By | Abhijit Bhaduri |Keynote speaker, Author and Columnist
There is a new world being created. If the last few years was all about mobile. The time now is for Artificial Intelligence to take the game to a different level. Sensors are tracking us at every step to gather data for the quantified-self movement. The Internet of Things is connecting devices and puffing out data like a factory chimney. In such a data driven world, does the “useless” liberal arts degree holder have a future?
The more data we create, the more important it is to bring in human judgment. Pulitzer prize winning journalist and columnist for Forbes, George Anders new book “You Can Do Anything” tells you that this may be era of the people with a Liberal Arts education. Technology is sterile unless we can make the human dimension work.
As the world goes digital, understanding emotions becomes important. Retailers are using technology to monitor shopper emotions. Thanks to ever invasive technology like geo-thermal sensors, omnipresent cameras, face-recognition, emotion detection is cheaper to do than ever before. Machines do not know how to handle shades of emotions.
The future does not look anything like the past. The rules with which we governed work, careers and our lives are being rewritten. Problems of efficiency are being handed over to the machines and algorithms. Many patterns are being broken. Pay per use is replacing ownership of assets. This new world is going to need people who can handle ambiguity and navigate uncertainty. It needs people who can turn mountains of data into insights and stories. That is just what liberal arts teaches. Tech alone is not enough.
“It’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields the results that make our hearts sing.” – Steve Jobs
You Can Do Anything talks of five skills that the biggest employers are looking for. When employers say they need someone with “critical thinking” skills, they really mean these five skills. Being self-directed is one of those five skills. Organizations are growing in unexpected directions. They need people who can adapt to change and be creative. Leaders have to make decisions when clear rules do not exist. They have to pick up weak signals. In flat organizations they have to manage through influence. are increasingly looking for people who have Humanities on their resume.
We are moving away from a world where there was always one correct answer to a world where there are multiple nuances are no single answer is correct. Context matters more and more. Anthropologists have to look at societies and cultures they are not familiar with and decode the cultures while avoiding the filters of their own biases.
A liberal arts background combined with basic understanding of technology is where the sweet sport lies. George Anders has peppered the book with dozens of examples from IBM, Airbnb, Groupon, and Etsy to Facebook where liberal arts majors are holding jobs that have so far been held by techies. Consumers are not looking just for tech. They want tech with a heart.
To gain competitive advantage, emotions are the next frontier. People who understand emotions and can empathize will have an edge over nerds. Being able to discover insights and stitch different elements to create a compelling story will be precious. Move over Knowledge Worker. Welcome relationship worker.
If you are a left brain kind of person, read this book to know why it will be terrific to have people with Liberal Arts backgrounds in your team. If you are a Liberal Arts major, get ready for the future.