A California marketing director recalls working at a small government agency that lived and breathed PowerPoint. Every management team meeting was dominated by presentations of 50 or more slides, virtually each of which was read verbatim by the speakers. His efforts to move the agency toward a more modern approach to business communication were all but ignored, and eventually he left his job in frustration, but not without a certain degree of relief at no longer having to endure weekly "Death by PowerPoint" sessions.
As if we needed further affirmation of the need to bring workplace communication out of the dark ages, the next two future workforce skills all but decree the elimination of tired presentation tools whose shelf life has long passed. Today, we will take a closer look at the importance of computational thinking and new media literacy in the 21st century workplace.
5. Computational Thinking: The ability to translate vast amounts of data into abstract concepts and to understand data-based reasoning
It used to be that knowledge of the Microsoft Office suite was the marker of a progressive and tech-savvy employee. Not anymore, according to the IFTF. Because of the sheer volume of data available to us today, more and more industries will require workers who can make sense of it all with sharp computational thinking skills. The IFTF report suggests that strong statistical analysis and quantitative reasoning skills will replace familiarity with basic software programs as the sign of a valuable, 21st century worker.
What this means for secondary and postsecondary education institutions is that the need to prepare students for the new workplace is more critical than ever. Some higher education institutions are already providing curricula and degree programs with an emphasis on building quantitative reasoning skills. Prospective students would do well by thoroughly researching colleges and universities for such programs and making it a priority to develop these skills throughout their postsecondary years.
6. New-Media Literacy: The ability to critically assess and develop content that uses new media forms, and to leverage these media for persuasive communication.
Workplace cultures like the one described earlier by the frustrated marketing director could soon go the way of the dinosaur, as 21st century workers become more conversant in new media forms. User-generated content is the currency of today's mass communication world, as evidenced by the dominance of social media platforms such as blogging, micro-blogging, videos and podcasts.
In the next 10 years, these new media will be fully integrated into the workplace, according to the IFTF. In addition to being able to objectively analyze new media in the same way one would objectively evaluate a staff report or presentation, the future worker will need to know how to create and present their own visual information using new media tools.
To take it a step further, the 21st century worker will need to use these tools to engage and influence the behavior of their various audiences, which makes mastering the newest technology a must in the eyes of skeptical consumers, investors, bosses or donors. Death by Slideshow, your days are numbered.
Tomorrow: 'Transdisciplinarity' and the design mindset.
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