Why Lifelong Learning Should Be Your Constant Companion
Lifelong Learning

In the digital age, change comes in several speeds: fast, faster, and even faster, and in this ever-accelerating world, lifelong learning is an essential companion.

The World Economic Forum dubbed this era, marked by constant technological breakthroughs that repeatedly disrupt the business world, as the Fourth Industrial Revolution. 

In this era, only the nimblest companies will survive – and only those who constantly re-educate themselves will continue to find jobs, says Nick van Dam.

Internationally recognized thought leader, advisor, researcher, author, and speaker on corporate learning and leadership development, van Dam serves as the global chief learning officer and client advisor at McKinsey & Company. He has worked with more than 100 clients throughout the world during his professional career. Before joining McKinsey, he was partner, global chief learning officer, and director of human capital for Deloitte. He also helps executives on their learning journey as a professor at Nyenrode Business University and adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s executive doctoral program for chief learning officers.

Technology Drives Workforce Change

New technology continues to drive current and future shifts in the work that takes place, says van Dam. The adoption of new technologies has rapidly accelerated: It took 30 years for radio to reach 50 million users, but only nine months for Twitter, 35 days for Angry Birds, and 14 days for Pokemon Go.

And automation promises to play a greater role, assuming tasks that humans currently complete. McKinsey and Company predicted in 2016 that 60 percent of all occupations could see 30 percent or more of their activities automated. And according to estimates, the human share of labor hours will drop from 71 percent in 2018 to 52 percent by 2025.

New Priority Skill Sets Are Emerging

For those in the workforce, these trends create demand for a different skill set, says van Dam. The World Economic Forum lists the following as the top 10 skills by 2022.

  • Analytical thinking and innovation
  • Active learning
  • Creativity, originality, and initiative
  • Technology design and programming
  • Critical thinking and analyses
  • Complex problem solving
  • Leadership and social influence
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Reasoning, problem solving, and ideation
  • Systems analysis and evaluation

New and future jobs come with labels that decades ago were not in the lexicon, such as scum masters, green deal assessors, remote health specialists, millennium generation experts, robot coordinator, and professional triber. By 2022, the forum estimates, no less than 54 percent of all employees will require significant reskilling and up skilling.

Retooling Opportunities Take Many Shapes

Corporations, such as McKinsey, and Disney, are offering in-house training at their own corporate universities. To meet the demand, a full learning and development portfolio includes both formal learning and semi-spontaneous on-the-job learning that accounts for 10 percent and 90 percent of development efforts respectively, he says. 

On-the-job learning includes social learning from social networks, gaming, blogs, and other methods; on-demand learning from digital courses, videos, virtual reality, and other components; and career learning from networking, real-time feedback, shadowing, and other interactions.

EMBA More Than Fits the Bill

Many EMBA Programs already require students to do advance work, often online, which allows faculty to devote class time for discussion, exercises, and project work, in effect flipping the classroom from its traditional lecture model.

Enhancing the classroom experience and designing immersive experiences address the growing emphasis on on-the-job learning, says van Dam. Programs may include live virtual classrooms, digital courses, and assessments, immersive classroom experience on campus, social learning in virtual teams, on-the-job assignments, coaching sessions, and personal projects.

Lifelong learners also must focus on their own growth and adapt a growth mindset, staying open to possibilities and feedback and being ready to move out of their comfort zone, he says. They also must develop deep expertise, while nurturing broad competencies, build a personal brand and network, and chart their development course.

EMBA Programs can help in the lifelong learners’ quest with the following actions, says van Dam.

  • Develop responsible and inclusive business leaders
  • Refresh the EMBA curriculum at the speed of business
  • Provide immersive and real-world experiences
  • Advance program design and delivery enabled by learning technologies and modern pedagogy
  • Double down on teaching excellence

The MBA plays an important role in a business leader’s journey, but not the only one. “The MBA is a stepping stone in a lifelong learning journey.”

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