My head is spinning. As someone consumed with workforce trends, January is my jackpot. Each day I probably receive 100 or more emails, newsletters and Google alerts about what thought leaders and experts suggest will be dominant 2020 workplace trends. Fortunately, there are some themes running through all the prognostications:
Competition for skilled workers will intensify.
Labor shortages for most workers will continue.
Artificial intelligence will not displace masses of workers (this year) but will amplify disruption.
None of these forecasts are "breaking news." But it’s not that past year forecasts were wrong— these trends simply continue unabated, and our challenges grow exponentially. To see how right or wrong these predictions are, we’ll need to wait another 12 months. But suffice it say, you shouldn’t—no, you can’t—wait one minute longer to start implementing solutions. The luxury of waiting and reacting to past events is long gone.
Solutions don’t lie in simply purchasing more technology, training based on corporate buzzwords or using more hashtags like #employeeexperience, #culturaltransformation, #wellbeing, or #diversityandinclusion, either. Rather, change that works requires a series of mindset shifts. Here are what I feel are the four most important shifts needed to succeed and grow in 2020 and beyond. I came up with an acronym DICE to remember them: Disruptive, Infinite, Curious, and Empathetic.
You might wonder which one is most important or which should come first. It doesn’t matter. You can’t disrupt and transform the status quo effectively without shifting all four. So let’s roll the DICE!
Many companies make the mistake of making disruption their goal. But that’s not what a disruptive mindset is all about. According to Charlene Li, author of The Disruption Mindset, "disruption doesn’t create growth, but growth creates disruption."
The disruptive mindset is more than a certain self-perception or an inclination. It’s consistent and persistent behavior that challenges the status quo. In her book, Li details four disruptive leadership mindsets: the Agent Provocateur, Realist Optimist, Worried Skeptic and Steadfast Manager. Which one best describes you—and is it allowing you to grow your organization or sustain the status quo?
While we’re on the subject of disruption and challenging the status quo, the infinite mindset is a natural fit. Simon Sinek, the author of The Infinite Game, believes that the pursuit of being number one may be a losing strategy. Instead of taking on an attitude of winning, a person with an infinite mindset takes on an attitude of improvement.
Sinek writes,"It takes unbelievable courage to completelychange the way we see the world... If we can learn to embrace infinite mindsets, not only have we increased and enhanced innovation, seen trust and cooperation thrive, but we’ll actually love our jobs..."
If there is one mindset that underpins the others, it’s curiosity. Disruption requires openness. The infinite mindset seeks continuous improvement. Empathy, which we’ll get into in a moment, requires stepping into the shoes of others. You can’t do any of these without a curious mind.
Dr. Todd Kashdan suggests that unleashing curiosity requires being comfortable enough to make mistakes, share your anxiety and embrace your vulnerability. It’s time to restore the "mad-scientist" mindset of a 5-year-old. Is your company providing a safe haven for curiosity, an environment where people feel comfortable deviating from the norm and evolving?
The importance of empathy continues to grow: It now rests high atop the list of desirable characteristics ofexceptional leadersandskills for top talenteven in highly technical fields like theUX industry. According to the Wall Street Journal, about 20% of U.S. employers now offerempathy training, up significantly from just a few years ago. (Whether you can actually train someone to be empathetic versus act like they are is a story for another day!)
Empathy has been used to describe a variety of experiences, so a definition may be particularly helpful: Empathy is the ability toimagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling. In other words, seeing the world through their eyes and experiencing their feelings.
In building up this necessary soft skill, individuals will be better positioned to inspire other employees, build more communicative teams, and earn loyalty. Not to mention, since empathy is an exclusively human skill, anyone worried about saving their jobs from an automated future would be wise to develop it.