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The key to work survival: learning to steer throught the unknown

I really like these words from Tina Seelig, the Faculty Director of the Technology Ventures Program at Stanford University: "Your knowledge is the toolbox for imagination". Plus, it is really true that every student who leaves the education system should have their own "toolkit" for innovatively tackling the problems presented to them. Unknown problems. We don't know what they're going to be. What these youth need, is exactly the same thing we'd have to use ourselves; the key to work survival in this century lies in learning to venture into the unknown. We cannot teach or learn what we do not yet know will happen, but we can prepare for that uncertain future. That’s why it’s important to acquire the right skills (metaskills, knowmads, we’ll review these in a moment) as well as learn how to be entrepreneurial (self-employed or working for others, this is necessary everywhere) using the methodologies most suited to our times: Design Thinking, Lean Start Up, Agile, User Experience...

Even if we've heard it over and over again up to our ears, if you want something you've never had, you'll have to do something you've never done before. And the working world we have at our feet demands new skills and skills. In this 21st century, flexibility is the way forward since whoever adapts best, survives. Besides, we know that the professional environment is marked by new technologies that are growing exponentially. The difference between this 4th industrial revolution and the previous ones is that we navigate through the chaos of the unknown that come with the new technologies and their high-speed world. How can we as professionals prepare ourselves for tasks and careers that we cannot even imagine we’ll end up doing? What about preparing for constant change and digitization? How do we become friends with uncertainty? A good option: by acquiring what I call a knowmad mentality, since the knowledge nomad is the professional profile that best fits this volatile and fluctuating environment. The knowmad thrives on the disruption of the space/time paradigm that this new Digital Age has brought about. That’s where the claim "to be able to collaborate with anyone, anytime, anywhere" comes from, and covid has stepped up the need for this. Let’s first point out that they are professionals who adopt and internalize a liquid mindset that allows them to be more flexible and adapt to the needs of these new times.

The knowmad is thus a great manager of uncertainty who uses his knowledge, versatility, and flexibility to find experimental solutions to problems that he today as yet does not know what they will be. Indeed, knowledge nomads are agile and responsive, creative, and innovative, but they are also social and sociable professionals. That means they work and think online, collaborating with anyone from anywhere (not just with the paying client or the employer), since they know how to use the new technologies to their benefit.

As a mindset, it is accessible to any kind of worker as well as to employees, managers, and others because it helps to improve the ability to adapt to changing environments and to develop an attitude of internal entrepreneurship. As I explain in my book in Spanish, titled “Knowmads. Los trabajadores del futuro” (Translation: "Knowmads. The workers of the future") published by LID, the 21st century professional has the capacity to live, think and act for the times we are living in. This is a changing, liquid, and exciting time, in which (almost) anything is possible for whoever allies with knowledge and new technologies. The knowmad is in the beta state (always seeking out a better version of him or herself), alert and constantly renewing himself: to never stop learning.

Since we no longer travel in a straight line: our future is open.

That also means life doesn't stop after 40 or 60. Any of these ages is the peak professional moment... because it's the one we have. The professional with a knowmad mentality and whose chronological age is 40+, 50+, or 60+ is a silver surfer (a senior professional with silver talent) thanks to the complex working and demographic conditions he has experienced together with his interest in surfing these to keep at the crest of the wave for 20 or 30 more years. Hence, it recommended that individuals and companies activate an ageless attitude for it is never too late nor is anyone "old" if there is wellbeing.

If we are able professionally to free ourselves from our crippling fears to venture to do things that frighten us or cause vertigo; if we discover what makes us enjoy the journey, what chimes with you, what you are good at, what you want to do, and thus bring out the best in you; if we are looking for a job/profession that makes you smile and in which you also make others smile... then we will be acquiring a knowmad way of seeing life, and to be a knowmad means each one of us takes control of our own professional future, of the reins of where we want to go, while taking responsibility for every step that must be taken to do so.

When the future is uncertain, as professionals and organizations we are forced to always be changing, evolving, reimagining ourselves. Learning, studying... working. Since the unknown, whatever is complex, and uncertainty cannot be either fully understood or grasped, nor even compartmentalized, chopped or broken, then we have no choice other than to discover it (and even appreciate it) as we steer through and live with it. So, let's create our toolkit.

Raquel Roca

Licenciada en Periodismo por la Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Ha trabajado en diversos Medios de Comunicación como TVE, Tele5, Yo Dona, ELLE o Canal Sur, entre otros.

Directora del Master Gestión del Talento en la Era Digital (LaSalle & LIDBusiness) es Profesora de Plan Estratégico Marca Personal del IEDE Business School, consultora en Kemp y docente Masters Alta Dirección en The Valley Digital School.

Speaker, Consultora y Docente en temas sobre Transformación Digital y Cultural, Futuro del Trabajo, Competencias Digitales, Marca Personal, Visual Thinking & Creatividad, Learning Agility o Storytelling; Certificada en Visual Thinking y Design Thinking Lombard.

Ha trabajado en diversos programas formativos así como conferencias para empresas como BBVA, L’Oreal, IKEA,Banco Santander, Microsoft, Volvo, Renaud Picard, Everis, Bankinter, GSK, Essity… E instituciones y eventos como TEDxSevilla, Universidad del Pacífico (Perú), IED, ESADE, Alestra Summit (México), ExpocapitalHumano (Chile), HR Amcham (Perú), HR Summit (Madrid), etc.

Miembro de The Knowmads Hub (tkmhub.com)

Autora de “Knowmads. Los trabajadores del futuro” y “Silver surfers” (LID Editorial)

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