In the late 18th century, steam led to the First Industrial Revolution; in early 20th Century, electricity led to the Second Industrial Revolution; in late 20th century, ICT led to the Third Industrial Revolution; and now, Blockchain, Big Data, Robots, Drones, Machine Intelligence, Nanotech, Biotech and other technologies are ushering in another new era. If one ingredient, steam, electricity or ICT, so completely changed the global landscape, just imagine the upheaval that could be caused by the combined onslaught of all these emerging technologies.
Widening hiatus between the rich and the poor, massive displacement in the job market, and super opportunities for those who are future-ready, it’s all on the cards. As the global contours shift massively, will you become a mere cog, or will you thrive? It will depend on how you think.
The importance of critical thinking – ability to make rational and reasoned judgments, and creative thinking – ability to create something novel that is useful, is well established. However, to flourish in the world that is now fast emerging, you need to add more dimensions to your thinking ability. These include,
Abstract Thinking: correctly formulating the problem after looking at the big picture and asking insightful questions that lead to pattern recognition and generalisation. This is very different from solving an MBA Case Study where a pre-formulated problem is presented!
Computational Thinking: algorithmically solving problems of scale. This starts with pattern recognition and abstraction so that the problem can be represented in new ways, then breaking the problem into smaller parts, and finally, recasting the problem to solve it in steps (i.e. algorithmically).
Ability to Innovate to Solve Unstructured Problems: the economic, social, political and other issues we face today are not complicated. They are complex! A complicated problem is difficult to solve but it has a unique solution, like a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle. A complex problem is not only difficult to solve, its solutions are fluid and need constant updating, like forecasting the weather. The challenges we face today – clean energy, poverty, terrorism, climate change, water crisis, financial crisis, health and well-being… are all very complex. Amazing value-creation opportunities lie ahead for people who are keen to tackle ‘wicked’ problems – problems that are difficult to solve because of incomplete, contradictory and changing requirements.
Evolving the way you think is the only way to navigate and shine in a future that is VUCA – Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous. You need to shape your thinking such that you connect the unconnected dots, and connect the already connected differently. To do this, you need to not only ask why, what and how but also why not, what if and how else.