Apart form the obvious skill required to operate in our world as mentioned in the previous post, our world is changing and it is changing fast. Some of us might not perceive this, especially if we live in a quiet part of the world and surround ourselves with routine. Others see the evidence of change in more obvious ways. The truth is that change is now becoming the norm and it is exponential.
Individuals, and especially business, must keep pace. Business needs to be ahead of the game – how do they keep in front of the wave and not get caught having to play catch-up with competitors or lose market share?
We need to think differently from how we have been educated. Most education systems are like large ships; they are very difficult to manoeuvre and cannot easily adjust to change. The educational system still educates people assuming that the world is linear with predictable, negligible change. It does not understand the new paradigm we live in. We need new skills to not only understand what is surrounding us, but also to create new products, better services and be in harmony with the environment (physical and social) as it evolves around us.
These examples – illustrating an understanding of change – are interesting and the power of the dominant paradigm is obvious:
Daniel Pink’s book, A Whole New Mind, (translated into 20 languages, entertaining and easy to read), presents a very plausible message, especially in the context of change. He holds that the future belongs to a very different mind than those currently dominating society. The era of left-brain dominance (professions such as lawyers and accountants – basically anyone who loves structured environments, who tend to be dominant, prefer words and language and generally believe that trying new ways of doing things is a waste of time) is numbered.
Left-brained people have thrived because, as Weber (German sociologist) explains, the dominant mode of action has been the ‘rational’ mode in our industrial society. Where the goals in life are achieved through ‘formal rationality’, by applying quantitative procedures (accounting) to make a decision. “To the extent that formal rationality imposes order on the world through a system of measurement and calculation, it adheres to the norms of economic accounting, proficiency and practical efficacy”, as articulated by Morrison (1997). This holds because the dominant paradigm of value has been one where order on reality is strictly numerical – ‘measurement’ becomes the governing function to reach success.
The creative culture of the future (currently referred to as post-industrial society/knowledge society) will at first have to deal with resource scarcity, overpopulation and environmental degradation (problems created by the industrial society). But in parallel, post-industrial society will be exploring the growing need/demand for self-actualization, creativity and self-expression. The emerging society will be proficient at knowledge creation – the visually creative thinkers will thrive and societal values will change. The norm will be malleable responsiveness, agility, contextuality, spontaneity, creativity. Individual initiative replaces the one-size fits all, top down control and the ‘iron cage’ bureaucracy (as described by Weber).
The ‘new world’ belongs to the right-brained individuals. Pink is using the two sides of our brain as a metaphor (with some truth to it – see a previous post here) for understanding the reshaping contours of our world. The new world economy will be dominated by qualities such as inventiveness, empathy, meaning-making and the ability of individuals in solving open-ended problems. Service-dominant logic (already a major topic in innovative businesses) will become the dominant paradigm.
Individuals who will excel in the future (some would argue that we have already arrived in this new era) will have to be proficient with complex adaptive systems and the uncertain and uncomfortable world of creativity. These are underpinned by the overarching visualization ability, without which one is confined to incremental sequential and linear thinking (requirements of any industrial bureaucracy of the industrial society).
The table below has been adapted from Lusch and Vargo (conceptual lexicon of marketing). It describes the cognitive shift involved in the transition from a rational mode of thinking paradigm to a creative economy, requiring different skills and attitudes.
In the future, professions will have reduced currency. Education will have to be of the liberal arts approach. People will have to be generalists to be able to deal with the multi-dimensional aspects of problems that do not fit into single categories. Professionals (or whatever they might be referred to in the future) will have to think more conceptually. Weber referred to ‘theoretical rationality’ as the ability to impose order on reality by conceptual reasoning. Individuals do this by producing an ‘image of the world’ by means of visualized abstract concepts, something that visual-spatial thinking literacy enables people to do – a must-have to succeed in the future.