Future Work Skills 2020

Posted January 29th 2012 @ 6:32 am by

Recently, the Institute for the Future (IFTF) at the University of Phoenix Research Institute released their report – Future Work Skills 2020. IFTF is renowned for its work using advancing foresight methodologies and use a range of techniques, including using gaming to crowd-source foresights.

This report examines key drivers of change that will change the work landscape and offers up the 10 work skills that will be required to be able to successfully work in such a landscape.

The Six drivers of change are:

  1. Extreme longevity – people will work until later in their lives, multiple careers will be common and lifelong learning will be a necessity
  2. Rise of smart machines and systems – new tools will be available to use in every part of our lives, eliminating much rote type work
  3. Computational world – huge increase in sensors and processing power giving us our world in data which can then be extrapolated in an amazing range of ways
  4. New media ecology – a new way of communicating will become available, taking us way beyond text
  5. Super-structured organisations – new technologies will change the way organisations produce and how things are created
  6. Globally connected world – the world will be connected as never before and diversity and adaptability will play greater roles in design and production
Future Work Skills 2020 Summary Map

Future Work Skills 2020 Summary Map

The skills that IFTF sees as being required in such a work landscape are each related to at least one of the key drivers of change (as represented using colour in the summary map above). The skills are:

  1. Sense-making – being able to discover deeper meaning in what is being expressed
  2. Social intelligence – being able to connect to other people more deeply and directly
  3. Novel & adaptive thinking – being able to come up with solutions that are outside the box
  4. Cross-cultural competency – being able to work in different cultural settings
  5. Computational thinking – being able to make meaning out of vast amounts of data
  6. New-media literacy – being fluent in new media forms
  7. Transdisciplinary – being able to work in multiple disciplines
  8. Design mindset – being able to plan our workplaces and workflows to achieve desired outcomes
  9. Cognitive load management – being able to filter information and focus only on what is required
  10. Virtual collaboration – being able to work effectively as part of a virtual team

These skills, at some level at least, are being taught in our schools now, but I can think of one profession at least (and we all know which), has developed these skills in its most of its current workforce, just through environment and necessity. Librarians, according to this report, even if you only have a fraction of these skills (which you will), your future is assured! 🙂


  1. Tammy Morley
    April 4, 2012 at 08:02

    We have been discussing similar issues as part of our NExt Horizons planning in support of the work we do with regional public libraries throughout Queensland. Similarities abound, however I like the structure of your thinking and the words used to encapsulate what is a huge grab of information. Congratulations.

  2. Zan Marsenic
    May 27, 2012 at 07:51

    At RMIT University in Melbourne, we are given the syllabus which prepares Information Management students for the above mentioned expectations. However, in this blog entry, it is nicely summarized and put together succinctly yet comprehensively. Lifelong learning seems to be an inevitable consequence, of the fast and ever changing backdrop of relevant technologies. The increase in cross-cultural interactions will be an additional consequence due to these new technologies increasing interaction between the people across the world.
    Thanks for your post, I find it very interesting.

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