Competencies of the future – the ability of deep work

However, the ability to perform deep work is becoming scarcer, while its value to our economy increases. Therefore, the few who acquire this skill and make it the basis of their working life will be successful.

Predicting future solutions

Longtime president of Walt Disney, Bob Iger, during his lectures, often emphasized how extremely important in building a great brand it is to “stand with one foot in the present and the other in the future.” Every manager must be focused on the current activities of the organization as well as on the current external economic circumstances. All these activities are important in the context of the company’s success. But just as important is “creating the future in the moment of now” it is also true that we cannot physically be anywhere else but in the present, and our current way of thinking about the future depends to a large extent on our current choices and actions. Hence, it becomes so important to look to the future as far as possible, plan the long-term direction in which my business is going, as well as plan steps to achieve the desired results. But what if the future after the pandemic is not clear? And the unknown can be scary. It is worth considering the answers to the following questions: Where are the entire industry and related sectors headed? What are the conditions for business today and what conditions for business may arise over months and years?

What is the manager’s role at present and what competencies should a top manager have after a pandemic?

To help find answers to these questions, the manager can analyze current trends such as assumptions of the fourth industrial revolution. According to Klaus Schwab, the author of this term and the founder and president of the World Economic Forum, whether we like it or not, at the turn of the century, we began to participate in the process of further, powerful changes in the world.

Revolution 4.0

At the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, people experienced the first industrial revolution, based on hydro and steam energy, which mechanized production in the industry. The second industrial revolution used electricity, and the light bulb became its symbol. The third revolution came with the introduction of computers to industry and the automation of processes. The fourth revolution is based on intelligent, connected technology not only inside the organization but also in everyday life. Its essence is the transfer of most decisions from the hands of people to the competence of machines, and the blurring of the boundaries between what is biological and what is digital. The main driving forces of these changes are, among others: the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, autonomous vehicles, and advanced robotization.1

As a result of these trends, new business models or breakthrough innovations appear that accelerate changes in the customer value chain, e.g. in the production system, transport, or delivery methods. These trends also have a big impact on societies and cultures. Therefore, we cannot pretend that these changes will somehow bypass us. Failure to react to them can mean for the company that it will be lagged, or even be excluded. The industrial revolution will also force another strong trend in the process of educating managers or ways of thinking in business, as well as leading the organization.

Practice skills that require deep thinking

We live in an era of constant distraction from things that require cognitive effort. We use “instinctive” and easy-to-use devices, computer programs. We write less and less and use faster computers instead. As a result, we are also more likely to do easier and shallow things that do not require memorization or the ability to infer cause and effect.

According to MIT economists Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, technology is moving forward, but many of our organizational skills and methods are lagging2. We notice that the technology is getting more and more refined. The gap between human and machine skills is starting to widen. Employers may also be more likely to hire new, less-maintainable technologies instead of people. Therefore, to be an attractive employee and to deliver high value for the organization all the time, a manager needs the ability to quickly learn new and often difficult things. In other words, to be successful you need to do a lot more than average, and this requires in-depth work, thinking, and concentration.

The new face of a personal brand?

Deep work is professional activities performed in a state of concentration with the maximum use of cognitive abilities. These activities create new value, foster skill improvement, and are difficult to repeat.3 An example may be creating various scenarios or future consequences resulting from current decisions, writing a doctoral dissertation, article or creating completely new solutions in company management. However, the ability to perform deep work is becoming scarcer, while its value to our economy increases. Therefore, the few who acquire this skill and make it the basis of their working life will be successful.4

Thanks to above-average skills, difficult to repeat and developed through a deep commitment of the mind, we can increase the demand for our services in our specialization and thus will turn us from highly qualified employees to “superstars”. During the pandemic, thanks to communication tools, distance doesn’t matter anymore so much, and new technologies made it possible to work with the other side of the world without leaving your salon. It is more and more profitable for companies to employ “superstars” in their industry from the farthest corners of the world. What counts is the skills and solutions proposed by eminent specialists. It is important to develop your ability to learn complex things and to develop solutions of the highest quality in terms of quality and speed.5

A prerequisite for success is also high communication skills, which are one of the key elements of a personal brand because every idea, product, or idea needs to be well connected with the recipient. Good communication is another manager’s competence, thanks to which he can successfully develop his brand and find himself more effectively in the new economic reality.

1. K. Schwab, The Fourth Industrial Revolution
2. E. Brynjolfsson, A. McAfee, Race against the machine 
3.4.5. C. Newport, Deep work

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