Becoming Futureproof. 5 Vital Traits of Adaptable Professionals.

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The Speedup was a practice in the early automobile industry, where factory owners would aim to increase productive output per worker, without increasing wages, to generate higher profit margins.

Factory managers would use tactics like setting ever-higher daily production goals, increasing line speeds, retiming jobs, and even using foremen to intimidate workers to extract more production.

“Under the Speedup System, each time a job is made slightly over 100 percent efficiency, it is retimed. Speed, more speed, and the impossible is expected”. — Automobile Labor Board, 1934

Fast forward to today.


A New Kind Of Professional

I believe we are in the middle of another speedup. One of a more technological kind.

Rapid development of software, machine learning, and artificial intelligence on top of new apps, platforms, and devices is creating a dynamic, but unpredictable work environment.

And this environment requires a new kind of professional.

Think about it. Has your work changed over the last couple of years?

New demands, new processes, new technologies, new skills — all of which you are now required to know, and use on a daily basis.

I see this often with students in my marketing courses. The vast majority are well-experienced professionals whose jobs now demand knowledge of the latest digital marketing practices, tools, and software. From influencer marketing and predictive analytics to IoT and marketing automation.

Some of these didn’t even exist five years ago (at the time of this writing).

And so it comes down to making a decision.

Some will choose to think “I know enough,” and try their best to keep things stable and safe. Specialists with deep knowledge of a single subject, experts with years of experience, leaders invested in stalwart industries.

Others will (perhaps reluctantly) embrace change, new ideas and reinvent themselves. They will scan the environment, culture, society, and technology. They’ll notice what needs to be done and get started. These are the futureproof, adaptable professionals.


5 Traits of Adaptable Professionals

About six years ago, I planned to interview one hundred people over the age of 75 to preserve and share their stories, knowledge, and insights.

Project fizzled out due to lack of funding… but we did get to interview Jack, an 83-year-old who was an English pilot in WW2, then became a doctor, then moved to Canada, then became an associate professor of medicine, then retired, and then wrote three books.

Here was someone who experienced extreme changes in the world. Going from The Speedup to Tesla and Mars One.

The reason I want to point your attention to Jack is that he is over 80 years old, and is more adaptable than some of our business and political leaders today.

There are five common traits that Jack and others with long, productive and meaningful careers share:

  1. Lifelong learners. Driven by personal and professional curiosity, they continually seek experiences and opportunities to improve their knowledge and skills. This often means reading, taking courses, and discussing ideas with a circle of like-minded friends.
  2. Problem solvers. They believe every obstacle has a way through, and every problem has a solution. It’s an unshakeable core belief that makes them invaluable as professionals, entrepreneurs, and visionary leaders.
  3. Quitters. One of the ways they adapt to change is by letting go of thinking, technology, and processes that are no longer useful. When there is a better solution, they let go of the banana.
  4. Cross-disciplinarians. They will often have side-projects, passion projects, hobbies and interests that allow them to expand their knowledge and skill-set laterally. They are often seen as innovative because they cross-pollinate ideas and approaches from different industries.
  5. Ruminators. There is a strong element of self-reflection. They will often pause to review progress, limitations, advantages, and learnings in the spirit of constant, continual improvement. After every reflection, the bar is set higher for the next day.


Change Is Coming Fast

A month ago, I spoke at a university about future technologies, and what I believe their impact will be on our workforce, economy, and everyday life.

We talked about Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, Internet of Things, Privacy, Security and a few other ideas.

These are just a few disruptive forces coming to shake up stalwart industries, completely redefine what work is, and what skills we will need as professionals in this new, modern environment.

Industries will fold. Businesses will get more lean and agile. Economies will have to bend to the forces of innovation and necessity.

You and I will have to make a decision.

Try to prevent and manage change, or embrace it, adapt, and thrive.

Photos by Ayo Ogunseinde on Unsplash

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