Essential Entrepreneurial Skills for the Economy of the Future
Who knows what
There is a witty joke to describe the employment situation and jobs today.
In the past, you succeed because of what you know. Then we moved to a stage where you'd probably get by with who you know. Presently and in the future, your success depends on who knows you.
It's a play on words but it is a apt description of the huge changes that we are seeing in the economies around the world. Vast numbers of people are being lifted out of poverty in developing nations like China, India and the rest of Asia through improved access to education. These nations churn out millions of graduates a year, well educated and hungry for success. Throw in the ease of access to information and the reach of the internet, it has led to a global marketplace for talent.
What this means is that there are millions of people with degrees just like you. Master degrees are the norm rather than the exception. What you know, and the training that you received in school no longer gives you any edge over the next person. Knowledge and skills have been commodified. We see the hollowing out of the middle class in developed nations precisely of this phenomenon where a cheaper, faster, better worker based overseas in China or India wins the lunch. And it will not stop there. As developing nations grow and develop, they too will move up the value chain to compete in the areas of highly skilled specializations.
We need a new paradigm. Everyone should stop thinking like an employee. In the future, everyone will have to be an entrepreneur.
We are all entrepreneurs
In many aspects, we are all entrepreneurs of our own careers. The more ambitious of us learn additional skills relevant to our jobs, to value add, to move up the value chain. In the future, this will be the norm rather than the exception to survive in the marketplace.
The successful worker of the future would be expected to create, and not replicate. To create new products, new ideas, new processes. This worker will need to be able to deal with uncertainty and a work landscape with no ready answers. He must be able to work across various disciplines to tease out opportunities. He must be self motivated and self directed. There will be no constants.
This is already happening on a larger scale at the organization level. Even world leaders that have no answer to change will get eliminated from the race. Think of how far household names like Blackberry or Nokia has fallen. They simply couldn't deal with paradigm shifts.
This will trickle down to the individual in the future. Master the chaos, or become obsolete.
So what are the essential skills that one should possess to give yourself the best chance of coming out on top of the pike?
Skill 1: Design
The ability to design, understand and appreciate design will be critical in future. Hard knowledge can be easily replicated or obtained. However, design is fundamentally a creative process. Stripped to it's barest essence, design is to making things work in a simple yet delightful manner.
For example, Apple products like the Iphone or Ipad demonstrates good design. They are useful, functional, pretty and bring joy to their users. In industries ranging from manufacturing, electronics, apparel to corporate gifts, good design is a product differentiator.
The ability to design, or the ability to appreciate good design would be critical because it allows you to be able to create or identify solutions to existing gaps in the market. Compared to blind copycats, the ability to understand what is good design would allow you the distill the essence of competitors, and improve on it. The failure to master design would mean that you are simply a copycat in the idea marketplace. And a poor one at that.
Skill 2: Communication
The ability to communicate clearly and concisely has never been so important in the babble of the internet. We have so many communication tools at our disposal from email, to mobile phones to instant messaging, yet we communicate very poorly. In the era where attention spans are limited and distractions abound, the ability to communicate with your co-workers, your client, your target markets will become a critical skill to master.
Hard knowledge like equations and theories are great to have. You may have a great idea or product, but the failure to communicate and present them will ultimately mean that it's overlooked or bypassed. You may not be a gifted speaker or writer but with effort, training and determination, you can only improve and get better with each conscious attempt to communicate clearly.
Skill 3: Scripting
Like it or not, the age of computers are here to stay. In the digital generation, scripting gives one an edge over people who can't. Given the same tools and software, a person who can write simple scripts and macros will have a surprisingly large edge over another who can't.
It's common to see co-workers being frustrated and held back by their lack of software knowledge. They will spend hours upon hours doing repetitive tasks that can be accomplished by a macro or a script. The best example would be excel spreadsheets. Most people are left at the spreadsheet level, but for advanced users with scripting knowledge, it becomes a program on steroids. Excel suddenly can become an inventory program, an account tracking program and much more.
Often the full features of a software is not fully utilized by the average user. You don't have to be Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg, but with an understanding of scripting language, technology becomes an enabler and not a hindrance.
Embrace the technology. Or be held ransom by it.
Skill 4: Financial Literacy
It's very very rare to come across people who are gifted to be both creative, artistic and great with equations, financial ratios and numbers. It's almost like an engineer-cum-artist-cum accountant. Well the hard truth is that in the future, we all have to cross disciplines and master diverse aspects.
Financial literacy are fundamental to any business owner. It is also very important because it means that you understand how money works, and how to work within the system to fund your ambitions or master your own personal finances. Used by an entrepreneur, financial literacy is a massive leverage to gain the most traction for your products or services.
Do not let a great product or idea die before it reaches the market simply because there is not enough money to fund it.That would be the most tragic to see.
Be comfortable with the unknown
The future is highly uncertain and fluid. Be comfortable with the unknown, stay curious and never stop learning. Think different. And you will stay ahead.