Change World of Work Requires New Learning Mindset

Thursday, September 7, 2017

We are moving into an era where technology will make almost anything possible, and where very powerful tools and knowledge will be available to everybody. It’s an era of self-service that will continue to expand and where the most empowered, industrious, and—we hope—ethical and moral will thrive. The dark side is that people with corrupt motives who know how to manipulate our brains will try to use technology and information for other purposes.

Support for Self-Management

Technology change affects us as learners because it enables and requires more self-management, and thus more use of our executive functions. For example, you won’t have to rely on a repairman for your appliances because they’ll repair themselves and even teach you how to do it. You won’t have to go to a doctor to find out what’s happening in your body; instead, you’ll simply look at the personal health monitor on your wrist, do some research, and decide your own treatments.

You will become the master of your own virtual office, learning from software tutorials. With a tap on your portable communication receiver, you’ll be able to publish your thoughts, and there’s much more to come. Of course, specific to learning, you won’t have to be in a certain place or time to learn something: You’ll be able to instantly find and learn what you need in the global network of people and information.

This trend to more self-service will continue, but it comes with a cost: You need to be skilled, motivated, and wise enough to use these technol­ogies to make your life and learning better. You need to manage yourself. Learning mastery is a survival skill.

People and Technology Evolving Together

People have always co-evolved with technology—as you are doing right now. Technology is currently challenging you to become more transparent, more inclusive of diversity, more knowledgeable about the world, more alert to how things and people are connected, and more self-organizing into communities.


This co-evolution challenges you to expand your impact—to see tech­nology as a way to extend your sight, hearing, doing, thinking, creating, and relating. It is challenging you to see your life and the world as evolving, not fixed. Because knowledge is increasing and creating new possibilities, there is no final end state where all problems will be solved and all knowledge known. Rather, as the world and information evolves, you will solve some problems and create others in a continual process of learning and creating. This process is becoming more important than the end state, or at least equal to it. This is changing the nature of work and organizations.

Hierarchy, Careers, and Self-Management

The role of hierarchy is also changing. Managers used to have a big coordination and information management role: distilling information, making sure people had clear roles and the resources to perform them, and keeping things as stable as possible. The traditional style was command and control, which ensured no one on the assembly line deviated from procedures.

Today’s managers spend less time filtering information and keeping people from stepping out of their boxes. Technology makes information available to everybody with a simple tap on a screen. While workers begin self-organizing to meet customer needs, innovate, and refine work practices, technology can do more of the routine and dangerous work, as well as the data processing and calculating work. Top leaders create strategies, keep all the parts of the value stream aligned, and ensure that decisions are made by people with the information and skills to make them.

Some say that all these changes are flattening organizations. But a bigger change is in the works: the value stream is operating more like a network than a flatter pyramid. It’s a new paradigm that blurs boundaries and requires everyone to develop skills that used to be in others’ job descriptions.


In these new scenarios, jobs and careers are changing too. It’s less about job security and moving upward from job to job. Today, success is more about a new kind of employability security, where you develop and contin­ually upgrade a portfolio of skills that you can use in a variety of roles and team projects. You’re evolving with technology and changes in work requirements.

The bottom line for learning is this: If you work in an organization, think about yourself as a bundle of evolving capabilities rather than a job title. In addition, your ability to manage yourself within a larger workflow picture is becoming more important if you are working virtually and on multiple teams. Your technical and specialist requirements are changing rapidly too, so these skills need continual upgrading. And, because you need to function in conditions of rapid change and multiple relationships, generic skills like communication and collaboration, decision making, thinking, innovating, self-management, and learning are key assets. These challenges apply across sectors—industrial, retail, healthcare, technology, government, consumer, and more.

This new landscape requires learning 4.0. How well prepared are you to learn and thrive in this changing world? To discover seven basic practices that will guide how you respond to new insights and the profound changes in the world around you, from always-on devices to information overload, check out Unstoppable You: Adopt the New Learning 4.0 Mindset and Change Your Life.

About the Author

Pat McLagan’s life and career are all about helping people improve their performance and development. Her book On-the-Level: Performance Communication That Works focused on shared responsibility communication, Change Is Everybody’s Business helped readers learn about their role in change, The Age of Participation: New Governance for the Workplace and the World looked at the systemic issues of participation, and The Shadow Side of Power: Lessons for Leaders looked closely at leaders’ use of power. In 2017, she will publish a book with ATD to help empower learners in all learning situations. She has received awards for thought leadership, worked all around the world, and served in professional leadership roles. Her focus has been helping people unleash their power and work toward a higher purpose at work and in life.

Be the first to comment
Sign In to Post a Comment
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.