If WikiPedia were made into a book, it would be more than 2.2 million pages long and take more than 123 years to read, according to the newest version of social media guru Eric Qualman's "Social Media Revolution 2011" videos. This tidbit takes the concept of information overload to a whole new stratosphere. Yet for the 21st century worker, the ability to monitor multiple streams of content and filter out valuable information will be a critical tool in the future workplace.
Today we will examine the last two skills that will be needed in the 21st century workplace, as defined by the Institute for the Future in their study, "Future Work Skills 2020."
9. Cognitive Load Management: The ability to discriminate and filter information for importance, and to understand how to maximize cognitive functioning using a variety of tools and techniques
A 43-year-old Pittsburgh photographer remembers his first internship at the U.S. branch of a German company while he was in college. His job: to cut and tape excerpts from stacks of departmental memos onto a clean sheet of paper so that the "Daily News Fax" could be sent to the Dusseldorf office via a behemoth, sputtering fax machine.
If that company is still in business today, chances are their global interoffice communications are handled electronically through a company wiki or blog. It's safe to assume that in the 21st century workplace, the barrage of information will only get bigger. To avoid information overload, the next generation of workers will need to be adept at filtering out the noise and homing in on relevant, useful information.
Additionally, they will need to optimize the content they generate so that it rises above the clutter and reaches its intended audience. This will require sharp cognitive abilities and strategic thinking.
10. Virtual Collaboration: The ability to work proactively, drive engagement, and demonstrate presence as a member of a virtual team
As that first-generation fax machine served as the lifeline between the German company and its U.S. subsidiary, social media and connective technology keep virtual teams connected today. However, staying connected as a virtual team goes beyond electronic communication.
Leaders of virtual teams must still motivate, mentor, and provide feedback to team members, which calls for the ability to transcend distance and technology to establish a presence.
Innovative uses of virtual tools, including virtual worlds with three-dimensional avatars, may be the next frontier for providing a social-emotional experience to work groups that may be scattered across towns, borders and time zones.
Workers who demonstrate competence in the 10 skills we've discussed over the past few days may have an advantage in the workplace of the future. The challenge remains ensuring today's socio-political landscape is equipped to adequately prepare the next generation of employees for career success.
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