According to an article in The Atlantic titled At Work, Expertise Is Falling Out of Favor by Jerry Useem, mental agility will be a more valuable skill set than mastery of a narrow specialty, and specific skills will become obsolete more quickly.
“Littoral Combat Ship 10, the USS Gabrielle Giffords… was built on the concept of ‘modularity’ … The ship’s most futuristic aspect, though, is its crew. The LCS was the first class of Navy ship that, because of technological change and the high cost of personnel, turned away from specialists in favor of “hybrid sailors” who have the ability to acquire skills rapidly. It was designed to operate with a mere 40 souls on board—one-fifth the number aboard comparably sized “legacy” ships and a far cry from the 350 aboard a World War II destroyer. The small size of the crew means that each sailor must be like the ship itself: a jack of many trades and not, as 240 years of tradition have prescribed, a master of just one.”
“If you ask Laszlo Bock, Google’s former culture chief… what he looks for in a new hire, he’ll tell you mental agility. “What companies are looking for,” says Mary Jo King, the president of the National Résumé Writers’ Association, “is someone who can be all, do all, and pivot on a dime to solve any problem.””
““The half-life of skills is getting shorter,” I was told by IBM’s Joanna Daly.”
“The Navy knew early on that not just anyone could handle this kind of multitasking… One of the academics brought in was Zachary Hambrick, a psychology professor at Michigan State University. Instead of trying to understand how well naval candidates might master fixed skills, Hambrick began to examine how they performed in what are known as fluid-task environments… In a setting where the possession of know-how is trumped by the ability to acquire it quickly, as in Hambrick’s game, fluid intelligence is paramount… This is distinct from “crystallized intelligence”—the accumulated facts and know-how.”
“Unbeknownst to the participants, the scoring rules changed partway through the game.” Counterintuitively, “when this happened, he noticed that players who scored high on conscientiousness did worse. Instead of adapting to the new rules, they kept doing what they were doing, only more intently, and this impeded their performance.”
“Fluid, learning-intensive environments are going to require different traits than classical business environments,” I was told by Frida Polli, a co-founder of an AI-powered hiring platform called Pymetrics. “And they’re going to be things like ability to learn quickly from mistakes, use of trial and error, and comfort with ambiguity.””
“So where does this leave us? It leaves us with lifelong learning… Everybody I met on the Giffords seemed to share that mentality. They regarded every minute on board—even during a routine transit back to port in San Diego Harbor—as a chance to learn something new.”