Article translated from “Schneller!” written by Mag. Regina E. Fenzl – CFR Global Executive Search Austria.

The world is accelerating rapidly: digitization, automation, Industry 4.0 give rise to the Internet of Things, cyber-physical systems and cloud computing among other hi-tech assets.

These lightning-fast technologies have also expedited social and cultural change for people across the world. They find it increasingly necessary to gain knowledge that could help them keep up with these developments.

So what kind of skills would we need to persevere in the face of such rapid progress?

Andreas Weigend lives in the fast lane.

Germany today, Sweden tomorrow, a stopover in Helsinki – the former chief scientist at Amazon advises global companies on big data. He lives in San Francisco and Shanghai and is a member of the Federal Government’s Digital Council.

Weigend’s life is an embodiment of his teachings. “We have to talk not only about the first derivative, but also about the second,” says the doctor of physics as he discusses Moore’s Law. It refers to the perception that the performance of microchips doubles every one to two years, as the cost of computers gets slashed by half.

“The world is accelerating rapidly. This is beyond our imagination. No matter which rules we consider today when using this technology – we can assume that they will be out of date in a year.” – A. Weigend   quoted in Die Zeit newspaper, 2019

Acceleration 2.0 – It’s everywhere!

The article in Die Zeit (2019) sums it up: We live in a time of exponential growth that breaks everything that has happened before.

‘Order by 12, get it delivered today’ promises the Evening Express of an online retailer. The analog landscape of a Swedish furniture store, on the other hand, becomes increasingly barren.

In China, the messenger app WeChat already does everything that PayPal, WhatsApp or Facebook do for us independently. Instead of searching for their visiting cards, scan the WeChat profile of the person you wish to speak to – business communication is quickly established merely two clicks later.

A study by Michigan State University shows that more than 281 billion emails are sent every day worldwide. As email becomes increasingly common, it is associated with a demonstrable decrease in the productivity of managers.

“Email is the cockroach of the internet. You can fight them – you can’t exterminate them,” says Cal Henderson, founder of start-up Slack.

As a solution, he offers SLACK i.e. Searchable Log of all Conversation and Knowledge, a cloud-based proprietary instant messaging platform that makes emails redundant instantly. (See Die Zeit, 2019)

Information Overload vs. Digital Detox

Much of what appeared to be a matter of course yesterday, may already be out-of-date tomorrow. However, our brain cannot understand the dynamics of such exponential developments.

This becomes even clearer when you look at WHO statistics (2019) that show the mental illnesses have never been as prevalent as they are now:

  • 25% of the population suffers from depression or anxiety
  • in the European Union (EU), neuropsychiatric disorders account for 26% of the disease burden
  • The cost of mood disorders and stress in the EU is estimated at €170 billion a year

As a consequence, hotels are now offering holidays to “slow down”, magazines advertise “Digital Detox” and instead of indulging in fast food, trends compel us to buy regionally and sustainably.

There is an audible desire for “work-life balance” and flexibility in the job is the only answer for an over-worked and overwhelmed generation Z to survive in an agile world.

It has become a political and economic necessity to keep up with technology.

A Digital World Requires Humanity

In fact, in the digitally accelerated world, nothing is more important than the ability to not be distracted. Bu all this technology makes it easier than ever to lose sight of priorities.

Perhaps that’s why children in China are taught conscious methods of mind control from the age of 3, as a means of self-defense against digital distraction.

“A child has to learn again to be able to endure boredom,” postulates Prof. Dr. Arnold Mettnitzer (Der ermutigte Mensch, 2018).

In a consumer-centric world where everything is immediately available and we are constantly flooded with new information, it becomes imperative to relearn and cultivate gratitude, mindfulness and calmness.

Instilling competence for in-depth reading is just as crucial since this ability has been measurably reduced by constant NEWS surfing.

According to a study by the World Economic Forum (2019), digitalization demands one thing above all: humanity. The TOP skills for the world of work 4.0 include:

  • Empathy & creativity
  • Critical thinking
  • Emotional competence
  • Curiosity
  • Listening & reflection
  • Networked thinking and working

When asked how he deals with this change, Andreas Weigend says, “We always had that!”

In fact, the complaint about information overload is almost as old as the Western world. You must know your competences because as human beings we cannot work like a machine.

It is an added advantage not to lose contact with the present as we prepare for a faster future. (See Die Zeit, 2019)




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