The aspiration to lead long and healthy lives was given a boost with the recent completion of a $100M funding round by Juvenescence – a UK biotech company focused on extending longevity.
We are already living longer than our grandparents and children born in rich countries today have a 50-50 chance of living beyond 105 years old. But, while life expectancy continues to increase, there is a general consensus that we, as individuals and as a society, are ill prepared for century-plus living.
Academics such as Gratton and Scott in their 2016 book The 100 Year Life believe that we must fundamentally rethink how we approach work and education. They argue that the current three-stage life of education, work, retirement no longer applies. Instead, they propose a multi-stage life where transitions will become the norm, with repeated changes of direction and many different careers.
Interpose century-plus living against a backdrop of faster, smarter and cheaper technology, and we will see a significant churn in the labor market as traditional jobs disappear and new ones appear. As digitization hits industries, those losing jobs might not be able to retrain fast enough to qualify for new jobs that are being created. In shorter lives with relatively stable labor markets, the knowledge and skills that a person mastered in youth could last an entire career. In a longer life with a rapidly changing job market, one must continually re-learn and re-skill.
Unfortunately, few people are equipped to make multiple transitions. It requires flexibility and the ability to acquire new knowledge, explore new ways of thinking, and proactively build new networks. Transitions also require time. Individuals could take a sequential approach by interspersing income-earning stages with learning and self-reflection. Or, they could take a parallel approach by using their leisure and recreational time during one career stage to reinvent themselves in preparation for the next, as described by Gratton and Scott. The advent of online learning and digital coaching platforms helps facilitate the process of self-improvement and re-skilling for those who choose a parallel approach.
In this digital age, there is much discussion about the need for digital skills. But given the rate of technological development, what stocks of skills and knowledge will remain valuable and how can they be developed?
While there is a tendency to focus on technical expertise, research on leadership in the digital age by IMD’s Global Center for Digital Business Transformation reveals the need for a much broader and richer set of core portable skills and attitudes. We recommend that agile workers embrace the HAVE mindset:
An ability to accept feedback and acknowledge that others know more than you.
An acceptance that change is constant and that changing your mind based on new information is a strength rather than a weakness.
A clear sense of long-term direction, even in the face of short-term uncertainty.
A willingness to listen, interact, and communicate with a strong sense of interest and curiosity in emerging trends.
Preparing for century-plus living in the digital age requires making different choices that open up opportunities in exciting ways, as long as we are prepared to embrace it.
Tomoko Yokoi is a researcher and writer at the Global Center for Digital Business Transformation, an initiative by IMD business school and Cisco.