Of STEN guns and STEM cells

Old ways wont open new doors


No, we are not talking about military arms or genetic engineering. The subject is something much more important for our survival in a world that is going to be challenged and dominated by robots.

The planet we live in today spins every day and makes a full circle every 24 hours. We seamlessly move along with it no matter what we do.

However, what if one day, the world goes in one direction and we do not go along with it? Disaster. Isn’t it?

That’s precisely what is happening to most of us in the corporate world. We are oblivious to the motion and direction of the rest of the world. We are busy living in the inbox, a plethora of messaging platforms and so on. You name it, we are thoroughly engrossed, and we spin and push ourselves to go with them.

So, how do we sense the motion and direction of the world, develop the necessary gravitational forces and stay aligned to the movement? Fortunately, It is not very difficult. Let us see how.

I am a father of two school going children. Like many parents, I always worry (only worry) about their education that makes them relevant and competitive for the next half-century or more.

In my pursuit of finding a practical solution, I bumped into various scholastic articles and research notes. Among the many skills we want our children to develop, it is imperative that they need to hone their STEM Skills: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. These are foundational skills, and the mastery of these will help the children to align better with the future. Some leaders also say that they need creative skills and need to have some Art in the STEM. So it became, STEAM. The child with these skills (or brain cells) will stay steamingly hot for at least a decade, if not more.

That set me thinking: What should the elders and corporate workers learn to stay relevant? What are those foundational skills that we should acquire?

What are those skills which either missing or inadequate that are holding us back? How can we be positioned as a loaded sten gun or more powerful?

At a minimum, to survive in this world and co-exist with robots, we need these four skills, collectively called as STEN. Social, Technology, Engineering and Numbers. But all of them in a somewhat different context.

We need to be well versed with our Social Skills. No, we are not talking about our excellent skills with Facebook, WhatsApp and the like.

Social skills are those which give a force multiplier effect. This includes teamwork, collaboration, the ability to network with the people who matter to your position and purpose. These skills help you run the friction-free relationships.

T in STEN stands for Technology Skills. Period. There is a whole spectrum of things we need to be aware of. The list starts from the routine office platforms we use every day to more sophisticated gadgets we own or wish to own. In addition to this, we need to have the basic understanding of the current and future trends that are going to impact the way we work (Artificial Intelligence, IoT, Information Security and so on). The most important in the list is:  How do you make use of a simple robot to help you save yourself from an impending threat from a larger robot? We need to make the best use of technology without getting either scared or eliminated.  eg: A simple mobile app like IFTT or a small macro ( or Automator in case of a Mac) can automate several routine and mundane tasks and can free us up. This reclaimed time can be invested to learn more important and critical skills.

Similarly, it is essential to cultivate our Engineering Skills. This engineering is different from regular flavors of engineering like mechanical, electronic and so on. These are Inner Engineering skills as Sadguru puts it. Unless we learn to lead ourselves, we cannot lead others. So, it is essential for us to surf our inner-net frequently to understand our deeper purpose, the true calling and prepare better to influence others.

Finally, we also need to acquire the Number Skills. That means, we need to begin to read and make sense of the data that is lying around and piling up around. The numbers could be the profitability numbers of your business, productivity numbers of your employees, various metrics and indicators for your products, services, platforms and so on. Numbers show the big picture.

As I said, these are the foundational skills. We need to have many more critical skills to excel in what we do.

Acquiring life skills is a three-step process. 1. Start-up new habits, 2. Give up some old habits which keep pulling us down and 3. Follow up or continue with some more habits.

Stay tuned for more information on the STEN skills and other Surround Skills that help us battle effectively.

More on this next week and many more in my upcoming book on Personal Effectiveness.



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