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What skills are needed for Industry 4.0?

Posted in executive-roles

Wednesday, March 4th, 2020

We are on the cusp of what’s being billed as the fourth Industrial Revolution – or in 21st century parlance, Industry 4.0 – so what skills are required to climb the career ladder to boardroom executive roles in the coming decade?

It’s a shortlist that reflects the year we’re in. For decades, 2020 has been a popular milestone among sci-fi authors, as well as being the deadline for many long-term environmental initiatives and sector-specific business development plans.

Now we’re living in the 2020s and although we still don’t have flying cars, we do have electric vehicles and it seems likely that trials of driverless cars will develop into mass-market autonomous vehicles during this decade too.

The pace of innovation is astonishing – so what does it take to make the grade when applying for jobs in the era of Industry 4.0?

The first three Industrial Revolutions

First of all, let’s quickly recap the first three Industrial Revolutions:

  • 1780s: Steam Revolution, mechanical manufacture.
  • 1870s: Electrical Revolution, mass production and division of labour.
  • 1970s: Digital Revolution, maturity of IT and electronics.

Half a century on from Industry 3.0, it’s not enough just to be computer literate. If you’re targeting senior executive roles in your career plan, you need to be ready to cope with whatever disruptive technologies come your way.

Mental gymnastics

Adaptability – or ‘mental gymnastics’ as it’s sometimes called – is the ability to think laterally and non-linearly in order to solve problems using innovative solutions.

With new technologies emerging all the time, appreciating how to apply them to improve efficiency and drive revenues in business is key to gaining a head-start on your rivals.

This is true not only when competing with other businesses, but also when competing with internal rivals for lucrative promotion opportunities.

Emotional intelligence

Despite the digital, automated world we now live in, emotional intelligence remains a crucial leadership attribute, especially in organisations with a highly flexible workforce.

The ability to detect when a remote worker is struggling in their role enables you to tackle their concerns head-on and show some support, which is often visibly lacking for people who don’t work in the main office or company headquarters.

Emotional intelligence is equally important in executive roles when holding negotiations via video conferencing, where it can be harder to pick up on non-verbal cues unless you have heightened awareness of them.

Visionary creativity

Finally, don’t be afraid to think big. We live in an era of true visionaries – private entrepreneurs shipping goods and crew to the International Space Station, and so on.

Just a few decades ago, some of these ideas that are now reaching maturity would have been dismissed as science fiction, but it is business, not government, that has achieved many of those pipe dreams.

If you believe there is an opportunity in a specific industry, it may be worth chasing, even if it’s what the business world terms a ‘big hairy audacious goal’ or BHAG – it might just be the vision needed to land the juiciest executive roles in the sector of your dreams.