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Are you familiar with the Four Cs?
I first discovered them in Yaval Noah Harari’s “21 Lessons for the 21st Century.” They are: critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and communication. Knowing how to apply those four ideas will help prepare you to adapt and excel in your career, today and in our uncertain future.
Not that long ago, you could graduate with many types of degrees, having absorbed facts and their interrelation, and expect to build a nice career. Naturally, you would continue learning after graduation, but in that pre-digital era, when access to knowledge was constrained, learning was primarily absorbing new facts.
In today’s digital world, career success means continuous evolution and learning, adapting your technical skills as well as the most basic aspects of learning and thinking.
Adopt learning skills for today’s work environment
My late father was co-founder of a small-town accounting firm. As a CPA, he and his partners would turn to an imposing set of heavy, beige tax law books that filled the bookshelves his firm had built for them. To me, as a child, they reached so wide and high they appeared to hold the whole business up.
I wasn’t that far off. In that analog world, the folks closest to the facts got the job done. And got the raises—and the promotions.
For one, digitization—a democratization of knowledge. With sites like Google, Wikipedia and more specialized sites for niche information, the world of information is in all our pockets.
What else has changed is complexity and mass disruption. Our world is many factors more complex than my father’s, or yours. It’s also clear that the pace of change will continue to accelerate.
How can you not just survive, but thrive in all this disruption?
Master the “Four Cs” to excel in your career:
1. Critical thinking
The first part of Accenture’s Problem-Solution Mapping is about stepping back and looking objectively at what we want to accomplish and why. It’s also about looking deeply into the problems identified to find root causes. Only once this is done do we construct hypotheses to test in pursuit of solutions.
Charlie Munger is someone best known as the behind-the-scenes member, along with Warren Buffett, of the duad that built Berkshire Hathaway. In a speech, Munger once put it this way:
"You’ve got to have models in your head. And you’ve got to array your experience—both vicarious and direct—on this latticework of models."
Consider the words of my friend, a leader in a multibillion-dollar e-retailer. He told me, “I’m advising my daughter to learn Python as a way to put her data science degree to work. In fact, we’re going to learn it together. But I’m also stressing the importance of learning how to define the right problems to solve and finding a framework for their solution.”
She’s got a smart father.
Once you’ve identified the best problems to solve, it often takes creativity to solve them. In their book "Pivot to the Future," Accenture colleagues Larry Downes, Omar Abbosh and Paul Nunes remind us that automation will place greater intellectual demands on all of us (emphasis below is mine):
“We are not among those who think AI [artificial intelligence] will displace knowledge workers to a significant extent. We do, however, believe they will substantially alter the nature of work and in a positive way.
“Today, too many jobs are boring and repetitive, leaving workers unmotivated or worse. AI technologies offer an opportunity to redesign work away from the mundane and toward tasks that require human reasoning, empathy, and creativity.”
I agree with their belief that AI is not to be feared. We need to look at it as another tool for getting work done, and try not to listen to what some scholars call “moral panic” over new technology. What it means is we need to develop the qualities that machines will be less effective at “learning.”
Human creativity is at the top of my list.
In her TED Talk and best-selling book, “Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World,” game developer Jane McGonigal makes a case for how multiplayer video games develop crucial learning skills.
Arguably, the highest on her list is collaboration. She reminds us how these games are rehearsals for the modern work world, where delegating, co-creating and supporting each other are crucial keys to team success.
Collaboration is at the heart of every project at Accenture. What’s more, our commitment to inclusion and diversity drives creativity and inspires a sense of belonging; equality is a powerful multiplier of innovation and growth.
Of the four, this may be the easiest to practice—but the hardest to get right! In their book on business communication, “Weekend Language,” authors Andy Craig and Dave Yewma describe what happens to our storytelling abilities when the weekend is over and we’re back at the office:
“We’re full of feature lists and ten-point plans, ‘high-level’ terms and nonsense. As if that wasn’t bad enough, we beat the snot out of our audiences with 118-slide PowerPoint presentations chock-full of text. Audience members typically don’t remember anything.”
Their book trains readers to tell stories instead, and to tell them effectively to achieve business goals.
How important is storytelling to Accenture careers? Consider this: I work out of the Digital Hub in Chicago’s Accenture offices. Every month, our Storytelling Club meets to isolate and strengthen these communication “muscles” in front of a live audience. It’s an invaluable resource.
Build the skills you need at Accenture
Now that you’ve learned what to learn (and relearn), know that Accenture offers the tools to help you develop both your analytical and technical skills. We are committed to continuous learning and development and an environment where you can be yourself and thrive.
Collaborate with the industry’s best and brightest and innovate every day.
Find your fit with Accenture.
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