In an Art Deco building in downtown Los Angeles, a period mural by artist Conrad Buff II adorns an elevator lobby. Before he found his calling as an artist, the Swiss-born Buff worked as a bricklayer, a baker, a lace maker, a bartender and a dishwasher, redefining the term jack-of-all-trades.
Following in his creative father's footsteps, Conrad Buff III made his name as an architect in midcentury Los Angeles. His firm built more than 6,000 residential and commercial structures, including one of the case study houses that helped put midcentury modern architecture on the map. In a sense, father and son were ahead of their times, as both embody the next two future workforce skills we will be discussing today, transdisciplinarity and a design mindset.
7. Transdisciplinarity: Literacy in and ability to understand concepts across multiple disciplines
Yes, it's a mouthful. But broken down, it's the ability to possess a deep understanding of one discipline or field, yet be conversant in a broader range of disciplines.
Not unlike Conrad Buff the artist, the 21st century worker will likely have various different careers throughout the course of his working life, which will result in exposure to more industries and disciplines than his 20th century counterparts. Thanks to longer lifespans, multiple careers will be the norm. Future workers will need to embrace lifelong learning to be able to learn the language of disciplines other than their own.
To illustrate, a 21st century worker may choose architecture as a primary career, but she will need to be conversant in graphic design, new media and technology, and perhaps climatology, as emerging meteorological shifts impact soil topography and erosion.
As the IFTF notes in its report, multifaceted problems require workers who are capable of collaborating across disciplines to develop solutions.
8. Design Mindset: The ability to represent and develop tasks and work processes for desired outcomes
Residential midcentury modern architecture almost literally turned the traditional home blueprint inside out. The use of floor-to-ceiling windows and glass walls brought the outdoors inside, and in warmer climates, the sliding glass door and open floor plan heralded the birth of the outdoor living space.
In the 21st century, sensors, communication tools and processing power will enable us to plan our environments so that they facilitate our needs and objectives. The future worker will need to possess a keen sense for the kind of thinking different tasks require, and be able to adjust his or her work environment such that it enhances their ability to complete certain tasks.
In other words, the need for novel thinking and the use of new media in business will require a reshaping of the traditional work environment to accommodate a rapidly changing work culture.
Tomorrow: The last two future workforce skills
Read the rest of the series here:
The Los Angeles Conservancy (Downtown Walking Tour manual, Art Deco tour)
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