Today we build companies that are designed to meet a specified and known need.  Most of these companies will not succeed in the future. Today, we educate and develop people based on defined careers or professions – many of which will not exist in the future.

How do we create companies and people that are most likely to thrive in an economy already being disrupted by Artificial Intelligence and new automation technologies?

This is THE question that will determine the future success of our economy and all others.

The answer, I believe, is by creating a new ‘creativity engine’ – one based on investing differently in human capital to create future careers and professions that are neither careers nor professions.

In the post-war period many of our companies created robots out of people through careers centred on optimising mass production and quality management – things that robots can now often do better than people, and certainly will do better in the future.

But what if we create people jobs for people? Jobs that would harness the inherent human strengths of creativity and emotion – our distinct advantage over machines.

To do this we need to start with education, especially at graduate and postgraduate level, as well as post-education corporate learning.


Career agnostic personal skills

A great model for re-shaping our education system is set out in the book A Whole New Engineer: The Coming Revolution in Engineering Education authored by faculty at Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, Massachusetts.

The authors argue that as much as skills development, students need to acquire a core set of personal competencies, such as design thinking, problem solving, communication skills, project management, and priority and goal setting.

These kind of personal skills are career agnostic – they are valuable in every profession, and as such will be valuable in every new profession.

And so they developed a new paradigm in educating students, rebalancing learning away from defined technical skills to preparing the person, as a creative individual, to be able to handle unknown and undefined future challenges.

They looked to nurture individuals who could solve problems beyond the limits of their professional skills.

They made students truly uncomfortable, took them out of their depth, and personally challenged them to think differently.

The result – they created people who can address future challenges far more effectively than the current state of higher education and industry skills development allows.

Creating the Anti-Professional

In a sense, the Whole New Engineer authors were looking to create the Anti-Professional – someone who would succeed whatever the challenge thrown at them.

The challenges facing engineers apply to all current careers, and will be even more important in the careers not yet thought of.

We all know of the change in career – the lawyer who became a programmer and so on.

But now we see new ‘professionals’ desiring to create something that does not even exist – there is no defined career or profession, but what they see is an opportunity to solve the world’s challenges, big and small.

And people who are skilled this way are not so fearful of robots because a person with creativity and emotion working with an Artificial Intelligence creates an extremely powerful combination.

We can all do our part to create jobs, and we can help to create people who are able to create new jobs.

If we do both of those things well, we have little to fear and much to gain together.

 David Wright is Chairman of the Higher Education Consulting Group (HECG)