Few traditional career tactics train us for an era where the most important skill is the ability to acquire new skills.
“Our institutions are out of date; the long career is dead; any quest for solid rules is pointless, since we will be constantly rethinking them; you can’t rely on an established business model or a corporate ladder to point your way; silos between industries are breaking down; anything settled is vulnerable.” This is Robert Safian’s closing argument in his article “This Is Generation Flux: Meet The Pioneers Of The New (And Choatic) Frontier Of Business,” that appeared in the January 2012 issue of Fast Company.
Everything is changing, and Safian’s article demonstrates that despite the chaotic nature of today’s business climate, there are opportunities available to those who embrace the instability. He provides examples of disruptive business models and profiles seven individuals who have taken advantage of the changing times. He says, “In an age where Twitter and other social-media tools play key roles in recasting the political map in the Mideast; where impoverished residents of refugee camps would rather go without food than without their cell phones; where all types of media, from music to TV to movies, are being remade, redefined, defended, and attached every day in novel ways—there is no question that we are in a new world.”
According to Safian, the new world is going to leave the nostalgic in the dust. He says, “To thrive in this climate requires a whole new approach.” He labels those who adopt the new approach as members of Generation Flux. “What defines Generation Flux is a mind-set that embraces instability, that tolerates—and even enjoys—recalibrating careers, business models, and assumptions.” Safian continues, “Few traditional career tactics train us for an era where the most important skill is the ability to acquire new skills.”
What has worked in the past, for individuals and for businesses, may no longer be effective. The desire to learn new skills is an attribute of the most effective design entrepreneurs but not something that can be taught. On Day 70, Josh Brewer described the traits of a desirable designer. He said, “You have to be self-motivated. You have to be willing to stretch and take on stuff that you may not normally do. You need to be open and have the ability to learn quickly.” Many founders that have shared their stories with us have attributed their success to the willingness to adapt, to take feedback, and to change their vision.
Safian describes this shift in thinking when he says, “The security of the 40-year old career of the man in the gray flannel suit may have been overstated, but at least he had a path, a ladder. The new reality is multiple gigs, some of them super short, with constant pressure to learn new things and adapt to new work situations, and no guarantee that you’ll stay in a single industry. It can be daunting. It can be exhausting. It can also be exhilarating.”
We focus on the exhilarating potential of the chaotic business environment and encourage our peers to work hard and learn new things. For some, “This Is Generation Flux” is a scary realization. For the design entrepreneur—it is a green light to learn as we go, to take advantage of opportunities, and to start making.
Read the entire article here.