Welcome to the “Age of Adaptability”

Questioning becomes even more critical in an environment of constant change

AdaptabilityA New York Times article, “To Stay Relevant in a Career, Workers Train Nonstop,” talks about how everyone from tech entrepreneurs to car repairmen to teachers are struggling to keep pace with the change that’s happening all around them. New technologies, changing methods and practices, an explosion of information—it’s all creating a perfect storm in which no one, regardless of their level of expertise, can afford to stand pat.

“The need to constantly adapt is the new reality for many workers,” the Times’ Sheila Dewan writes in the article. She adds that these workers “are often left to figure out for themselves what new skills will make them more valuable, or just keep them from obsolescence.”

Your learning days aren’t over yet

As the readers of this blog know, I tend to view everything through the lens of questioning, and so, no surprise, I see this as another example of why the ability to question is becoming more important than ever.

People who used to be comfortably ensconced in the role of “expert” didn’t have to question; they had the answers, they possessed the knowledge. But what happens when you live in a time when much of that knowledge is subject to constant change, revision, or even obsolescence? Well, then you can’t be a comfortable expert anymore—you must be a restless learner. You have to continually update and add to your knowledge. You must constantly question everything you “know.” And be willing to inquire about the many things you don’t know.

Step back before diving into training

The article talks about people taking lots of training courses, and that’s all well and good. But before doing that, it’s important to consider some fundamental questions: How is my field/industry changing? What trends are having the most impact on my business, and how is that likely to play out over the next few years? Which of my existing skills are most useful and adaptable in this new environment—and what new ones do I need to add? Should I diversify more—or focus on deepening my expertise in one area?

These are not easy questions to answer. You can’t just Google them—you must grapple with them. They demand quiet reflection, study, observation, discussion with others, planning, and various forms of experimentation that may start with small steps and end with big ones. But it all begins with the asking.

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About the Author

Innovation expert and questionologist Warren Berger has studied hundreds of the world’s foremost innovators, entrepreneurs, and creative thinkers to learn how they ask questions, generate original ideas, and solve problems. He is the author or co-author of 12 books, including his three books on questioning: A MORE BEAUTIFUL QUESTION: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas; its follow-up THE BOOK OF BEAUTIFUL QUESTIONS: The Powerful Questions That Will Help You Decide, Create, Connect, and Lead; and BEAUTIFUL QUESTIONS IN THE CLASSROOM: Transforming Classrooms Into Cultures of Curiosity and Inquiry. Warren’s writing has appeared in Fast Company, Harvard Business Review, and The New York Times, and he writes the “Questionologist” blog for Psychology Today. He lives in Mount Kisco, New York. Follow him on Twitter at @GlimmerGuy and subscribe to his blog posts

1 Beautiful Comment

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  1. lfbenjamin says:

    Career ‘lego’ rather than career ladder (Dan Pink).  http://www.winningbysharing.net/bp.asp