Trying to decipher how the future of work would look has become a frequent subject of discussion. Especially in the midst of the 4th Industrial Revolution, where "the continuous automation of traditional industrial practices using smart technologies" is taking place. A major part of these discussions centers around how technology is going to reshape human capital management.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the change from conventional working methods to those needing technologies. Organizations are now faced with these shifts, forcing them to prepare their workforce for this transition.
According to a McKinsey & Company article, “The future of work will require two types of changes across the workforce: up-skilling, in which staff gain new skills to help in their current roles, and re-skilling, in which staff need the capabilities to take on different or entirely new roles.”
Any successful organization has as its foundation its human capital. Hence, a prosperous future of work heavily depends on training employees both for the present and for the future. In this way, allowing them to become more adaptable to their workplace's changing demands and promote the constant upgrading of knowledge and skills.
At AcuiZen we understand that the future of work and the future of the workforce need to go hand in hand. Therefore, we make it simple to digitalize and blend work-related actions with learning interventions. Organizations benefit from rapid digitalization and data analytics to boost operational excellence, whilst individuals develop expertise on-the-job.
Given the dynamic nature of work, an important dimension that we take into consideration is the need to keep employees connected and informed. That is why we have a centralized hub where employees can access important information, messages, updates, and documents. This makes access to knowledge seamless, intuitive, and easy. The system enables employees to instantly receive and respond to notifications and update status of ongoing tasks.
The application can be accessed both on a desktop and via a mobile phone. This ensures that desk-less workers can be digitally integrated. It helps create a supportive environment in which everyone feels as though they are part of a team - even if they work remotely.
To conclude, organizations need to realize that the future of work is already here. A standalone approach is no longer efficient. If we focus on new ways of work without moving the workforce along for the journey it will most certainly be counterproductive. We need to have the workforce together with you on the journey in such a way that it is a “learn as you go” approach.
Written by Daniela Alvaran
The founder of AcuiZen, a digital application for the workforce to communicate, collaborate, and continually upskill argues that one of his biggest takeaways when researching the neuroscience behind learning was the importance of retrieval practice.
This same thought is shared by various experts in the field, including psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus. Ebbinghaus claimed that:
"With a considerable amount of repetitions, it is much more advantageous to distribute them correctly over a period of time than to group them in a single step."
In other words, arguing that the same amount of repeated study of the same information spaced out over time leads to higher long-term retention.
In today’s fast-changing world of work reskilling and upskilling has become an absolute necessity. Thus, when we apply the concept of retrieval practice it is important to note that reskilling and upskilling are not just about absorbing new information. Instead, it is about forming the neural connections between the existing and new information. This is best done by deliberately retrieving the new information from where it has been stored and by putting it in use through practice. Yet, when this is not practicable, the other option would be to incorporate some form of quizzing to assess retention. When done at spaced intervals, it aids the formation of the neural connections and cements the learning.
Moreover, JC argues that one of the main reasons for the poor return on investments from most training programs is that the emphasis is almost always on the provision of information, ticking the boxes, and maybe issuing a certificate. The result of these approaches is that organizations end up training or certifying individuals who are not ready for the job.
At AcuiZen we consciously address this issue by incorporating a mechanism to provide post-learning interventions. By sending out a series of relevant message-based quizzes at spaced intervals we ensure better outcomes by using the science of retrieval practice.
To conclude, retrieval practice is a concept that aligns with our philosophy at AcuiZen. We believe that the most effective way for frontline workers to retain information is through learning by doing and not by cramming information!
How can companies help their employees become wiser?
Three decades ago, the American architect Russell Ackoff, developed what we now know as the “DIKW pyramid”.
The DIKW pyramid establishes a hierarchy between Data, Information, Knowledge, and Wisdom. Data is at the base of the pyramid and Wisdom at the apex.
Data is a symbolic representation, characteristic, or attribute of something. By itself, it holds no value or meaning. It only becomes valuable when contextualized and processed to extract information. Information is, therefore, the organized, and processed version of data that serves some form of utility. Knowledge is then the use of that information to achieve specific objectives, used for for problem-solving and decision making.
At the top of the pyramid, we find Wisdom. A concept somewhat abstract to define, beyond "the highest degree of knowledge." It refers to the evaluation and internalization of knowledge and its relationship with goals and values. We recognize Wisdom when we observe goal attainment whilst avoiding or minimizing conflicts. It manifests in the form of optimal decision-making with calculated risks.
At AcuiZen, we help organizations and their employees move up this DIKW pyramid. We do so by utilizing digital technologies to capture data & communicate information. We blend learning content and real work-flow into one simple integrated platform. We help the internalization of knowledge, through our algorithm-based insights and facilitate collaboration between peers and mentors. In doing so, we ensure the preservation and dissemination of contextual knowledge, assimilated through organisational experience. We do so for our mission: to “enable individuals with intelligence and intuition”.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has uprooted conventional modes of work and added a new layer of uncertainty to the existing challenges of 21st century working conditions. For organisations, there is now a pressing need to find new ways of disseminating knowledge and facilitating communication for a remote workforce.
There are several modern digital tools available to facilitate remote knowledge sharing. Yet, applications such as Slack and Meets are oftentimes not a fit all solution especially for organizations with a large pool of front frontline employees who need to assimilate information and deploy it almost instantly. These organizations were probably more reliant on conventional communication channels to get the message across. The personnel, in turn, were probably reliant on peer support or supervisor feedback to develop a better understanding of the tasks. The nature of work in times of COVID have upended some of these methods.
AcuiZen is designed to address this specific challenge. AcuiZen is a personalized on-the-job assistant that offers an affordable and comprehensive digital solution for frontline staff to collaborate and communicate, with the objective of performing a task. AcuiZen also enables frontline staff to instantly provide digital evidence-backed information about the work that is performed and gain immediate feedback from peers and supervisors.
At AcuiZen we recognize that real work happens because of someone performing tasks, and not because of having a great conferencing or messaging platform. And that is exactly what AcuiZen achieves. In addition to being a platform for organizing institutional knowledge and providing a collaboration channel, the application also incorporates all the relevant knowledge-based tools an individual needs to actually perform tasks.
That is what makes AcuiZen a SuperApp for work – helping individuals perform tasks while also facilitating their ongoing communication, collaboration and continual upskilling.
Technology can help business owners (both SMEs and large corporations), transform their companies into smarter, more effective and more versatile organizations. In an active and globalized world, companies must use their resources efficiently and react quickly to meet the demands of their customers.
Here are 5 benefits that digital innovation can bring to your business:
Digital technology not only simplifies how people work, it also increases collaboration within a team and enables employers to obtain reliable information to make the right decisions. This can be useful both for management to monitor the work of workers and for each worker to keep track of their own progress and find ways to improve their results.
Improve the relationship with customers
Making customers feel appreciated is one of the most essential aspects for a business, so they must find new ways to optimize their interactions with them. Technological innovations have allowed companies to improve communication with their customers.
Manage a mobile workforce
Virtual collaboration tools are great for managing a mobile workforce because they allow people who work in different locations to connect and engage with each other.
Improve communication and collaboration
It is important to have platforms that allow you to communicate simultaneously with your team to work together on projects and tasks. These communication tools are easy to use and keep things moving quickly.
According to McKinsey's analysis, among business processes, 60% of occupations could save up to 30% of their time with automation, including document review and approval, and extensive document processing. Workflow automation saves time and reduces errors, but more importantly, it allows managers, employees, and stakeholders to focus on the most important and urgent tasks.
AcuiZen is a simple learning and personalized on-the-job performance assistant for front-line staff to communicate, collaborate, and continually up-skill. It allows companies to manage a mobile workforce as it includes a messaging application for companies. Supervisors or workers can take photos when a task has been completed and submit it for review. They can also capture GPS location,signatures and much more so you can have control of operations and information in real time.
The Harvard Business Review (HBR) recently published a report that makes a clear case for the unique opportunities frontline workers can provide your organization - it's all in the title: "The New Decision Makers: Equipping Frontline Workers for Success."
At AcuiZen, we want to contribute to this movement by driving digitalization for frontline workers. Why? Because as the article states, digital transformation will allow your employees to use the right application to improve their productivity and get the most out of their efforts.
In addition, a digitally transformed frontline workforce will:
Digitization will finally bring the following business benefits at all levels:
Get in touch with us today at email@example.com and request a demo to learn more about how we can help you equip your frontline workers for success!
We have all done a multiple-choice exam at some point in our lives. This is because it has become a popular tool to evaluate knowledge acquisition due to its efficient and practical nature. However, even though this mode of assessment has many advantages, it also has some significant shortcomings.
An Edutopia article titled “the dark history of multiple-choice exams” argues that “Multiple-choice tests are not catalysts for learning” and that “they incite the bad habit of teaching to test.” In other words, they claim that it is unclear whether this formative assessment actually promotes and reflects a deep understanding of content. For example, in multiple-choice exams, users can narrow down choices to the point where they pick the correct answer purely by ‘chance’. Therefore, not allowing them to display a conceptual understanding of their answers. Parallelly, it is difficult for moderators to provide feedback and address learning gaps through multiple-choice mechanisms.
AcuiZen mitigates the multiple-choice format’s limitations by providing users with the possibility of indicating their level of certainty in the answers they select. Through this feedback mechanism users specify whether they are ‘sure’ or whether they are ‘not sure’ of their answer. Therefore, giving moderators an insight into the levels of consciousness and awareness that users have when answering questions. In addition, AcuiZen is equipped with an algorithm that analyzes the responses and comes up with a Knowledge Index. This Knowledge Index quite frankly, deserves its own blog post, but in a nutshell - it provides an individualized overview of user’s learning gaps. Therefore, making multiple-choice exams a more holistic tool to measure users' knowledge acquisition.
The extended lock-down across countries has seen a spurt in the uptake of learning content delivered through various online platforms. The rush for individuals and corporations to embrace learning is an encouraging development for policy makers who have, for long, been urging the general public to embrace lifelong learning.
We human beings are constantly learning, sometimes for information or inspiration or sheer joy and sometimes because we believe learning may be essential for furthering or switching careers.
This may also be a good time to reflect if these learning activities actually result in tangible outcomes. For the purpose of this write up I am focussing purely on adult learners pursuing learning for professional reasons. Numerous studies have shown that mere provision of training, in whatever format, as a solution to address learning needs may not be delivering meaningful outcomes. To cite a few reports:
My hypothesis is that mere learning, by itself, may not help address this issue. To better articulate this, I would like to use the “Spiral of Expertise”- a framework my colleagues and I at AcuiZen Technologies have developed.
Organizations traditionally rely on formal learning (or relearning) as a solution to address developmental needs of personnel entering the workforce or due to new opportunities or changes. Individuals also acquire qualifications and certifications as a pathway to progress professionally.
Individuals however, do not develop expertise just by the formal acquisition of knowledge or certifications be it through classroom training or online learning or through a blended approach. They build expertise by applying the knowledge either on-the-job or in simulated environments. They also encounter problematic situations and in the process of solving those problems further develop their expertise.
Organizations that benefit from their learning investments facilitate individuals to go through the expertise loop several times over rather than looking at training as an end in itself. In practical terms, this could mean complementing the formal training with:
“Lifelong Learning” is all the more important in these challenging times. This does not stop with the provision and completion of training.
If we do not make the conscious effort to complement formal learning with suitable mechanisms to help learners enter and navigate the “spiral of expertise”, we could end up with great looking vanity metrics on parameters such as “quantum of training” or “number of certifications” but questionable metrics on the effectiveness of learning.
That would be status-quo and a squandering of the opportunity to embrace “lifelong learning” in its true spirit.
Would love to hear your thoughts and critical feedback on this subject.
This blog was originally published as an article in LinkedIn on May 29, 2020
Photo by Dmitry Ratushny on Unsplash
Last week, I was a panellist at an event organized by the American Chamber of Commerce, Singapore on the topic of “Future-Ready Workforce”. As suggested by a friend, I converted a part of my talk into this short post.
By now, you are probably aware that the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) refers to the extraordinary era of technological progress we live in. These advances, like those of the first, second and third industrial revolutions, have changed the way we live, work and relate to one another. The 4IR has a profound impact in the way we look at a “Future-Ready Workforce” for many reasons. I want to highlight three main points:
1. Shifting Employment Patterns
Over the last 150+ years there has been a gradual shift of the workforce across the three primary sectors: Agriculture, Industry & Services.
If one overlays the employment trends with the advent of the industrial revolutions, we see that with Industry 1.0 and 2.0, mechanization and mass production led to a gradual shift in the deployment of labour from Agriculture to Industry and Services. Likewise, with the advent of automation and advanced connectivity in Industry 3.0 and 4.0, the shift towards service-oriented jobs has further accelerated.
While this redeployment of labour from Agriculture and Industry led to the growth of Services, the stark reality is that if there is a drop of employment in Services due to 4IR technologies, these jobs cannot all be moved back to Agriculture or Industry.
The challenge now is to create new Service jobs and have workers ready to move into these jobs.
2. Boundless Cognitive Capability
In the previous industrial revolutions, we have seen automation take away the drudgery of physical and repetitive jobs and the redeployment of humans towards cognitive roles. When we talk about “Cyber Physical Systems” in the context of the 4IR, we are referring to the confluence of technologies such as the Internet of Things, 5G, Quantum Computing, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning with those that involve physical activities such as advanced and additive manufacturing.
These advances in computing and high speed connectivity now enable the automation of not just physical jobs but also automation and centralization of those that require a high degree of cognition.
If in previous industrial revolutions a machine could take over the task of, say 15 manufacturing workers in one physical location, 4IR technologies have the potential to disrupt all kinds of jobs including white collar jobs and sometimes entire professions. e.g. - highly sophisticated bots that have the potential to make call centres world-wide redundant. Upskilling and redeployment of impacted workers is therefore something that requires careful consideration.
3. The Shelf-Life Conundrum
Given the rapidly changing profile of work in the 4IR, the shelf-life of jobs is becoming shorter. We no longer live in a world where workers can perform the same tasks all through their career. In order to stay relevant one has to unlearn and relearn new skills on an ongoing basis.
This shortening shelf-life of jobs needs to be seen in the context of an increasing life span of humans and declining birth rate in many economies.
This necessitates individuals to stay employed longer to help them lead a dignified life post their active career. Therefore, upskilling is imperative for workers in every phase of their career - be it at the entry level or in their prime.
The threats posed to society and workers from the advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution are significant. Preparing humans to deal with these challenges require targeted interventions that work to gradually upskill individuals.
If we do not innovate and respond to these challenges, we could potentially be facing a Techno-Socio-Demographic Tsunami - one we have never seen before.
These are trying times. However, I hope each of us can take some time to reflect on these points from a long-term perspective and do what we need to do within our own sphere of influence. Stay safe!
This blog was originally published as an article in LinkedIn.
Spoiler Alert: This is fake news. But read on - I have some ideas to make it Real.
If you have some kind of a digital footprint you are at the node of a highly interconnected information network. The fact that you are reading this article, almost certainly on a digital device, is by itself a confirmation that you are very much a part of that network.
We have all undoubtedly experienced the benefits of such connectivity. However, as we increasingly realize, this comes at a price. Amongst other things, exposure to “fake news” and its consequences is one price that we pay. And in many cases, the consequences can be deadly and harmful to individuals and society at large.
If you are reasonably active on social media and messaging platforms, you are likely to be increasingly bombarded with multiple communications, which includes a large number of seemingly real but factually incorrect information. These are forwarded by some naïve person within the network (which by the way, is humongous because of the interconnectivity) who has merely been a channel through which the originator of the information has decided to spread their news – most likely for a malicious intent.
I have been contemplating and debating on this issue over the past few months wondering what possible solutions could address such a menace. Of course, we could get off all forms of social media connectivity but that would be akin to throwing the baby with the bath water. After all, I do wish to be informed of “real news” be it through media or other thought leaders. I am also interested in opinions that my social networks may have on various topics.
If I were to map out the various personas in a typical social network platform and the flow of information or messages in the platform it may look something like the below image..
Ignoring corporate entities such as advertisers, I am using the terms Uploader, Forwarder & Receiver to define the three major categories of end-users on a typical social network platform. Needless to say, depending on the degree of participation an individual may actually be switching between these categories several times during their activity on the platform.
Information being uploaded on social platforms can perhaps be broadly classified into the following 3 buckets:
From the Uploader the information gets to the Receiver directly or in many cases through a Forwarder. By default, a Forwarder is also a Receiver. Of course, the Forwarder may sometimes have an opinion or perspective on the subject before channelizing it to their own network.
The root of the fake news problem
News and information that comes to an individual Receiver may be directly from the Uploader, or through a Forwarder.
As a Receiver though, I am clueless where this news originated or if this is actually a harmless ping that may have got distorted over time, a fact, a perspective, speculative news or an outright fake news.
I also have no idea if this is something current or if this was some outdated that is being resurfaced. If I knew answers to these questions, I may truly be better informed and save myself a great deal of time that is wasted on such platforms.
A possible solution
I propose three simple tweaks that Social Network platforms (including messaging platforms) should enforce if they are truly socially conscious and responsible corporate citizens.
The suggested tweaks are relatively simple for platform operators to put in place and could address some serious problems plaguing society today:
Giving Receivers an option to make “informed choices” will ensure that the benefits of social connectivity outweigh the risks
Social Networks are now an integral part of our life and have provided enormous benefit to society and brought people closer to each other. With such rapid growth over the past few years there are bound to be new challenges that surface time and again.
The menace of fake news is one challenge that needs to be nipped in the bud. Social networks have become platforms that take the game of Chinese Whispers and amplifies it many times over, sometimes with disastrous consequences.
The expectation that a platform operator would be in a position to constantly monitor the platform and weed out such news is not realistic. The imposition of increased regulation will also do little to suppress malicious intent of players in the platform.
These tweaks do not in any way impose any restrictions on free speech or suppress an opinion or to come up with a speculative report. This only ensures that individuals do not use the cloak of anonymity to spread factually incorrect information as a truth. This also ensures that Receivers are rightfully given the choice to make their own informed judgement on what they would like to receive and block out sources that they perceive are of no value or just pure distraction.
Overall, we could have a more productive, safer and harmonious society.
Note: This is my opinion and I am willing to stand by it! I value your point of view as well. Keep them coming.
P.S. A few days after this blog I came across this news item that has been widely reported in the press in India. A sad story about how fake whatsapp messages have resulted in people getting killed. This is a serious issue and merits immediate attention. https://thelogicalindian.com/news/fake-whatsapp-messages-of-child-kidnappers/
This blog originally appeared as an article in LinkedIn
The need for “lifelong learning” in the context of a world in which the only constant is ambiguous change cannot be understated. The term itself has many interpretations and most of them refer to the need for individuals to constantly seek to keep themselves abreast of the changes and pick up new skills either through formal or informal means. Needless to say, this is a major focus area for thought leaders and policy makers in all economies and in many ways an “industry” by itself.
When looking at the business of training as a high growth industry, it is worth reflecting on some of the learnings from other industries to ensure that we get it right when it comes to the industry of lifelong learning. Specifically, I would argue for the need to consider the principles of “Lean” in the context of Learning - and especially adult learners.
What is Lean?
The basic principle of “Lean” is to focus on “Value Addition” by eliminating all kinds of “Waste” and making “Continual Improvement” along the way and all this by ensuring "Respect to People". There are of course, several supporting tools and approaches to make this happen and each of them can be independent topics of interest by themselves.
“Waste” in learning?
Traditionalists will dismiss as blasphemous the thought of looking at any form of learning as a waste. However, if we objectively look at the way training happens today, there are many “hidden” wastes that we conveniently choose to ignore. A few that I can think of in the context of formal training / education.
What would a Lean Transformation in Lifelong Learning look like?Lean Enterprises Institute Inc. the non-profit institution founded by Jim Womack to promote Lean Thinking has done pioneering work on the subject of Lean Transformation.
As shown in the image below, there are a series of questions one would need to ask while pursuing a lean transformation journey.
In the context of “Lifelong Learning” here is my overarching take on how a Lean Transformation could play out:
Learning with a Purpose:
With the advent of connectivity and smartphones there is really no dearth of content – whether it be MOOC’s or Formal classroom training or e-Learning. The avenues to learn however result in a situation where lifelong learning ends up being a rush for addition of more credentials and not always followed up with “practice” that can eventually lead to “mastery”.
In other words, it is just lifelong learning – and no doing!
When seen with a Lean lens, this represents one of the wastes “Non-Utilized Talent”. Over time, the talent also fades because of lack of practice.A Lean approach towards this would be to follow a more nuanced approach towards learning and one that allows for the learner to be in a position to deploy that knowledge in practice.
A blended approach towards theory and practice adopted by skill development initiatives such as Germany’s famed apprentice program provides evidence that learning with a purpose results in more meaningful outcomes. This aligns perfectly with the lean concept of “Learning by Doing”.
From Push Learning to Pull Learning:
Conventional training makes an assumption that the trainer / organization knows best what the learners need and therefore “Push” learning to the learners. It is therefore no surprise that typically a “Learning Management System” (LMS) forms the centrepiece of an organization’s Learning and Development initiative. An LMS may just be the perfect solution for situations where organizations need to demonstrate compliance to a specific requirement and tick off a box to evidence this. It is questionable though if the learners have any real interest in the materials that are pushed down their way.
A transformed approach would be one where it is learners who “Pull” knowledge when required, from wherever they find it most appropriate and in the right quantum. The knowledge source could be anything that makes sense to the person needing the knowledge and can range from formal training to internet search to peer group interaction to mentors or a combination of some of these. “Pull” knowledge is typically needed at a workplace and is therefore used for the purpose of doing rather than just learning and is thus stickier than a theoretical training approach.
Lean practitioners would associate this with the waste “Overproduction” where processing takes place because the capacity and resources exist – and not because there is a demand or “pull” from the customer.
While the Purpose may be obvious and the right Process is in place, it becomes important to ensure that People in the value chain are clear about the expectation from the process and its ability to meet the customer (in this case the learner’s) need.
Is that really happening?
Traditional learning is centered around training content and the ensuring that the same content is consistently rolled out to all learners. Lean Transformation would result in a shift towards a learner centric approach where the learner preferences decide how the content is consumed.
Practically this would mean:
The advent of new technology protocols such as Experience API (xAPI) opens up new possibilities. This allows learning content and learning systems to speak to each other in a manner that records and tracks all types of learning experiences. Learning experiences are recorded in a Learning Record Store (LRS).
Rather than measuring the effectiveness of the training program xAPI can help in measuring the effectiveness of the learning in real life. Such an outcome-based measurement approach leading to changes in the process would find place in any good Lean deployment.
Concluding RemarksAs we enter the Fourth Industrial Revolution with the advent of Robots and Artificial Intelligence, one thing humans rightfully worry about is their ability to be gainfully employed and survive in the midst of such changes. Undoubtedly “Lifelong Learning” is going to be an absolute necessity for survival.
Lifelong Learning, however, does not mean the pursuit of purposeless training or paper qualifications. Lifelong Learning is about the purposeful acquisition of knowledge and gradually building upon it; be it through self-study, application within the workplace, interaction with other learners, experts and co-workers- leading to gradual and eventual mastery. It’s not just about Lifelong Learning. It is about Lifelong Learning and Doing.
The application of Lean principles in other industries provides us an opportunity to reflect on some of the practices currently underway in the Learning Industry that have arguably been sub-optimal. “Lean Learning” has potential to change the way we look at learning and put humanity on the path towards increased prosperity and thrive in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
My team and I at AcuiZen are constantly in pursuit of our mission to “enable people with intelligence” and are firm believers in the need for a Lean approach towards Learning & Development. We would truly appreciate and encourage your feedback and thoughts on this subject.
Special thanks to John Hamalian, Southeast Asia Representative of Lean Global Network for his review of this blog and suggested edits.
We often hear about how difficult it is for Safety professionals to convince management and sensitize them on the need to drive safety from the “top”. There is also no dearth of advice that Safety professionals get on the need to “talk the language of the business” and improve their communication skills to make the business case and “sell” safety to the top management.
On the other hand, we also hear Production / Operations personnel lamenting how Safety professionals are so distant from reality and have no clue how to get things done.
A social experimentOver the past 6 months or so, I have been asking my friends and business associates to participate in a social experiment. I asked them to provide their most likely response to a simple hypothetical scenario – with an up-front clarification that there are no right / wrong answers.
It is late in the night and you are driving back home and in a bit of a rush to attend to a medical emergency at home. You just reach a cross roads and blame your luck as the signal just turns Red. You know that it will take at least 3-4 minutes before the signal turns in your favour. You have clear visibility of all roads and are absolutely certain that there is no vehicle anywhere in sight. You are also aware that there are no traffic cameras keeping an eye on you. What would you do:
My hypothesis is that in most cases, safety managers tend to take a safe approach (pun intended) and opt to really stay away from taking any risks. This approach of course irks the business or operations professional who sees the safety professional as anti-business.
Do we have a solution?
Clearly, a blog like this is not aimed at providing a solution to what is an existential challenge in industry but here are my quick thoughts on what we could possibly do differently:
“Everyone takes some degree of risk with what they do. However, it is important to know the difference between taking risk and being reckless”.
My take: It takes a knowledgeable Safety Professional to know that difference. Keep Learning!
I welcome your perspectives on this topic.
If anything, you better worry about “Natural Dumbness”!
If you’ve been paying attention to the news, you’ve definitely heard about Artificial Intelligence (AI) or machine learning. AI refers to the capability of machines or robots to imitate intelligent human behaviour. You’ve probably also heard arguments on all sides from thought leaders and policy makers about what AI is going to mean for society.
Optimists talk about how AI will eliminate mundane work and make life more enriching for human beings. Doomsday predictors talk about how AI is going to result in machines developing cognitive ability and becoming more intelligent than human beings and eventually taking over the world. Policy makers worry about the need to rapidly re-skill the workforce and make them ready to take on jobs that perhaps do not exist today.
I am not going to foretell how this all will eventually play out. What I do believe is that AI is here to stay and take away jobs. I actually believe we are at the cusp of a larger and more troubling problem.
I would like to illustrate my concerns through a simple graphic.
Humans, I would argue, are born “Naturally Curious”. This natural curiosity has powered innovation. All inventions, on some level, are the marriage of natural human curiosity and necessity. These inventions have generally made life and society better from the humble wheel to a complex space station.
This synergistic collaboration between the curious man and machine now however seems to have reached a point where machines are gradually reducing the cognitive ability of man and also impacting our curiosity. A few day-to-day examples in my own life that seem to be pointers (notwithstanding the fact that these may just be due to my aging!).
Two critical questions come to my mind:
Are we being paranoid? Would love to hear your views on this subject.
In several of the markets that I work in, one of the often-lamented concern of industry and governments alike is the lack of skilled manpower to support the growth of the economy. The reasons could be different in each country ranging from underperforming education systems that cannot cater to the needs of industry to an ageing workforce to upcoming challenges posed by automation.
The solution devised in most cases seems to be to throw a lot of money behind the problem and focus on “Skill Development” as a major policy initiative. The success of these initiatives is not immediately apparent and there is still a lot of tinkering on what ought to be the right approach.
Taking a holistic view of this subject, let us ask ourselves what is the objective of skill development. The answer is perhaps “to ensure that people assigned to perform tasks are competent to do so”. However, competency goes beyond simply the skills to perform a task.
Let me try and break these down into three main buckets:
1. Skills: Provision of knowledge / training and practical experience to enable a person to perform a task.
2. The 5 A’s:
Incidentally, Skill Development, by itself, may do little to enhance any of these attributes.
3. Contextual Knowledge: Notwithstanding the presence of all other attributes, in today’s knowledge economy, there is a need to recognize that we are constantly dealing with variety and complexity. This is where existing knowledge that may have been provided through other means needs to be supplemented with contextual knowledge – when required and where required. As a matter of fact even once imparted classroom knowledge, if not applied immediately, tends to be forgotten and needs to be reinforced.
My hypothesis is that plenty of attention has been given to the issue of skill development with very little thought around strategies for targeting aspects of creating competency. The traditional thinking goes that once skills have been imparted, the rest will follow almost automatically. There is something fundamentally wrong with the notion that the simple act of imparting skills will be in itself be able to lead to competency. This is probably something we all understand based on our experience.
Learning and Development professionals would have, no doubt, come across the 70:20:10 model first postulated by Morgan McCall, Michael M. Lombardo and Rober W. Eichinger in their 1996 book The Career Architect Development Planner.
While the absolute numbers may be debatable, the key take-away is the fact throwing a lot of time and money behind formal learning or skill development alone, is not going to make a competent individual.
Let me dwell into each of these three learning pathways and their limitations in today’s context.
Formal Learning: The learning methods that are being deployed in the case of today’s learners are questionable. A formal classroom training session may have worked well with a generation that did not have exposure to the Internet and smart phones. These tech savvy new learners however, may really not have the patience to sit through what they would perceive are boring lectures filled with facts they could have googled. With a lower attention span, there need to be efforts to explore how technology can be leveraged to make this an integral part of the learning.
Informal Learning: This usually is self-directed by the learner. This could occur through multiple channels and also includes knowledge picked up from interaction with peers and supervisors. In the context of a physical organization and workplaces, this perhaps works well. However, we are today living in a work environment where an increasing number of workers are individuals and perform work that is “contractual” in nature. An increasing number of workers also tend to be “remote” workers. As such, the opportunities to learn from others are getting narrower.
On-the-job-experience: A bulk of an individual's learning and development occurs in this phase. In the industrial era, the repetitive nature of jobs may have resulted in this experience being acquired with the passage of time. However, in the knowledge era, this may require more than just “time”. With increased automation and an ever-increasing range of products and services, what the front-end employee needs today is an ability to adapt themselves to new and complex scenarios they encounter each day.
What changes are needed? It is apparent that the way we conceptualize skill development needs to move beyond the narrow focus on skills. While a basic skill training may be a good starting point, this needs to be supplemented with good coaching and mentoring to lead employees into a life-long learning journey.
Matching human resource capability to the changing needs of society and technology is an timeless struggle. As we see a fundamental shift to a knowledge economy, we need to alter our L&D initiatives to be in tune with the needs of the knowledge industry. This requires:
My Take: Skill Development is not a silver bullet. The ability to “learn how to learn” is possibly the single-most important takeaway from the early years of professional development. Beyond that, there is an opportunity for the L&D professional and technology sector to innovate learning methods to cater to a changing work environment and learning styles of a savvy workforce.