The World Economic Forum recently declared a reskilling emergency as 133 million new jobs could be created by the Fourth Industrial Revolution by 2022. They further report that 42% of the core skills required for most jobs are going to change by 2022. These future predictions stem from the global layoffs in different industry sectors. In midst of this reskilling crisis, McKinsey reports that ‘intentional learning’ is the most important skill to acquire in today’s digital age as the world faces more than one billion jobs altered by technology. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, the idea of a stable lifelong employment had slowly started becoming a myth, replaced by burgeoning expectations for employees to continuously keep on refreshing their skills in order to survive in the job market and continue to remain relevant. Furthermore, technological advances brought on by COVID-19 pandemic have accelerated massive shifts in the behaviour of the workforce. The pandemic has heightened the need for reskilling. Despite this given scenario, many companies struggle to meet their reskilling goals, and many individuals struggle to learn new and unfamiliar topics effectively. McKinsey reports that “few adults have been trained in the core skills and mindsets of effective learner” and that intentional learning is the most fundamental skill for professionals to cultivate in the coming decades.
At its heart, intentional learning is about treating every experience as an opportunity to learn. Everyday experiences, conversations, interactions, etc. with different individuals offer tremendous learning opportunities if one is ready to consider every moment as an experience to enhances one’s learning. For intentional learners, learning is not a separate activity from work or any kind of an extra effort, but rather they embrace each moment as a prospect to augment their knowledge. Learning is the mode in which intentional learners operate all the time, and are very cautious about the learning opportunities in their surroundings and experiences. Although they experience a similar day that anybody else would experience, the difference is that they get more out of daily activities because for them everything is an opportunity to learn, grow and develop. Intentional learners make an extra effort to learn from their daily experiences and are always looking out to enhance their learning experiences as they go about their day.
So given the criticality of the skill in today’s world, how do we become intentional learners? It is possible for each of us can become an intentional learner? The answer to this question is affirmatory. McKinsey states that there are two critical mindsets (or things you need to believe) and five core practices (or behaviour that collectively reorients you toward learning in everything you do). First is adopting a growth mindset – which means having the belief that knowledge, skills and abilities are not fixed points but traits that can be developed; the fact that one can grow, expand, evolve, and change for the betterment of oneself. The second mindset is embracing curiosity, which suggests that feeding your curiosity or being aware, open to new ideas, being able to connect two completely different concepts boost one’s intentional learning efforts. Furthermore, McKinsey suggests that there are five best-practice behaviours that help intentional learners get the most out of their experiences: setting goals, protecting time for learning, actively seeking feedback, conducting deliberate practice, and reflecting to evaluate yourself and determine your progress.
The call for individuals and organizations to invest in learning and education has never been more persistent, but learning itself is a skill and we must learn how to learn. Unlocking the mindsets and skills can enhance our personal and professional lives and help us perform better.