Building for the Future

I’ve always been fascinated by the concept that 65% of the jobs that kids in High School (Secondary School if you are in Nigeria) will do don’t currently exist. Meaning, for the most part a lot of what they are learning today in real terms, may not be relevant to the careers they will engage in tomorrow.

It fascinates me for two related reasons; first, if that’s the case, isn’t the time we spend training kids in the current system wasted to an extent, seeing as it’s channelled towards an unproductive avenue? Secondly, how should you then train these kids to be ready for jobs you can’t even define today?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, because I believe that in a way, the Covid-19 pandemic has collapsed time, and as such the future is coming at a much faster pace than usual. Demands for these new jobs will definitely happen a lot sooner, in fact, there’s a chance it’s happening already, so what can we do?

I personally believe that the answer to this lies in a few things:

  1. Focus on Learning to Learn: I’ve always believed that the way we currently learn is flawed, and that the focus needs to shift from learning to remember, to learning to apply and also learning to learn. In the past knowledge was siloed in certain buildings, or certain people’s heads and as such, passing knowledge required physical proximity, and a lot of time. Thanks to the internet, knowledge and its access has been democratised to the point where you can pretty much learn anything, from the comfort of your home in way less time than traditionally possible. This has implications for what a future “professional” will look like, and whether (with all this knowledge in our pockets), it’ll be more relevant to specialise or be a “master of all trades”, I’ll bet the latter, but that is a conversation for another day. With the world changing as rapidly as it currently is, the ability to leverage on this abundant knowledge, learn and relearn will be key to being relevant and employable in the future.
  2. Being Curious and Open Minded: With the world changing rapidly, it only makes sense that at least some of what we consider fact today, will be disproved as we continue to access more data (in the same manner that the world was once flat by consensus, but isn’t any more). It also follows, that a lot of things that are currently facts, or standards will become irrelevant, simply because we’ll have evolved past them. The same way many of us look at innovations such as tribal marks today with shame today, a lot of what we consider cutting-edge today, will also fall into the same category (chemotherapy I’m looking at you). To move ahead, we will have to adapt to a changing world, by learning to ask questions, challenge the status quo and be flexible enough to accept the new facts that’ll reshape our understanding of things we currently consider sacrosanct. The ability to absorb new facts and forge new paths based on newly available information, will also be a critical skill.
  3. Betting on Technology: I typically think of technology, not as a sector or industry, but more as the middleware that makes everything work. If you collapse that idea, with the fact that technology isn’t necessarily just bits, but also atoms, then you’ll notice two things. First, technology has almost always existed in some form, and second; it’s going to be here for a very long time. Regardless of what you do, some form of technology has already been deployed in that space, and more technology will be continuously deployed in that space. So it makes plenty sense (at least to me), to bet on something that’s not only going to be here long-term, but also going to be relevant across pretty much every field going forward.

The last point takes me back to the the first sentence of this post. For the 35% of kids who will grow up to do jobs that currently exist, they’ll still be impacted by technology in someway or the other, so figuring it (technology) is quite relevant to pretty much everyone. (To be honest, all three points are relevant to everyone, as even the old jobs won’t remains static).

In the coming year, a lot of my focus, particularly as relating to Colab, will be on figuring out a way to build talent that’s future proof. Talent that can self-learn and relearn, talent that is super curious and not afraid to engage with new facts and reassess positions and talent that’s digitally native and adept at using technology to shape outcomes and create the future. With alumni now scattered all over the world from Microsoft to Goldman Sachs and everywhere in between, with alumni currently building potentially game changing technology like Payant, and SchoolMo (and all the other ones I can’t talk about now) and powering other local startups across the country, this isn’t something that is totally new to us at Colab. We’ve been doing this for a while, but in the new year, we’ll be a lot more deliberate about increasing the numbers and outcomes.

Here’s to building the future.

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