The digital revolution is here and has fundamentally transformed how we live and work forever. The analogue age of old is gone and while many ‘traditional’ skills are still useful and transferable, this new world in beta requires professionals of all seniority and industries to adapt and embrace new, and what I call, mission-critical skills for the digital age.
What are they? Below I outline five of them.
1. Digital literacy
Having a proficient understanding of technologies, applications, software programs such as search engines, social media, spreadsheets, databases, and information storage and management is a must. These digital tools are ingrained in our day-to-day lives and are becoming more intuitive and complex as the technology develops. Besides this, familiarity with technological devices such as smartphones, tablets and (as the market develops) smartwatches will be a core requirement.
I would also argue, however, that less obvious and more abstract thinking patterns like algorithmic thinking, an analytical approach to challenges or application of network theory also should be part of an individual's basic skillset.
2. Embrace and welcome change
Understand that the rate of innovation with digital technology is only increasing and therefore embracing new technologies from the broad spectrum discussed above and embedding them in to your life will be beneficial to your career. In other words, stop being a 'digital tourist' and become a native. This is easier said than done of course and where some people adapt to change seamlessly, for others it takes hard and conscious work.
Points 1 and 2 are about different levels of internalisation, that are the ‘knowing’ and ‘digesting’ of the digital environment. Once mastered, a major turning point comes, and that’s to the external.
3. Become a meaningful content creator
Becoming a contributor by creating digital content. Being a contributor is not only sharing content per se, but sharing in a meaningful context by matching your messages with the right audience and channel. Whether it is a blog, tweet, LinkedIn post, video, image or presentation all depends on your content and the audience.
When you are on this level your sharing should not be by chance, but by choice, knowing why you do what you do.
4. Be an active contributor to a community
Shaping and building digital communities and allows you to connect with like-minded people in a meaningful way. To become a useful member (or indeed leader) of a community requires continuous participation in the form of providing useful information (links, articles, research etc.) to being personable, helpful and friendly. Of course, understanding the interconnection of networks and nodes and knowing what type of content resonates with the influencers within that community will allow you to become an influencer within that community yourself.
Ultimately becoming an active contributor to a community takes time, thoughtfulness and an understanding of network dynamics, and will take you to true cognitive and emotional influence over a well defined group of individuals.
5. Become a trust agent
Building trust in the digital world is the most critical digital skill you can acquire. Creating trust is impossible without personal interaction, and experience shows that continuous participation within online communities will help you acquire trust among relevant groups. If you become a ‘trendsetter’ or innovator in your own right by being a valuable source of information will ultimately allow you to build trust.
Uniqueness is key here: replicate your online personality offline and re-create your ego in digital space. You may argue this is more art than science, to which I would reply, is classical leadership not? Originality and being an innovator is just one element to developing trust however. Having consistency with a digital style or brand is just as important. What would you like your own personal online brand to convey?
Bonus tips: The enabler approaches
Besides these digital skills I would mention three enabler approaches which are not skills but rather mind sets or attitudes. These are:
- Be open to learn. As the late Steve Jobs said, ‘stay hungry, stay foolish’. Being genuinely curious to trying new ‘things’, practices, technologies, disciplines that you may not know a great deal about. This is to protect you from ‘this is the way we’ve always done things’ syndrome. Break your routines, routinely.
- Critically self-reflect. Look at yourself from the inside out and also ask a group of trusted people of their constructive critical view. Use tracking tools to see your progress (or lack of) objectively.
- Manage your cognitive load. The digital world is an ever-changing and always-on beast so for balance it’s important to maintain a sustainable digital drive without digital burnout. Instead participate in non digital recreational activities (sports, the arts, etc) to keep a level of equilibrium.
What do you think are the mission critical digital skills to stay relevant in a world in beta?