This is an area that I have been working around for the past few years. In answering the questions they posed to begin this group, I began to think of the skills that new workers will need for the next decade. This is a partial list:
- The ability to dig for information. Many of my students comment that they have trouble finding information, yet I can go to the computer and find it in a few minutes. Why? I can scan results quickly, make connections with the information, and make new connections. Now, on top of that, I am able to save it so I can return and dig deeper when I have time.
- Have a flexible ability to write and speak in different registers ( informal, formal, international, local, business, social, etc...).
- Be able to look at the forest AND the trees and know where he or she is located. Details are important as is the big picture knowing where you fit. Organizations need to move away from the specialist and instead focus on the trainable (who can become a specialist with minimal training).
- The ability to think critically and ask questions. For many organizations and managers, this can be threatening. However, we need to begin to recognize that everyone is fallible. How failures or mistakes are handled are important. Therefore, we need as many eyes and ears and minds open that can help an organization stop before it gets in too deep. The culture of blame needs to be changed.
- Speaking of culture, knowledge workers need to understand the different ways in which knowledge can be constructed and used. One shortcoming to American business today is the assumption that we understand another culture and its intentions without trying to understand the underlying idea of "knowledge" in that culture. Relationship building is one form of knowledge, as is an understanding of the artifacts within a culture.
- Learning how to learn is important. However, recognizing that there will be learning throughout our lifetime is even more important. The need to learn needs to be emphasized throughout schooling and the transition into the workplace.
- How to make choices. Unfortunately, our educational system has not developed this skill as students are given checklists to follow. However, knowledge workers will need to be able to measure options, think through problems, analyze the situation, and make decisions as new tools allow them (and even force them) to take more responsibility for their decisions in the workplace. For example, the internet requires that they know what they are looking for and allows them to tailor their tools to optimize their work (i.e. blogs, wikis, etc...). As these tools (and managers) require more individual responsibility and choice, workers will need to understand the impact that their choices have on the individual, groups in which they work, and the organization as a whole.
- Finally, the ability to identify the affordances of any new technology is important. As more and more tools are introduced, workers need to know how to choose which tools and which of those tools they need to master (and spend time mastering).