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In the announcement of Microsoft’s $26bn takeover of LinkedIn, one thing stood out to me.  No, it wasn’t a question of the price, nor was it for any of the projected new revenue opportunities, and partnership strategy.

In the slidedeck for the call, Microsoft put in a short line about education, presumably linked to LinkedIn’s purchase of Lynda last year.  Microsoft has predicted that “the useful life of skills and knowledge has shrunk to less than five years.”  This is astonishing, but perhaps something that needs to be taken into consideration for anyone looking to change careers, or make a significant investment of money or time in their education.

I think it is safe to say that this is not relevant for those professions like lawyers, doctors, and accountants, as careers which rely on the ability to develop and recall knowledge on a particular topic at key, time sensitive times, but what about the average worker in the modern economy?

Who are the winners and losers in a short-term knowledge economy?

If you imagine going into a phase, or challenge, with a sense of preparedness by taking with us the knowledge and skills required to best tackle the task, then perhaps we can start to think about informal education as being a legitimate ‘tooling up’ before a new episode.


So how does this affect the way that we design and plan education systems?  Should we stop asking the question “What do you want to do when you grow up?” and instead ask “What do you want to do with the next phase of your life?”.

If we can’t predict what new technology is coming, and what opportunities will arrive next, then maybe some of those clichés about one in two jobs not existing 20 years ago, might just be a prophecy for school leavers of tomorrow.  It might even get less predictable, if automation, energy crises, and the sharing economy take grip.

You could even find that relatively new professions pass on quicker than in previous generations, like the prediction that web designers are walking a short plank.

How do start-ups recruit for roles that could radically change in half a decade?

So how about we train a mindset of resilience and tenacity, and an ability to plan to keep learning through life, to prepare ourselves for the next challenge?  Maybe we need to encourage the multipotentialites to keep learning and building a range of experiences and influences that will help them to identify future opportunities as the world of work becomes more complex and multifaceted.

What are you going to do with the next five years of your life?  What skills do you need to take with you?

As always, let us know if you have any thoughts or want to add any comments.


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