Keeping up

Another week, another conference (in Boston) about the offshoring crisis in IT and what to do about it. The interesting nuance to this one is the admonition to IT professionals to invest in training whether they are unemployed or employed and to be ready to shift careers. So the admonitions that started a couple of decades ago about “lifelong learning” are finally coming to closure. It’s not just some shibboleth any more.

Why am I so obsessed with all this? Because I think the IT industry is the bellwether of a trend taking hold in many professions and enterprises. I think the need to be nimble and ceaselessly moving forward will move up the value chain and fan out into many sectors of employment and organization.

It’s easy to pooh-pooh the more radical notions of the accelerating change crowd like a “singularity”, but they look at the events in the IT sector as say: “Well what did you expect? We’re in exponential change. Of course jobs are being commoditized, people are becoming skill-deficient rapidly, and whole industries cannot count on success formulas of a couple of years ago. Those are just indicators of the acceleration. Get used to it.”

The moral of the IT story, as stated at the conference:

“There is no safe expertise and there is no safe skill… It’s incumbent upon individuals as well as companies trying to maintain their work force to constantly learn.”

Hmm, sounds like a learning organization to me.

Does this apply to NPOs like ACS? I don’t see why not. I suppose it depends on where you want to have impact. The life sciences and their NPOs are somewhat buffered because of the conservative process that’s involved when dealing with human health. However, with everything moving fast, you still have to look out for the Red Queen effect—you’ve gotta run faster just to stay in place. With a nod to accelerating change, maybe there’s a Moore’s Law sort of thing building for what individuals and enterprises need to know to be current.

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