving, likewise Collaboration, Agility or Innovation are all the craze in the world of business thinkers. Yet I can hardly remember any (bar the ones from one specific community) giving a proper definition of what we are talking about, a definition that is clear, shared, that sets the ground of a problem solving culture.

So here is my first question : what is YOUR definition of a problem ? This seems like a shallow and obvious question yet do yourself a favor and give it some thoughts. Is this definition shared among your organization ? How can you tell ? Can you think of some problems occuring last week ? How do you know these were actual problems and not corporate BS, symptoms or causes ?

This is another important question : what are the different types of problem ? How do you relate these different types of problem to your bottom line ?

What IS problem solving ?

Now that we have a problem definition, what does it mean to solve a problem ? Again this may seem obvious and shallow but please give it some of your internal CPU time.

How can you tell a problem is solved ? What is your method to solve a problem ? Is it shared across your organization ? How do you know ? What are the results of your problem solving on your business performance ?

If you don’t have any proper method to solve problem, do you think it’s OK, baring in mind that this is the #1 professional skill for your company to thrive ?

Making problems visible

These are another interesting questions : if complex problem solving is the number one professional skill to thrive in the 21st century, are the problems easily visible ? How long after they actually occur ? What is the system allowing you to make sur problems are  visible, soon enough ?

I can recall this terrible example in a startup when we found out 18 months too late that our new product was not the right one : the company died 8 months after the launch.

The first question

What is the first question asked (a crucial question to assess your organizational culture) when a problem happens ? In other word, is your company problem friendly ?

Or is it a culture of shooting the messenger ? How can you be sure it is not ? Can you think of specific examples where people came with problems and you were thankful for that ?

Problem solvers

How can you tell people in your organization are problem solvers ? Can you think of a specific individual as an example of a problem solver ? How does she proceed ? What is her method ? Go back to your definition of a problem and of problem solving : is this person really a problem solver ?

What is your HR strategy regarding problem solving ? How do you recruit problem solvers ? What are the steps of the recruitment process telling you that they are actual problem solvers ? How can you tell it works ? Is there any example of failure in this process ? What was the reason why ? What are the best degrees showing that people are problem solvers ? What is best type of track record ? What is the types of answers from candidate making you think they are problem solvers ?

How do you develop these skills in your company ? How can you tell if people improve as problem solvers ? Is this problem solving skill spread throughout your organization ? How can you tell a manager is aproblem solver ? An executive ?

Think it through

In the second part of this post, we’ll be back with some precise and clear answers for all the questions above. In the meantime, we strongly recommend you to deeply think these  questions through, alone or, even better, with the people of your team. That will be the first step in developing this skill in your organization.


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