In September of 2021, Polonen sat down with The Debrief to share his thoughts on the type of individuals most likely to succeed in the coming decades and the “soft skills” these future workers will have to master to survive an ever-changing marketplace.
There are no secure degrees or jobs anymore. We have to face that fact. We cannot guarantee anybody a lifelong career anymore, that this one type of skill set is what will help you for the next forty years.
I think we now need to learn to live with uncertainty. Find peace in uncertainty. I think that’s [going to be] a challenge for many, but we need to learn to live a happy, peaceful life in times of uncertainty.
I think we need to update our skill set as we update our phones. That has to be the mindset for the future.
We’re talking about compassion and creativity, curiosity and empathy. People think it’s like secondary, but I think these will be the most important skills.
I really believe that after the Agricultural Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, and the Information Revolution, which is where we are now, the next one would be the Human Revolution.
In the first page of my book, I kind of explained that brief history that we have gone from the muscles to head, from head to heart. So the resource that you needed at work was muscle, like early days, because it was physical work. Then machines outperformed our muscles, so the education system went to, you know, industrial society. And we’re still there. You get a job if you can show it with your head. I believe the next step is from the head to the heart.
Interviewer: So are you saying that in the future, the top skill you can have is to be a good human?
Yes, precisely! I think it all starts with compassion. You know, develop your compassion, and everything will follow.
What I find remarkable about these insights is that they directly correlate with what I’ve been researching and learning about Creativity, Social Innovation, and The Future of Work for the past two decades and more importantly how they integrate and are encompassed within Vertical Development (aka Leadership Development).
That’s because vertical development is effectively learning about how to “level up” psychologically and expanding your mindset and worldview in the process, thus transforming the way you perceive your self, other people, and the world as a whole.
What’s even more remarkable though is that if you look at the stages of psychological development below which in turn allow us to “level up” our consciousness, you can directly see a correlation with the above article and how they are focusing on the very same “values”, especially those beyond the conventional stages of psychological growth (i.e. 5. Creativity, 6. Empathy, 7. Compassion), often referred to as post-conventional, as shown below.
This is why I find vertical development so fascinating because it effectively provides the touchstones that can help us in finding our way (aka wayfinding) towards a future of greater possibilities and potential for all. So it’s not providing us with a clear and concise road map but rather waymarkers that helps us know when we have reached the psychological “territory” we are striving for.
And most important of all though, it’s realizing that the future is not just about leaders “levelling up” but followers as well. Why? Because in a future where leaders (levels 6 & 7) let go of control, giving more space for collaboration and contribution from the collective leadership of the group, it requires followers (levels 4 & 5) who authentically know what intrinsically motivates them, thus taking responsible accountability for their work without being told what to do.