In a ruthless, globally competitive market, companies cannot afford the luxury of holding onto more employees than they need. With economic constraints and technological advances, some jobs are being eliminated completely — a trend that will surely continue.
A new generation of sophisticated information and communication technologies, together with new forms of business reorganization and management, is wiping out full-time employment for millions of blue- and white-collar workers.
What does this mean? There is work, but it’s not the same as it used to be. There are jobs, but not the same ones offered a few years ago. And unless you want to go after menial work, you’ll need to acquire a disciplined education and variety of experiences, while also developing a highly valued mind.
Our Mind(s) Matter
In Five Minds for the Future (Harvard Business School Press, 2007), noted psychologist Howard Gardner says our mind — actually, minds — matters. We achieve greater professional success by learning how to think and learn in new ways.
Gardner believes five different kinds of minds are critical to remaining a highly prized asset in your organization, especially in times of economic cutbacks:
1. The Disciplined Mind
The disciplined mind has mastered at least one way of thinking — a mode of cognition that belongs to a specific scholarly discipline, craft or profession. Lawyers think like lawyers, engineers like engineers, managers like managers.
Start by figuring out the central concepts of the discipline you wish to master. The field you choose has key foundational concepts, methods and procedures.
You need to develop many “entry points” into your discipline. Those who have mastered a subject can think about it in many ways: storytelling, debate, graphics, humor, drama or classic exposition. If you communicate your expertise in only one medium, then you don’t really know your subject.
The end goal is to “perform your understanding.” This isn’t mere recitation of known case studies or performance of standard experiments. You must use your knowledge to attack problems you’ve never seen. You then need expert feedback to determine how well you fared.
2. The Synthesizing Mind
The synthesizing mind is adept at selecting crucial information from the copious amounts available, across disciplines.
You must recognize important new information and skills and then incorporate them into your knowledge base and professional repertoire.
You must discern what merits your attention and what to ignore, organizing this information in ways that make sense to yourself and others.
I have only shown you here two of the five different kinds of minds that Howard Gardner discussed. In my nest post, I will be discussing two more, so please stay tuned.