Why ‘intentional learning’ is the most important skill to learn right now

  • By 2022, 133 million new jobs could be created by the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
  • As a result, we are in the middle of a global reskilling emergency.
  • ‘Intentional learning’ is the most important skill to acquire in this new digital age, according to a McKinsey report.
  • At its heart, it’s about treating every experience as an opportunity to learn.

The most important skill to acquire in our new digital age? Surprisingly, it’s the ability to learn.

In a recent report, McKinsey describes ‘intentional learning’ as the most fundamental skill for professionals to cultivate in the coming decades, saying that: “Few adults have been trained in the core skills and mindsets of effective learners”.

So what is intentional learning?

At its heart, intentional learning is the practice of treating every experience as an opportunity to learn something. Rather than being something that occurs separately, the desire to learn should be an always-on, instinctive approach to everyday situations.

“Although [intentional learners] are experiencing all the same daily moments anyone else might, they get more out of those opportunities because everything – every experience, conversation, meeting, and deliverable – carries with it an opportunity to develop and grow,” the McKinsey report argues.

The World Economic Forum’s Jobs Reset Summit brings together leaders from business, government, civil society, media and the broader public to shape a new agenda for growth, jobs, skills and equity.

The two-day virtual event, being held on 1-2 June 2021, will address the most critical areas of debate, articulate pathways for action, and mobilize the most influential leaders and organizations to work together to accelerate progress.

The Summit will develop new frameworks, shape innovative solutions and accelerate action on four thematic pillars: Economic Growth, Revival and Transformation; Work, Wages and Job Creation; Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning; and Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice.

Two things set intentional learners apart from everyone else: a growth mindset and a curious mindset. Although these are personality traits that people naturally have in varying degrees, it is also possible to adopt these outlooks, the report says.

People with a growth mindset believe their capabilities and even intelligence can be nurtured, expanded and changed over time.

“A growth mindset releases you from the expectation of being perfect,” says the report. “Failures and mistakes are not indicative of the limits of your intellect, but rather tools that inform how you develop.”

Some people are naturally more curious than others. And curiosity is, the report argues, the starting point of everyone’s learning, right back to infancy.

Cultivating your curiosity can mean overcoming the fear of asking questions or of trying new things. It may mean taking on new challenges that do not relate to your day-job – learning a language, for instance, or taking up a musical instrument.

The world of work is set to be transformed by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and millions of existing jobs could disappear altogether. Within just two years, as many as 133 million new jobs could come into existence, because of the way technology will continue to disrupt the workplace.

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Jobs we are familiar with today could be replaced by robots within the decade.

Image: Statista

The demand for new skills will be unprecedented, as detailed by the World Economic Forum’s call for a global reskilling revolution – the topic will also be discussed in our forthcoming Jobs Reset Summit. Unlike the major workplace changes of the past (industrialization, mechanization and so on), the Fourth Industrial Revolution will not be a single moment of change. It will be an era of perpetual change, as tools like AI and automation expand their useful scope.

“Even before COVID-19 emerged, the world of stable lifetime employment had faded in the rearview mirror,” says the McKinsey report. Instead, it has been “replaced by the expectation that both executives and employees must continually refresh their skills”.

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