The Digital age is characterized by exponential technologies, rapid flow of information, shrinking distances, new business models and rapid experimentation. All aspects of our lives are undergoing change. Enhanced computation power has led to automation penetrating our homes and workplaces. Advances in healthcare are enhancing wellness and quality of life. Social media has made it easier to share and receive information and space travel has literally dissolved boundaries. The world as we knew it, is changing at an exponential pace. And in order to survive and succeed in this new age, we need to focus on a few fundamental aspects.
Here are the key qualities you need to develop, enhance or cultivate.
You need creativity to be able to deal with hitherto unencountered situations and solve new problems. Experimentation is the order of the day. Considering the deluge of information and the speed at which new products and services are being launched, you also need creativity to design, showcase and distinguish your products and services from your competitors.
Pursue a passion, read extensively and try something new on a regular basis in order to get your creative juices flowing.
Considering how fast the world is changing, you will need to stay alert and be aware of what is happening around you, in your field and in adjacent areas. You need to keep track of how the industry is evolving, new technology trends, customer behaviour and competitor actions. In current times, information is power and can make the difference between winning and losing.
As I often say — ‘A knowledge capsule a day, keeps obsolescence at bay’. Subscribe to industry news and thought-leadership — read articles, listen to podcasts or watch videos — whatever works for you.
Considering the speed at which new technologies and innovations emerge, our playing fields are changing rapidly too. Our expertise is eroding faster than we would have liked it to. The half-life of a skill is 5 years. That means, half of what you learned 10 years ago is obsolete and half of what your learned 5 years ago is irrelevant. So, if you want to stay relevant, you need to keep learning.
It is critical to focus on continuous learning through upskilling. The first step is to assess your current skill set against industry trends to figure out if your skills are in demand or in decline. Once you have assessed this, define the future skills you need to build and categorize them as core and ancillary skills. Finally, go ahead and execute on this plan.
Large organizations have collapsed in recent times, because they either couldn’t see changes coming or couldn’t adapt soon enough. The same goes for you as an individual too. Not only work, but even daily life is changing with the advent of new technologies. You can either lament at the old ways of doing things or learn to adapt and move on. Change is never easy, but your agility in accepting and adapting to changes, will determine your chances at success.
The way to become more agile is to move out of your comfort zone as often as you can. Start with something small and then move on to bigger changers. This will build confidence and build agility as you learn to adapt to new situations.
With rapid advances in technology, organizations can create customized products, services and experiences for customers, employees and partners. Empathy plays a critical role here, in helping us understand different perspectives of various stakeholders. And as we work with global teams, empathy also helps us understand and appreciate diverse views.
Develop empathy by paying attention to non-verbal clues and through active listening. Try to walk in others’ shoes, get rid of biases and cultivate a sense of curiosity. In every situation, try to understand perspectives of everyone involved.
In earlier times, change was gradual and we had enough time to anticipate and prepare to handle anything new. However, current times are laden with rapid changes. We neither have precedents, nor do we have time to practice. Hence, we need to proceed with the confidence that we can handle however things turn out. Confidence also gives you an edge since you can move much quicker than competitors.
In order to cultivate self-confidence, start with understanding yourself — your strengths, weaknesses, fears and aspirations. Get rid of your fears by facing them head-on, build a support network to encourage you, pay attention to your posture and dressing style, act confident and always remember to celebrate success.
None of the breakthroughs and technological advances would have been possible if the innovators did not have the courage to pursue their ideas. The ones who think big, challenge status quo and aim for the impossible, are the ones who eventually succeed. In order to delight customers and stay ahead of the game, organizations and individuals need to experiment with new ideas. We need to experiment, knowing that some of these experiments would fail. We need courage to take risks, handle criticism and to deal with failure, until our experiments become successful.
Instill courage by facing your fears head-on. When fear stops you from trying something new, ask yourself this question — ‘what is the worst that could happen’? When you analyse the response, you would realize that most pursuits are worth the risk. Every time you overcome fear and take a step forward, it builds courage.
In a fast-changing world, networking is critical to career advancement. The stronger our network, the greater is or access to information, resources and people who can help. While it is easy to build connections online through social media, it is important to forge deeper relationships through offline interactions. Strong networks give us an edge and help in professional advancement.
Networking is a science as well as an art, but it is easy to get started. Attend events and conferences, ask your friends for introductions to people in their network and create an ‘inner circle’ of close connects. The most important aspects is to build deep relationships with atleast 10–15% of the people in your network. Make time to connect online or offline and let the relationship flourish.
Personal branding was once a luxury enjoyed by a select few, but it is now a necessity for all of us. In the digital age, we all have a personal brand. And as Chris Anderson said ‘Your brand isn’t what you say it is. It’s what Google says it is’. In the current hyper-connected world, your reputation can either be controlled by you, or be left for others to control. Your personal brand plays a crucial role in your success; hence it is important to invest time and effort into personal branding.
The first step in personal branding is to audit where your brand stands currently. The second step is to define your desired brand. The third step is to create your desired brand by designing an impressive profile, creating content, building a network and creating a social media presence. Finally, make sure to review and optimize your brand on a regular basis.
In order to succeed in the digital age where volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity have taken a new meaning, we need to rebuild our thought processes and attitudes. Working on the above aspects will enable you to view the exponential pace of change as an opportunity, instead of as a threat and will place you in the driving seat to design your future.