New skills essential for thriving amid digital disruption

Technology is transforming work and home life.

The world is changing, and it's not going to slow down, according to Tracey Wilen, DBA, an expert on workplace skills development who discussed the implications of digital disruption during a session at a recent AICPA governing Council meeting.

"We all are in the middle of this change," she said. And she thinks that society's transformation will only accelerate as people's lives grow longer and disruptive events continue. The shifts will place a premium, she said, on skills including:

  • Multimedia literacy. As the workforce gains people who would rather watch a video than read a book, it will become more important to deliver information and provide training without relying strictly on text.
  • Data analysis. Technology is simultaneously making more data available to companies and providing tools for analyzing data. Those who do the best job of operationalizing the insights derived from these data will have an advantage.
  • Novel and adaptive thinking. You can gain a tremendous advantage by using a new technology to find a better way to solve a problem. Wilen cited the example of Cornell University biomedical engineer Lawrence Bonassar's use of ┘úD printers with living cells to create more effective bioengineered ears for patients.

Meanwhile, Wilen said leaders need to develop vision, specialized skills, and general knowledge.

"We really just used to need to know our role or our company or our industry," she said. "But now it's broader. You have to understand what's going on in the marketplace. Who are the new competitors? What are the new technologies that are emerging that we have to be aware of in case it comes into our space?"

She suggested, too, that leaders need to create more detailed career paths and succession plans for their youngest employees, and to delegate responsibilities in a multicultural and multigenerational workplace.


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