Prepare your own and our children for tomorrow I recently spoke for a regional authority and its decision makers for youth and education. They asked if it is necessary to rethink our educational system! Which countries do you think will become the winners in the future? Which type of employees do you think we need tomorrow? Teachers and parents should be very interested in these questions. I just came back from a trip to China. In China, they decided to send fifteen thousand teachers out to the world to study which competences the Chinese school system needs to include in order to be competitive in the future. How many teachers does your country send out to the world for this purpose? Recently, I also visited India to study economics at the Indian School of Business (ISB) and to educate MBA students. Here, I had the opportunity to study on Indian terms, and I saw with my own eyes how these Indians study and live on campus. I witnessed incredible, industrious young people with a very high degree of self-discipline. Most Danish people I talk with are of the opinion that we are much better than, for example, the Indians in terms of thinking independently, creating results, and networking. That is simply not true. What I saw were young people with impressive brain capacity, strong willpower, and hunger for success. Should we fear them? Well, that depends on how you look at it. Personally, I can only see two areas where we are still a little bit ahead of them, and those are two essential areas.
At ISB I had the opportunity to teach MBA students career design and strategic networking. I asked them how they do their homework and assignments, if they hide their results from their fellow students or share their computations and conclusions before they hand in the assignments. They laughed and said, â€œNo, of course not!â€? I also asked how much they appreciate working in teamsâ€”again the answer was that they prefer to create their own results, keep the reward to themselves, and know that their grade was a result of their own effort and not the effort of others. They listened intently when I told them that the world needs clever employees and entrepreneurs but that the common denominator is that in the future we will make a living from working together, sharing information with each other, and that we can and know how to share our knowledge and core competences. They found the knowledge sharing part particularly hard to swallow. I explained that when I was studying for my E-MBA at the Copenhagen Business School (and graduated in 2007), it was customary to work in groups and share assignments and notes. We saw it as a way to enrich our knowledge, to discuss our results and computations. We were colleagues and competitors at the same time. I think that several of us almost saw ourselves as Formula 1 race drivers, where it is particularly important that all participants act up to a certain set of rules, and only within that framework will
the winner be determined. The participants know that it is optimization, fine-tuning, and teamwork that make the very big difference between winners and losers. Sharing knowledge or information So to sum up my experiences, I would say that within the next five years we are bound to see a change in world power. For example, today India is considered to be the number 9 most powerful country in the world, and they are striving to get into top 3. In the next five years we will witness many changes in the way we work, and the reasons for you whether to get your dream job or not will change. New rules apply in a knowledge and networking society, compared to our historical efficiency and productivity focus. In a few years, you will be judged by your abilities within disciplines that are beyond what currently are considered to be the most important abilities and competences. The three most noteworthy are following: •
Knowledge entrepreneur. The term covers your ability and willingness to constantly renew your knowledge.
Knowledge distributor. Your ability to get access to knowledge (not to be confused with access to information).
Emotional quotient. Your ability to create results through networks—do people remember you? And do you have the ability to establish and nurture professional relationships?
As a teacher, you are under great strain because it is your job to teach this to the children. Your knowledge is also under constant change, and that results in an increased pressure on you to keep improving. What you might think is new and interesting knowledge right now could very well be expired or just common sense in a couple of weeks. The most effective way to increase your knowledge is to do it through a strong and loyal network consisting of people who are more competent than you are. Whom do young people want to work for? Google is one example of a company living in accordance with this new view on knowledge in their search for talents. Surely they are doing something right—their success speaks for itself. Today they have a higher market value than many traditional companies, and they have achieved that status in just a few years. In the spring of 2012, I had the pleasure of having a rewarding conversation with Marissa Mayer before she switched to Yahoo!, where she is now CEO.
We talked about the special spirit that you find at Google, and that they can pick and choose among many highly competent job applicants. She told me that passion and energy are incredibly important criteria, because if people don’t have passion for what they do, they do not become the best IT developers in the world. Back in 2007, I visited Google in China, and that gave me the opportunity to look into how one of the world’s most successful companies operates. It was a great experience just to see how they organize their offices to make the employees perform at their best. Google has also won wide recognition for their employee care, and in 2010 they won an award as “the world’s most attractive workplace.” When you are hired, you don’t become a colleague, but rather, one of the “googlers,” and that creates a strong culture that motivates employees to walk the extra mile for the Google family. What is it that Google is doing right? They know what motivates or demotivates people. They are masters at creating a captivating culture, and they are masters at communicating that there is a higher meaning to their existence. The reason is that particularly younger, ambitious people want to work with something meaningful, and we also see a tendency toward NGOs such as Amnesty, Greenpeace, Red Cross, etc., being popular places to work. The educational institutions that will be the winners in the future are the ones that really understand how to adjust the organization for the young people in such a way that both structure and behavior fit their attitude toward work, life, and career. The problem (yes, not the challenge—THE PROBLEM) is that many of us don’t know enough about what it is that the young people want. Do you know? Each generation imparts unique advantages, experiences, and expectations that should be utilized. Each generation has their expectations about how they want to live and work. They have very different opinions about how and why they work, how they best learn and acquire new knowledge, how and if knowledge should be shared, and what good management is. What is exciting is whether you are prepared to see the value in us being different and dare to make it a part of your teaching. “They will become like us” A veteran manager recently told me, “Young people just need to get deeper into debt, then they will be forced to work just like us and our worries will be over.” Unfortunately, it is not that simple. Nevertheless, young people are and will remain different from the more mature, established leaders. Societal and cultural events affect us all; and the experiences, impressions, and information that influence young people affect their behavior, attitude, prejudices, and beliefs. Each generation’s perspective about work and leisure is very different from others’. Are you ready for this new breed of employees?
Blog from Soulaima Gourani