Confronting the Dark Side

Storm Troopers Like Donuts

morgueFile freephoto, http://mrg.bz/hmbhJl

As I read James Altucher’s mesmerizing post, “I stopped a ten million dollar robbery,” I was struck by the following paragraph:

“A network of lawyers, escrows, fake shares, bank accounts, bogus corporations and banks, all set up to hide them in the shadows. A network of relationships and lies. The dark side of the force.” (Emphasis mine)

Invariably, when I talk to groups about social media and online networks, questions about privacy, predators and security come up. My typical answer goes something like,”Listen, there are bad people out there, so you should do your best to protect your passwords, understand your privacy settings and generally be careful. The online world is like the physical word. There are dangers, but the benefits of engaging with other people in open spaces far outweigh the risks.”

Altucher’s use of “the dark side of the force” brought a new analogy to mind. There is a dark side using the “force” of online networks to do evil. Thieves, predators, governments and corporations can use the power online networks against us, but the solution is not to stop using the “force” ourselves. We need to continue to leverage the power of online networks to benefit ourselves, our families and our communities.

So the next time you read a post or see a media story about the “dark side of the force,” fight the temptation to buy a moisture farm on Tatooine and use the “force” for good.

12 Work Skills for Your Future

In my last post, Future of Work, I summarized the 6 drivers outlined in the that will reshape the landscape of work from the Future Work Skills 2020, a join project of  the Institute for the Future and the University of Phoenix Research Institute.

One of the responses I received was “What are we doing to prepare?” That’s a great question. The Future Work Skills 2020 report provides some possible answers in 10 skills related to the 6 drivers affecting work in the future (extreme longevity, rise of smart machines and systems, computational world, new media ecology, superstructured organizations and a globally connected world).

A picture of my whiteboard interpretation of the Future Work Skills 2020 map.

My whiteboard interpretation of the Future Work Skills 2020 map.

The “12 Work Skills” referred to in the title is not a typo. I have added 2 skills that I view as critical and that fit within the report’s general framework. Let’s start with the skills from the report.

Sense-making: ability to determine the deeper meaning or significance of what is being expressed (Driver: rise of smart machines and systems).

Social intelligence: ability to connect to others in a deep and direct way, to sense and stimulate reactions and desired interactions (Drivers: rise of smart machines and systems and a globally connected world).

Adaptive thinking: proficiency at thinking and coming up with solutions and responses beyond that which is rote or rule-based (Drivers: rise of smart machines and systems and a globally connected world).

Cross-cultural competency: ability to operate in different cultural settings (Drivers:  superstructured organizations and a globally connected world).

Virtual collaboration: adopting strategies for virtual team working, such as providing immediate feedback or staged challenges.

Computational thinking: ability to translate vast amounts of data into abstract concepts and to understand data-based reasoning (Drivers: computational world and new media ecology).

New media literacy: ability to critically assess and develop content that uses new media forms, and to leverage these media for persuasive communication (Drivers: extreme longevity, new media ecology and superstructured organizations).

Cognitive load management: ability to discriminate and filter information for importance, and to understand how to maximize cognitive functioning using a variety of tools and techniques (Drivers: computational world, new media ecology and superstructured organizations).

Transdisciplinarity: literacy in and ability to understand concepts across multiple disciplines (Drivers: extreme longevity and computational world).

Design mindset: ability to represent and develop tasks and work processes for desired outcomes (Drivers: computational world and superstructured organizations).

To those 10 skills, I have added 2 of my own.

Intellectual curiosity: desire to seek out new information, especially outside of your primary discipline, and a passion for lifelong learning (Drivers: extreme longevity and rise of smart machines and systems).

Network literacy: comfort with and competency in using online networks for communicating, teaching, learning, creating, sharing and building community (Drivers:  superstructured organizations,  new media ecology and a globally connected world).

That’s a lot of skills. It’s probably not feasible to fully develop them all, but here are 4 ways I think you can start to improve some of them.

Create an online personal learning network

Your personal learning network or PLN is made up of the people and resources you connect with and gain knowledge from. Building an effective online PLN will take some of the skills mentioned above. Actually using and learning from your PLN will improve other skills.

An online PLN starts with websites, blogs and people you follow. Assembling, organizing and consuming the information provided by those sources is an exercise in cognitive load management. Using social networks, feeds and news aggregation tools for your personal learning will enhance your network literacy.

You should build your PLN with transdisciplinarity in mind, including information from work-related disciplines and areas of personal interest outside of your primary area of expertise. A broad PLN will feed off of and spark your intellectual curiosity.

Here’s a straightforward how-to on building your PLN.

Create and share content

The gates of content creation, previously reserved for authors, journalists, filmmakers, TV producers and radio hosts, have burst open. With cheap, handheld devices and the platform of social media, anyone can become a content creator. Creating and sharing your own content on platforms like blogs, YouTube and Facebook can improve your new media literacy and network literacy.

Curate content

It is the age of information overload. People want to know where they can find information that is relevant and can be trusted. Content curators play a critical role in filtering and providing context for online information.

Filtering through information and deciding what’s important is a great exercise in cognitive load management. To curate the information you have filtered you need to share it. Whether you use tools specifically designed for online curation or social tools like Twitter or Google+, you will be improving your new media and network literacy in getting your curated content out to the world.

Effective curators not only connect a user with information, but also to add value by providing context like why the resource is important or how does it fit into a bigger picture. That’s where your sense-making and adaptive thinking skills come in.

Challenge yourself to think critically as often as you can. As you are choosing what content to curate, ask tough questions about the objectivity and efficacy of the content, take a big picture view of how a piece of content fits into your overall curation effort and seek connections between seemingly unconnected information.

Engage across environments

It seems to be on every job reference, “works well with others,” but I’m not sure how many of us really do. Being aware of the people around you and their feelings may sound easy, but it is often clouded by our focus on our own agenda.

You can practice using your social intelligence by getting experience engaging and collaborating with people in environments where your agenda is not that important to you.

Your social intelligence and cross-cultural competency will benefit from working collaboratively on a project with a group of people you have never met and have not already judged. Seek out opportunities for virtual collaboration across online environments from social networks to webconferences to virtual worlds. Each environment will present you with the challenge of a new collaboration tool, a new cultural environment and a news social context.