The future belongs to the curious

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In a world of AI and constant change, it’s the curious that will outperform others. Thomas Bergen shares with us about developing meta-skills

Traditional training methods that neatly separate hard and soft skills are often inadequate. They do not address the multifaceted challenges of contemporary learning and knowledge management in the workplace. Emphasising meta-skills empowers employees to become self-reliant problem-solvers, elevating the value of human contribution within the organisation.

Blending human expertise with advanced AI technology is what is needed by today’s modern learner

Adaptability and continual growth are paramount in a landscape marked by rapid technological advancements and ever-evolving market dynamics. Yet, the era of merely dispensing knowledge or indiscriminately “watering” hopes of employee development has ended. Many learning departments, regrettably, continue to focus on delivering increasingly specialised content and rely heavily on AI for automation. These practices lead to learner frustration, disengagement, and soaring budgets without a clear return on investment.

Meta-skills: More crucial than ever

The remedy lies in adopting an organisational learning philosophy cantered around cultivating meta-skills. These encompass a wide array of knowledge and abilities that equip individuals, teams, and organisations to tackle general and specific workplace challenges. These skills foster problem-solving and significantly enhance work quality and job satisfaction by promoting self-sufficiency.

Recent insights from the “Future of Jobs” report by the World Economic Forum underscore the growing demand for such skills, which dominate the list of top future competencies. Notable among these are creative, systemic, and analytical thinking, alongside curiosity and self-awareness. Similar findings from studies by organisations like OECD and McKinsey corroborate this trend, and internal data from getAbstract also indicates a burgeoning interest, particularly in areas traditionally reserved for leadership training.

Example: Critical thinking

Considering systemic, analytical, and creative thinking as subsets of the meta-skill “critical thinking,” it’s clear why this skill is leading the pack. Critical thinkers exhibit a robust scepticism towards preconceived notions, adeptly analyse arguments, and are continually reflective, making them invaluable in solving any organisational problem, anywhere, anytime. This skill is a vital driver of innovation and, in an age rife with misinformation, essential for companies aiming to maintain control over their future through informed and accurate decision-making.

In the Learning & Development (L&D) sector, while there’s excitement about AI’s role in adaptive learning and streamlining processes, two fundamental questions remain:

  • Who will operate these AI tools?

  • Who will evaluate and refine the outputs of systems like ChatGPT?

Critical thinking remains an indispensable asset in an era plagued by ‘fake news’ and misinformation.

Meta-skills development

We know that meta-skills cannot be acquired through traditional means like reading one book or attending sporadic training sessions. Instead, they thrive in a culture of continuous learning—integrating ongoing knowledge acquisition, application, practice, and reflection within everyday business activities.

Platforms that ensure your team can access an extensive, vetted expert knowledge database, curated books, articles, podcasts, talks, and videos can support people’s development. Blending human expertise with advanced AI technology and cutting-edge learning research to foster innovation across global organisations, using microlearning formats, designed to integrate seamlessly into daily workflows, and requiring no more than 15 minutes to impart practical skills is what is needed by today’s modern learner.

The balance between broad and deep knowledge access is crucial, allowing learners to recognise connections, adopt multiple perspectives, and solve specialized problems.

Your employees shape the future, not AI

If adaptability and ongoing learning are critical to your competitive edge, investing in meta-skills development is imperative. Whether pursuing individual goals or fostering team skills, meta-skill acquisition and retention, enabling discovery, sharing, and professional growth, preparing teams for the AI era and beyond are what we need to be doing now.

Related reading recommendations:

Critical Thinking by Tom Chatfield

The Workplace Curiosity Manifesto by Stefaan van Hooydonk

Hidden Genius by Polina Marinova Pompliano

Thomas Bergen is Co-Founder and CEO at getAbstract

Thomas Bergen

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