In times of rapid change and digital transformation, the development of digital mindset is the basis for the development of future competencies and the required hard skills.
Looking back over the past 10 years, it’s easy to see how much digital technologies have changed our private and professional lives. Today, it is unthinkable for many people to leave home without a smartphone or to organize their daily work routine without digital collaboration tools. In addition, entire industries and business models have changed completely. Mobile banking was the exception rather than the rule 10 years ago, and fintechs have only emerged from their niche into the broader public in recent years. In many areas, online shopping was a rarity 10 years ago and today it is the norm. In B2B, e-commerce and digital marketplaces were foreign words a few years ago, and today even traditional industries like steel offer their goods online. In summary, it has to be said that change has been really rapid in recent years. But what does the future actually look like? What will change look like in the next 10 years? This question cannot be answered in a concrete and all-encompassing way.
But: It is clear that the speed of change will continue to increase and that change in the next 10 years will be several factors faster and therefore stronger than in the past 10 years. The drivers of accelerated change are, in addition to demographic development and changing values, above all the accelerated development of digital technologies. This is due to Moore’s Law, which states that the number of circuit components on a computer chip doubles at regular intervals – between 12 and 24 months. As a result, the development of digital technologies is exponential. This exponential development makes it impossible to forecast exactly which technologies will be used in 5 or 10 years. This difficulty in forecasting has a strong impact on the development of employee competencies.
Mindset Development > Hard Skill Development
With a slower pace of change in the past, it was possible to forecast which skills (so-called hard skills) would be needed in the future and development plans could be built accordingly. For example, in the marketing area, it was possible to build a long-term development plan for employees to accompany their career (development) in marketing. It was clear that, for example, print marketing know-how and classic communications work are components of this. Today, however, it is no longer possible to predict which channels will be relevant for corporate communications in 5 or 10 years. Which social media channels will exist then? Will social media even exist in 10 years? What role will the metaverse play? These are all questions to which there are no answers today. That’s why it doesn’t make sense to make continuing education plans for hard skills for the next 10 years. However, re-skilling and upskilling is more important than ever. According to the World Economic Forum’s latest Future of Jobs Report, 40% of the core skills needed in existing jobs will change by 2025. Companies must respond to this change with long-term development offerings. However, the focus of these development offers should be on digital mindset and not on hard skills. Based on Peter Drucker’s “Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast,” digital mindset eats hard skills for breakfast.
Digital mindset – is it about digital know how after all?
Digital mindset per se has nothing to do with digital technologies, software skills or programming languages. Rather, it is a matter of personality traits that are critical to success in dealing with digital transformation. The following dimensions are components of the digital mindset:
- Openness and agility vs. persistence
- Customer-centeredness vs. task- and organization-centeredness
- Criticality vs. harmony orientation
- Proactivity and entrepreneurial action orientation vs. reactivity and situation orientation
- Creativity and design motivation vs. process loyalty
- Dealing openly with failure vs. avoiding failure
Continuous development of the digital mindset enables employees to acquire the right and necessary hard skills for the situation. Mindset development thus forms the foundation for the development of the required future competencies (including those that cannot yet be predicted today).
Mindset development means lifelong learning
Digital mindset development differs from hard skill development in time horizon, continuity, and individuality:
Time horizon: in hard skill development, even a one-time online learning content or a 1-day workshop can provide the relevant and needed know-how. Mindset development, on the other hand, takes much longer and requires more time and persistence. This is because it does not happen with the one-time absorption of new knowledge and subsequent application. Rather, it is a continuous process.
Continuity: A continuous learning path with impulses on the mindset dimensions, reflection questions and spaces (online or offline) and the time to test and try out the impulses in everyday life are the basis for mindset development. In order to integrate mindset development into everyday life in the long term (required time horizon), the impulses and reflection sessions should be used in small bites (so-called micro learnings). The frequently desired 1-day Mindset Workshop may be effective in terms of advertising, but it will remain without development success in the long term.
Individuality: In order to achieve a high level of learning commitment and motivation, it is also important to offer customized learning opportunities when teaching hard skills. This is even more important in mindset development. Because mindset is about personality traits and these are far too complex to distinguish only between black and white, A or B, beginner or advanced. This means that companies need to create an adaptive, customized and individualized development offering for Mindset. Because only through these custom-fit offerings does the motivation to learn remain high for long-term (time horizon) and continuous development.
In order for sustainable mindset development to take place at the individual level of employees, a structure and culture must be created at the organizational level that promotes learning and makes it part of everyday life.
Adaptive mindset development through diagnostics
A high degree of individualization of learning content for mindset development can only succeed if the location, i.e., the status quo of the employees with regard to their own digital mindset is known. In the case of navigation devices, for example, it is completely normal that not only the destination is entered in the first step of route planning, but also the current location is localized. Without this localization, every traveler would get the same route to the destination, regardless of where the starting point is. It is immediately obvious that this does not make much sense. It is the same with mindset development. For individualized and customized development, the first step is to determine the mindset location. This can be done through scientifically valid diagnostics. Such a mindset analysis then provides the basis for individualizing the learning content (microlearnings) and playing it out in a customized learning path. Moreover, understanding and reflecting on one’s own mindset location is already the first step in mindset development.
Without the continuous development of digital mindset as a foundation, it is not possible for employees* to learn the relevant future competencies at the right time. In times of exponential change, however, this is the core of the future viability of employees and organizations. Mindset eats hard skills for breakfast.