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People’s digital skills fall behind and business leaders don’t know what to do

Well, this might stir the pot a little. A professor from MIT says people’s digital skills are falling behind and business leaders don’t know what to do.

This comes from Erik Brynjolfsson, a professor at MIT Sloan School of Management and a Leading Edge Forum (LEF) advisory board member. He says: “People are falling behind because technology is advancing so fast and our skills and organizations aren’t keeping up. It is the great paradox of our era.”

The quote comes from a recent article by Bob Barker for ComputerWeekly. Barker is the Leading Edge Forum digital and social media skills coach. He and Brynjolfsson seem to agree that there’s a big problem with the digital skills gap. And that problem is mostly due to the business leaders’ actions or lack of such. Both think that most business leaders can’t seem to understand the business opportunities in the digital age and the requirements that come with them.

Barker says executives should first “become 21st century humans before they can lead 21st century organizations”. In short, this means to recognize and utilize the specifics of the digital age. For example, the need to constantly evolve and expand your knowledge, skills, products, services and so on. Also, to be able to adapt and move quickly in pretty much every part of the company and it’s businesses.

Fast and Furious

The problem is, that the pace of technology is incredibly fast. And while the IT industry manages to keep the pace, other industries aren’t so fast. Since technologies are used in more and more segments, this creates a gap. Technology speeds ahead while other industries (and the people in them) struggle to follow suit. And, actually, even in IT, not everyone know what’s happening. The problem is that there are so many changes and possible trends, it can be confusing. So, even if you want to help solve the digital skills gap and provide trainings for your staff, what to do?

You wouldn’t want to invest in a platform and/or trainings for something which will be obsolete in no time. Or maybe you simply don’t know which route your segment will go and thus you don’t know which employee skills to improve.

Barker looks at the problem even deeper. he goes on to say that before any of this can be solved, people pretty much have to accept that the digital world is part of their lives and they need it in order to live a full life. Not being digital is like forcing yourself into exile from the society for more and more activities.

Change within

Barker though says the reasons above why you don’t do anything about the problem are simply excuses. Thinking trainings would waist money, worrying that they will be outdated in a short amount of time, relying on someone else and so one, are simply part of the old mindset. Constant change is part of the definition of the 21st century for pretty much everything. This is especially valid for business, IT, skills and education.

The solution? As above, it starts with personal changes. People have to change and adapt their mindsets to the new ways. They have to accept that learning and improving skills is no longer a matter of taking a simple course which will work for you forever. It’s about constant changes, evolving and investing in new skills and the opportunities that come with them.