Professional innovation is my vision of the world of work and career.
It involves the application of marketing and innovation paradigms to professions.
Future of work is already here.
To succeed in the present work environment, learning new skills or acquiring additional know-how is no longer sufficient.
In fact nobody “buys” skills, certificates and knowledge for their own sake. Individuals, employers and customers want to solve problems, satisfy needs, and perform the most relevant and critical tasks, in other words, doing what is truly valuable to them.
This is why I am convinced that methods used by successful startups need to be applied to our approach to work — methods which place the concept of value at their core.
This is why we need to shift our focus away from the old paradigm of professional development towards professional innovation.
We live in an era in which innovation operates without asking for permission – some call this phenomenon “disruptive innovation”.
Globalization leads continually to the creation of new competitive scenarios. Regulations are posing new obligations, and technology is becoming ever more intelligent. Just think of the impact on all sectors of fast-growing technologies like digital, IoT, robotics, 3D printing and, of course, artificial intelligence.
This sea change puts enormous pressure on anyone working at a professional level. Some jobs are destined to extinction; others are being created; some are transforming and their boundaries are becoming ever more blurred, digitized, smart, remote, virtual and who knows what else.
Jobs for life no longer exist and “career as we know it” has lost its meaning. We are now in the project era, in the GIG economy: workers need to reinvent themselves continuously.
IT WILL SORT ITSELF OUT SOONER OR LATER, WON’T IT?
Some say that the situation will eventually settle down. As suggested by By di Edward D. Hess and Katherine Ludwig in their great book Humility Is the New Smart, they tend to forget that the previous industrial revolution lasted 70-90 years and involved much personal pain and suffering!
It is happening right now:
- Those who are members of outmoded professional associations or who have worked in the financial sector already know how hard the digital revolution hit their work.
- Similarly, those who work in other companies that have experienced the effects of market changes first hand have found themselves with no map to guide them in the best direction.
- I see the same anxiety in the eyes of many undergraduates I teach: they enroll on degree courses without really knowing the direction they want their careers to take. Few realise that some of the professions they would like to enter will no longer exist when they graduate.
IS ACQUIRING NEW SKILLS THE SOLUTION?
Knowing how to manage change in today’s work environment has become mandatory. Today’s workers have to be competitive and need to be able to adapt constantly.
In such a scenario, common sense suggests we strive to be outstanding and to increase the time and resources we devote to our work, or else we need to constantly develop our skills.
With this in mind, the most enlightened training programmes, masters and courses of all kinds, place huge pressure on us to become more tech, digital, social, smart, always-on, etc.
Many courses emphasise the need for continual professional development, and think that skills development only is central to our careers, especially in digital work environments: it seems the panacea to all ills is knowing how to write software! What we forget is that computers will soon be doing this for us.
BEYOND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Clients and employers do not buy our skills or our professional titles. They are only interested in solutions to problems and in satisfying needs and desires. They are interested in what they consider to be of value.
This is why I do not believe skills should be the only focus as value is of equal importance.
The first question we should now be asking ourselves is not:
“How do I become more competent?”
“How do I transfer new value and/or how do I create value more efficiently?”
Fortunately, there is already a paradigm that has long placed value at its core and employs time-tested methods to create value over and over again.
That paradigm is INNOVATION.
I firmly believe the time has come to apply marketing tools and innovation design methods to our professional working lives and careers.
In short, we need to move from professional development to professional innovation.
WHAT PROFESSIONAL INNOVATION MEANS
Professional innovation is the ability of workers to innovate the way they acquire, create, and distribute value.
Professional innovation can help today’s workers orient themselves in today’s working environment. It teaches them how to apply the methodologies used by successful companies: personal business models, personal branding, design thinking, artificial intelligence, to employability and training, etc.
This is the intuition that underlies Tim Clark’s book Business Model You (also published in Italy by Hoepli and edited by myself). The book makes these concepts accessible to anyone, even to those not used to thinking strategically.
At BigName — the organization I founded that specialises in people and team innovation for enterprises — we have gone much further. We have devised methods and models to meet and overcome the challenges the modern worker faces. Some of our knowledge has been released to everyone for free in the form of our professional innovation toolkit, a system that has been downloaded by tens of thousands of people all over the world. Find out more on BigName’s website.