Visuality

The Practice & Art of Thinking


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Announcing SenseCatcher Problem-Solving Software

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You might have noticed that I have not being blogging for awhile. The reason is that I have been very busy with the final touches of our new visual problem solving software that will be launching soon. There is quite a bit involved in launching software and this includes the website. I am hoping that the launch will be within the next 2-3 months.

This blog will also change in look. It will be integrated with the website but you will still be able to access it via the old link.

I am also busy writing a white paper and possibly an e-book on problem solving /visual thinking and the software.

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If you are interested in being notified when the software will be launched and/or if you want to receive our free e-book/white paper, head over to SenseCatcher.com and leave your email address. Your personal details will be kept confidential, don’t worry.

You might be interested to know what the software does. Briefly, SenseCatcher is a visual tool that will enable you to unlock and make sense of complex problems or situations and harness the power of visual thinking to target core issues with ease and confidence every time. Often we are overloaded with ideas, documents, spreadsheets, half-finished proposals and so on.

SENSE CATCHER ORGANISES THIS CLUTTER VISUALLY. Your screen becomes a high-tech feltboard, with high-impact imagery and smart tools so you can attach links, recordings, notes etc and also generate coloured heatmaps that make the big issues stand out. Doesn’t matter what industry or sector you are from, SenseCatcher will help to visualize the problem-situation more dynamically than using PostIt notes or mindmaps.

I’ll let you know more about the features of the software closer to launch. Meanwhile, head over to SenseCatcher.com to register your interest.

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Essential Skills for 2025 – A Case for Liberal Arts Education – Part 2

In this post, I look at some key drivers that will change the nature of work. New core skills will be required for individuals to fully engage and be involved in delivering the needs to sustain the new economic environment.

None of the drivers should be a surprise to us. If we have been paying attention to recent developments, we should recognise them. Here are the key drivers:

  1. Emergence of smart machines;
  2. Longevity of the population;
  3. New media;
  4. Imbedded technology;
  5. Global connectedness; and
  6. New Organisational structures.

 

Emergence of smart machines.

In Gartner’s 2013 CEO survey, it is predicted that smart machines will have widespread and deep business impact within seven years (i.e. by 2020).

“Job destruction will happen at a faster pace with machine-driven job elimination overwhelming the market’s ability to create valuable new ones.” (Kenneth Brant). Machines are changing from automating basic tasks to becoming advanced self-learning systems, mimicking the human brain and becoming as capable as humans in many highly specialized occupations. We are about to experience the biggest technological shift in recent times according to Brant.

We should not be surprised. Just look at the rapid advances in 3-D printing (see previous post here). It is predicted that in the next few years, we will see smart machines being used in the home; offices (that is if they still exist); supermarkets; and factories. Basically, they will be integrated into all human activities (teaching, production, military, security, medicine etc).

In some areas of our lives, smart machines will replace humans (as discussed in the previous post) particularly in middle-skilled occupations. In other areas, machines will assist humans by becoming our ‘collaborators’ and enhancing our own skills – there will be increasing co-dependence between humans and machine.

The question we need to consider is what distinguishes humans from machines? What are humans uniquely able to do that machines cannot?

The way we work will change even more.

Longevity

Globally, the average life expectancy at birth in 1955 was just 48 years; in 1995, it was 65 years; in 2025, it will reach 73 years. By the year 2025, it is expected that no country will have a life expectancy of less than 50 years. In the US, for instance, it is estimated that by 2025, the number of Americans over 60 will increase by 70%.

The infographic below highlights the problem of changing demographics -people living longer with a falling birth rate, as is the current situation in Germany.

Image by siddharthdasari, gppai, silvia.recalcati (hyperlink), cropped by Rui Martins.

Image by siddharthdasari, gppai, silvia.recalcati (hyperlink), cropped by Rui Martins.

We will need to re-conceptualize what old age means, as well as what one does with all these years of life.

Individuals need to rethink their careers and people will work longer so as to have adequate resources for their longer retirement. People will need to consider further education to accommodate the changing work environment. In fact, lifelong learning will be a must and most probably people will have multiple careers. Occupational change will be a huge industry.

The shift towards a healthy lifestyle started quite a while ago. It will increase to the point that it will dominate our thinking and decision-making – the global economy will be viewed through this lens. People will demand a more holistic work-play balance.

New media

Various new media technologies are emerging and, as a result, we will see transformations in how we communicate. As technologies such as video, media editing, gaming and augmented reality become more sophisticated, we will see new ecosystems emerge around these areas.

The early Internet was text-based but this is rapidly changing and becoming more visual. This trend is just the beginning. We will see a massive shift towards the acceptance and recognition of visuality as a powerful way to communicate, think and make sense of our world.

In parallel, virtual networks are merging with our lives and bringing the new media into our daily experiences. Together with vast amounts of user generated content, this will have an impact on our culture, cognition and how we perceive reality.

The networks will enable individuals to work virtually and allow for collaboration with people we might never meet in person.

Individuals will have online personas and issues of personal reputation and identity management will have to be carefully considered. Our sensibility toward reality and what truth is will change due to new media.

We will need to develop acute critical thinking skills in relation to content and recorded events, particularly in deciphering how to interpret and make sense of events seen from multiple points of view.

Imbedded technology

Image bu Alexis Martin.

Image bu Alexis Martin.

The diffusion of technology such as sensors into everyday objects and environments will create an avalanche of data. Google has just purchased Nest Labs, which specialise in home automation, sensors and data collection. Without a doubt, they will be moving into an ever-widening array of devices aimed at delivering security, convenience and entertainment; smartphone-enabled security cameras, smart appliances, wearable monitors for children or elderly relatives etc. This is just tapping the potential for an “internet of things” that links every device imaginable in the home.

People will require different skills and an ability to make sense of their new environments. Machines will take over the mundane repetitive jobs, whilst humans will still be required to do the thinking.

It will be the dawn of an era of “everything is programmable”—an era of thinking about the world in computational, programmable, designable terms. Creativity will be a skill that all of us must possess.

The enormous amount of data will allow us to model systems to extreme scales. We will be able to operate at macro and micro levels as well as uncover and surface patterns and relationships that are currently invisible.

We will be able to plan our route to a destination and avoid traffic jams based on real-time data. We will be able to visualize levels of complexity by meshing the micro and macro scale models. As a result, whatever activity we might be involved with, our work and personal lives will demand us to have the skills to interact with data, see patterns in data, make data-based decisions, and use data to design for desired outcomes. This requires some serious sophistication in thinking and the ability to articulate questions that drive problem solving.

A recent article from FastCompany lists “15 Tech Trends That Will Define 2014” (I list a few):

  • Drones. Everywhere
  • Mind Control
  • Augmented Reality
  • Self-Driving Cars
  • Data, Rich And Full Of Value
  • The Consumer Will Own Data
A TV drone flies beside Canada's Erick Guay during the second practice of the men's Alpine skiing World Cup downhill race at the Lauberhorn in Wengen, January 12, 2012. Reuters

A TV drone flies beside Canada’s Erick Guay during the second practice of the men’s Alpine skiing World Cup downhill race at the Lauberhorn in Wengen, January 12, 2012. Reuters

Global connectedness

In many ways, “globalisation” is a trend that we feared but has now entered into our vocabulary and we are simply making sense of it. It is a long-term trend aimed at facilitating exchanges between countries around the globe. Today, in our highly interdependent world, no-one holds a monopoly on innovation. We see amazing activities taking place in the developing world and innovations aimed at markets other than the US and Europe.

This has shifted the notion of one-size fits all. Diversity, adaptability, research and development have now become the steady focus of business.

New Organisational structures

The question of how to create value is always an important concern for any organisation. Traditionally, this happened in large organisations but, with the rise of social media platforms and tapping into resources embedded in social connections, we can do things outside of organisational boundaries and possibly produce greater value by tapping into a new level of greater ‘intelligence’.

We are able to connect, collaborate and play at extreme scales – from the micro to the global. It is imperative that one learns to use these new social tools to work, to invent and manage – operating at these unfamiliar scales is what the next few decades will require from individuals.

Ramón Rivera says that new organizational concepts and work skills is emerging not from traditional management theories, but from fields such as game design, neuroscience and psychology. These fields will drive the creation of new training paradigms and tools of the future. Universities for instance, will have to rethink their offerings and reconsider their century-old organizational structures.

Skills for the future

Image source unknown.

Image source unknown.

The fundamental skill is the ability to think. In reality, this is not so easy to do. Nor is it easy to think particularly well, systematically and with rigor. I will explore this in the next post. Apart from thinking, which is the ‘umbrella’ skill, there are other aspects of thinking skills that people need to develop and become very good at, as these will be essential for taking advantage of the future work landscape:

  • Novel and adaptive thinking – expertise at thinking and coming up with solutions beyond that which is repetitive or rule-based;
  • Sensemaking – the ability to establish the deeper meaning or significance of what is being expressed (see Wikipedia – particularly Weick);
  • Social intelligence – ability to connect to others in a deep and direct way and to effectively negotiate complex social relationships and environments;
  • Cross -cultural competency – ability to operate in different cultural settings;
  • Visual thinking – ability to translate vast amounts of data into abstract concepts and to understand data-based reasoning;
  • Media literacy – ability to critically assess and develop content that uses new media forms and to leverage these media for persuasive communication;
  • Transdisciplinarity – literacy in and ability to understand concepts across multiple disciplines ; and
  • Design mindset or Design Thinking – the ability to combine empathy for the context of a problem, creativity in the generation of insights and solutions, and rationality to analyze and fit solutions to the context (see previous post).

In my next post, I will outline why a liberal Arts approach to education is essential for the future.