Learning on the Fly: Rapid Tech Shift Requires a New Type of Thinker

In Technology by Daniel Newman1 Comment

If you study the sciences–especially in computing, networking, or marketing–you’re probably aware that things are changing at an astonishing pace. But truth be told, for most educators, there is an even bigger challenge: making sure that what they teach in school remains relevant long enough to get their students into the workforce. As crazy as this sounds, it’s true, and it’s opening up a new type of education and a whole new opportunity for those who can do one thing: learn on the fly.

Before we get on to that discussion, let’s explore how the changing business mindset has triggered the need for agile learning.

Businesses are Turning More Agile

For the past several decades, businesses have been able to operate with limited digital efficiency for a number of reasons. First, businesses could get away with treating technology as “nice to have” rather than as a necessity. Secondly, for many years, most business technologies were seen as luxury items fit for deep-pocketed organizations and not solutions for businesses of all sizes. As a result, technology was something small to midsize businesses felt they could safely afford to ignore. Today, the scenario is vastly different. Businesses are under constant pressure to keep up with rapid-fire changes in technology, and the reality of the business environment is that they must either evolve or face the reality that their business likely will stagnate and perish.

Business outcomes hinge on agile leaders and executives who can easily adapt in a constantly changing world. And their teams need to be equally as adaptable and agile, whether they are seasoned professionals or recent graduates. As new technology presents increasingly complex challenges, businesses demand digital expertise in order to allow them to not only get ahead of the curve, but also to stay competitive.

Keeping Your Skill Set Current Can Be Key to Keeping Your Job

Small and midsize companies can’t afford to not keep up with technology, and neither can enterprise-level companies. This past fall, IBM notified employees, who it had determined needed additional training, they were required to step up their technological game, and that they would receive only 90% of their salary while embarking upon this additional training. Talk about an incentive to stay on top of changes in technology ! According to the article in the New York Times covering this move, some IBM workers received an email letting them know that an assessment had determined certain members of the team had “not kept pace with acquiring the skills and expertise needed to address changing client needs, technology and market requirements.” While some criticized the move, the reality is that employees can no longer be complacent when it comes to their grasp of technology and how to use it to help their businesses grow. That’s something to keep in mind, for sure, whether you’re just embarking on a career or whether you’re already in the workforce and want to make sure you have the skills you need to stay marketable.

The Modern Worker Needs to Be Constantly Learning

As you can see, agility is the new recipe for organizational success and a key career differentiator. A 2014 study by the Korn Ferry Institute shows individuals with high learning agility or speed of learning are being promoted twice as fast as individuals with low learning agility. It also found that companies with highly agile executives enjoy 25% higher profit margins than their peer group. It’s not surprising that many Fortune 500 companies are looking at learning agility as a critical factor in their hiring processes.

In fact, Accenture’s chief HR officer, Ellyn Shook, stressed the importance of a constantly learning workforce in a recent article in HR Magazine: “Our staff are having to adapt to new technologies and even to changing work environments […] our people need to have learning agility so they stay current and also have the ability to reinvent themselves.”

Businesses are giving up the learn-it-yourself approach that they once attributed to the few ambitious and enthusiastic employees, since learning is no longer a choice. They are taking a more strategic approach toward training their employees and encouraging them to learn as they go. Specialized firms like Korn Ferry are helping organizations identify and develop agile learners by using a variety of tools and resources.

Where Things are Headed

In the future, as work continues to become more dynamic, technology continues to evolve the world of business, and the skills that companies need change even faster, the people who can seamlessly go from one assignment to the next will have the staying power that many specialists do not.

In terms of technology, new solutions are quickly replacing old ones. This change creates a growing need for a workforce that can leverage the newest tools, while managing the change that is an inevitable result. The business landscape is quickly becoming a playground for a new breed of workers – curious, quick thinkers who perform successfully under new and challenging situations.

I’m compensated by University of Phoenix for this blog. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Daniel Newman is the Principal Analyst of Futurum Research and the CEO of Broadsuite Media Group. Living his life at the intersection of people and technology, Daniel works with the world’s largest technology brands exploring Digital Transformation and how it is influencing the enterprise. From Big Data to IoT to Cloud Computing, Newman makes the connections between business, people and tech that are required for companies to benefit most from their technology projects, which leads to his ideas regularly being cited in CIO.Com, CIO Review and hundreds of other sites across the world. A 5x Best Selling Author including his most recent “Building Dragons: Digital Transformation in the Experience Economy,” Daniel is also a Forbes, Entrepreneur and Huffington Post Contributor. MBA and Graduate Adjunct Professor, Daniel Newman is a Chicago Native and his speaking takes him around the world each year as he shares his vision of the role technology will play in our future.