New industrial revolution will change everything in your workplace

Brace yourself for another Industrial Revolution.

It combines artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics in fields as diverse as manufacturing, genetics and biotechnology. And this Fourth Industrial Revolution will forever change the way humans live, work and relate with each other.

With technological disruption affecting almost every industry, what will become of human work? And more importantly, what skills will be the most important? The World Economic Forum’s The Future of Jobs report provides an inventory of 10 skills it deems imperative for 2020 and beyond. They might surprise you.

10. Cognitive flexibility

Imagine that your brain is a Cirque du Soleil training facility. Now imagine that all your modes of thinking are like the balance beams, rings, trampolines and parallel bars. How quickly and nimbly you can swing, jump, leap and spin between these modes of thought is your cognitive flexibility. As the Fourth Industrial Revolution continues, mental agility in seeing new patterns and quickly adjusting to make sense of those will be indispensable.

9. Negotiation

As artificial intelligence (AI) takes over more jobs, social skills will become increasingly important, in part because humans will be forced to work more closely with one another.

8. Service orientation

Service orientation speaks to our ability to look for ways to help people. And in the context of the future of work, this will mean that employees (and companies) who can anticipate and fulfil customer needs will be the ones who will succeed.

7. Judgment and decision-making

Big data will dominate the future, and employees’ ability to sift through massive amounts of information and come up with tangible, decisive actions will become increasingly important.

6. Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is made up of four parts: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management.

In 2013, a Hay Group study found that 44 Fortune 500 companies with salespeople with high EQ produced twice the revenue of those with average or below average scores. A recent Dallas Corp. study found that productivity among its highest-scoring EQ employees was 20 times greater than among its lowest.

5. Co-ordinating with others

Collaboration is crucial in any work environment and, at least for now, is something that humans are better at than robots.

4. People management

As promising as automation might be for efficiency and economies of scale, AI will never replace human interaction. That is why in the future, the managers (and their companies) who will thrive will be the ones who know how to effectively motivate their teams.

As I wrote in last month’s article, this comes down to six elements: shared purpose, emotional intelligence, healthy conflict, transparent communication, uncompromised trust and collaborative ecosystems.

3. Creativity

As World Economic Forum senior writer Alex Gray explains, “With the avalanche of new products, new technologies and new ways of working, employees are going to have to become more creative in order to benefit from these changes. Robots may help us get to where we want to be faster, but they can’t be as creative as humans [yet].”

Creativity, as Gray describes it, is the ability to connect the dots across large data sets and interpret them in new and innovative ways. If you can do this, you will be in high demand in the future.

2. Critical thinking

The U.S. National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking defines critical thinking as the “intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.”

For now, humans who possess this skill will be in high demand. But beware! IBM’s supercomputer Watson and its legal-savvy companion ROSS are not too far behind humans in the critical thinking department.

1. Complex problem solving

In a world filled with increasingly difficult, incomplete or contradictory terms (think climate change, for example) having the mental elasticity to solve problems the world has never seen before in a landscape that is constantly changing will be one of the most valuable skills. So little wonder that it’s at the top of the World Economic Forum’s list of most desirable skills for 2020. Ironically, as robots, AI and technology take over more components of people’s lives, it is that which makes us human that will prove to be the most needed skills in the future.

Casey Miller (, president of Six and a Half Consulting, is a leadership and team development specialist.