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Are You Ready to Thrive in the Innovation Economy?

Henry Ford: the man, the myth, the legend. Ford was an innovator. He pushed society forward, not only with the original American automobile but also with an energized way to mass-produce on the assembly line. He was able to make his ideas become realities because of his mindset to surround himself w

Phil McKinney
Phil McKinney
4 min read
Are You Ready to Thrive in the Innovation Economy?

Henry Ford: the man, the myth, the legend. Ford was an innovator. He pushed society forward, not only with the original American automobile but also with an energized way to mass-produce on the assembly line. He was able to make his ideas become realities because of his mindset to surround himself with dreamers and innovators. And in the current innovation economy, this mindset has spread to every industry and every company, big or small, old or new. He found his way to thrive in the innovation economy.

I am looking for a lot of people who have an infinite capacity to not know what can’t be done.

Henry Ford

The world needs innovators and today’s workers will have to fill this need. Are you ready?

The Impact Of The Innovation Economy On The Workforce

There’s no denying it; the innovation economy is here, and it’s on the rise. Entire industries have been forever changed, and this new workplace has a whole new set of expectations for its workers.

Today, landing a job isn’t as simple as having the right set of degrees from the right institution. It’s about having a diverse background of experiences. It’s about having the right personality for the company’s culture. It’s about having a passion for the field and excitement for the future—whatever may come.

Workers who crave stability and rigidity are going to struggle. Individuals who only have a narrow set of skills will be challenged. Employees who are ignoring cultural and technological advancements won’t be employees for long. Getting and keeping a job is no longer just about what you know and how good you are; it is now about what you are willing to learn and how quickly you can adapt to change.

The workers who are thriving are the ones who accept that the innovation economy is now driving business and embrace it with open arms. They are the ones who are wary of professional advice that includes words like “security” and “single career path.” The employees who are finding employment in today’s workforce are the ones who look for opportunities to think outside the box and solve the problems of the future.

But what specifically can workers do to better prepare themselves for the innovation economy? What educational and soft skill sets are needed to thrive?

How The Innovation Economy Is Reshaping Education

It’s no surprise that, as the innovation economy has shifted the business landscape, it has also had an impact on our education systems and the types of degrees people are choosing to pursue.

For decades, we saw an educational trend toward subjects in the arts and humanities, rather than the sciences. Now, however, the world is beginning to see that STEM is essential for innovation. Creative ideas can be developed, but to implement those ideas it takes scientists, researchers, mathematicians, coders, engineers, chemists, and so on. Because of this shift in value, there has also been a shift in demand and salary.

And it’s not just the specific fields of education that individuals are pursuing that have been changed by the innovation economy. How individuals are educated, from birth to the end of a career, has also been transformed. A commitment to lifelong learning, like never before, is absolutely essential.

Parents of today expect much more of the schools they send their children to. Textbooks and worksheets are viewed as necessary but secondary to exercises that promote critical thinking and teamwork. Simply memorizing information and spitting it out isn’t an acceptable semester syllabus.

If students, and the institutions they attend, want to be prepared for the innovation economy they need to be taught to think about and solve the real problems in the world. Instead of only relying on tests, they should be focusing on class presentations, working in groups, and being taught to think outside of the box.

The exact same principles apply to learning in the workplace. Learning doesn’t end with a degree—far from it. Today’s workers must be willing to adapt, learn, and grow with their industries. Companies are beginning to understand this and encourage their teams to participate in ongoing training and skill development opportunities.

Soft Skills Needed To Thrive In The Innovation Economy

In past decades, bosses admired workers who could be shoved into a cubicle and blaze through a sky-high pile of work. Organizations wanted a workforce that just did what they were told and didn’t ask questions. But as the innovation economy has taken over, those days are gone. Companies now want employees who will play an active and engaged role in the organization's ability to thrive in the innovation economy.

In order to thrive in the innovation economy, the worker of today needs to master four skills—we can learn all of them through a little practice.

The first is the ability to work well with others. Collaborating and sharing ideas is what makes innovation happen. If a company truly wants to create game-changing innovations in its industry, they need a team that can work together to develop and execute innovative ideas. People rarely change the world on their own, and killer innovations are no different.

The second is the ability to think outside of the box. The businesses that will succeed in the twenty-first century are the ones that aim high, think big, and don’t shy away from a big hairy audacious goal—and they’re looking for employees who embrace that type of thinking. Workers who can develop creative solutions are going to be the ones in the highest demand.

Strong reasoning skills are another important asset to have in the innovation economy. Businesses are growing increasingly dependent on big data to inform their strategic decisions, and those who can analyze that data and translate it into actionable information will be the winners of the innovation economy.

Finally, the fourth critical skill is communication. A business whose employees are in sync with one another and able to communicate about their ideas, developments, and goals is going to make the most progress in the fastest. In order to succeed in the innovation economy, workers need to communicate clearly and effectively with those around them.

Keeping up with the changing employment landscape can be intimidating. But by honing the right skills, you too can learn to be innovative and compete in this new economy! To learn more about how you can thrive in the innovation economy, check out how I and my team can help.

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Phil McKinney is an innovator, podcaster, author, and speaker. He is the retired CTO of HP. Phil's book, Beyond The Obvious, shares his expertise and lessons learned on innovation and creativity.


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