We are now in a highly digitalized civilization where artificial intelligence, augmented realities and mobile working are no longer just wishful thinking. With this incredible advancement, more and more on-the-job tasks are becoming non-routine, more complex and interactive. Companies these days prefer innovators and those that can come up with creative solutions to effectively deal with issues at work. The use of technology and globalization of companies worldwide now demand new sets of skills to brace the working world in the 21st century.
Of particular interest is the skill of collaborative problem solving or also known as dynamic problem solving that involves the pooling of ideas and engagement between two or more people. At this point you might find yourself asking: Of all skills, why collaborative problem solving? The answer lies within the generation that currently makes up the largest living population in the US: The Millennials.
Millennials are currently the dominant group in the workforce, and it has been estimated that by 2020, 40% to 50% of the workforce will constitute of those born between the 1980s and 2000s. Millennials are famously known to be multi-taskers, job hoppers and extremely tech savvy. Recent studies have shown that apart from good remuneration, work-life balance, career advancement opportunities and derivation of a sense of meaning through work, millennials also value collaboration at the workplace.
Collaborative problem solving is inclusive of aspects such as development of shared understanding, effortful knowledge sharing, constructive participation in discussions and cooperation maintenance in a group or team with its ultimate goal being to formulate feasible solutions by working together. Since the modern workforce is multi-generational, collaboration problem solving requires one to have strong communication skills and the ability to synthesize diverse ideas into a workable resolution.
Along with collaborative problem solving comes “Internet-of-Things”, the buzzword used to describe the interchange and accumulation of data via inter-networking of devices such as laptops, tablets and smartphones. Cloud computing, virtual meetings, smart watches and even Google Pants all fall under the “Internet-of-Things”. The interplay of technology at work have not only resulted in mass task automation, it has also paved the way for more strategic thinking and the growth of remote teams. Thanks to digital technologies, people now have more time to strategically think about pressing problems and are able to work together on projects from different geographical locations. Under these circumstances, collaborative problem solving has become a necessary skill to learn and have.
Given that we are now in a VUCA (volatile, unpredictable, complex & ambiguous) environment and that millennials enjoy being team players more than their predecessors: Generation X and Baby Boomers, collaboration has become more important now more than ever. Working in a team or group is now encouraged and viewed as a positive experience. Millennial job seekers should take into consideration about adopting a collaborative attitude as more and more employers are seeking out for those who can work well in team and group settings.
As for employers, it is imperative that collaboration should be fostered and made to be as smooth as possible in workplaces for ideas to flourish. Employers should keep this in mind in order to recruit and retain great talents from the millennial generation who are about to outnumber the other generational cohorts sooner than we think. As the African saying goes:
If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.