by Tobias Joel
In 2016, the World Economic Forum (WEF) estimated that 65% of today’s school-age students will later work jobs that, at present, do not exist. This fundamental change is part of what WEF calls the “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” a combination of widespread technological automation and cultural adaptation.
Here at ThinkTank, we are actively exploring: how can we educate tomorrow’s leaders, when we don’t even know what functions they will perform? It’s an exciting challenge, and we are continuously analyzing the educational landscape to find the schools that prepare students for a changing world.
But what can students do today, in high school, to position themselves for an uncertain future? In fact, ThinkTank consultants structure their work around this question; our goal is to help students graduate high school two steps ahead of their peers. And although it seems simple, one of the most powerful ways to prepare students: interpersonal interaction skills.
Human Skills Matter
Regardless of automation, interpersonal skills will always be the basis of a successful career. The ability to learn from and respect others, as well as collaborate on teams may actually become more valued in the future as job functions shift to machines. One common critique of automation is that it drains human interactions out of daily life: all of the micro-exchanges that happen when we thank the bus driver or pay for groceries will become extinct when replaced by self-driving buses and automated payment. Even finding an item in a store can be addressed by robots, which can quickly cross-reference an item’s location and a customer’s position. In a world rapidly moving toward automation, why will human networks become more important?
Human networks will be more important precisely because they make us human. Our subtle, highly-developed patterns of interaction are the core difference between us and machines. So as machines absorb more roles—functional roles that rely on calculations—the ability to relate in a human-way should actually become more scarce. The future job market may reward interpersonal awareness in a way that we cannot foresee.
As ThinkTank Consultants, we aim to prepare students for this structural shift in the working world. This is why our work with students stresses communication, goal-setting, and mission-driven thinking. The process prepares ThinkTank students not just for college, but for informed human interaction in a budding new economy. And even if widespread automation does not have these specific effects, interpersonal skills will benefit students in any environment.