At most colleges and universities, there are hundreds of different majors for students to chose from--all in hopes of preparing the student for a future job and career. And most schools still operate in the old way of training students: learning emphasized on a specific field with courses focused on knowledge, like finance, rather than skills, such as critical thinking.
However, whether students will work in private, public or the not-for-profit sector, most jobs will require you to be an agile thinker and innovator, solving problems in new, creative ways.
The jobs of today, and more so in the future, require students to learn how to be globally adaptable, multidisciplinary, and innovative thinkers.
When hiring recent graduates, look for students that have taken courses that build knowledge and skills in these areas, to prepare them to be future innovators at your company.
Beyond Cultural Competency: Diversity and Inclusion
Global barriers to expansion have been removed with the growth of virtual collaboration tools. Product managers in San Francisco can effectively work with developers in Bangalore and demo products to clients in Shanghai. Understanding the cultural nuances of doing business across borders is integral to most jobs and is something most business and communications schools focus coursework around.
The courses need to go beyond learning about different cultures and ways of doing business, it needs to be rooted in the many different aspects that make us unique from one another. It is important for students to become aware of their own internal biases and stay rooted in a desire for mutual respect and empathy.
It has been made clear through countless studies that companies embracing diversity and inclusion statistically outperform their peers. Senior leaders and hiring managers are aware of this competitive edge and are keenly intent to hire those that can help drive diversity and inclusion.
Courses like "Gender and Sexuality: Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace" from the University of Pittsburgh through Coursera can teach students through a range of interdisciplinary concepts, tools, and methods to understand and analyze how identity shapes our experiences in culture and in the workplace.
To drive innovation, look to hire people that have learned how to collaborate among groups of people and individuals regardless of geographical area, ethnicity, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and exceptionalities.
Developing a Design Mindset
According to the Future Work Skills 2020 report, a design mindset is a critical skill to innovate and increase creative problem-solving. Drawing together logic with intuition and imagination with analytical thinking, students gain the skill to explore possibilities and create the outcome that benefits the end user or customer.
A design mindset doesn't focus on the problem. Instead, it is a solution-focused strategy, action-oriented toward problem-solving. More degrees should require students to engage in design thinking courses, to equip them with the mindset to approach innovation.
An online course like "Hello Design Thinking" from the international design firm IDEO empowers the learner to utilize elements from the designer's toolkit. This foundations in design thinking course provides hands-on activities that allow students to tap into empathy and experimentation to arrive at innovative solutions.
Seek hiring recent graduates that have some exposure to design thinking. Far more than just a "designer's tool', the design mindset is a skill that leads to innovation that is user-focused.
Whole Brain Thinking
The rise of machine learning, AI, and robotics in the workplace will nudge humans out of rote, repetitive tasks, encouraging people to be more adaptive thinkers. Jobs will require people use whole brain thinking--accessing analytical, experimental, practical, and relational ways of thinking.
A theory born from a physicist at GE, Whole Brain Thinking is the methodology that recognizes our brain has different ways of thinking and that when we tap into the whole brain, we can leverage our full spectrum of thinking to come to creative problem solving and innovation.
For students, it means tapping into multiple areas of our brain and expanding ways to approach problems.
A finance student with a strong analytical method of thinking could take an interpersonal communications course to unlock a more relational way of thinking. Or for a creative arts student, strongly in-tune with an experimental and holistic way of approaching problems, could enroll in an accounting course to utilize an organized and sequential way of thinking.
It is true that different tasks require different mental processes, but when hiring recent graduates, students looking to innovate and disrupt the status quo will get better results when they can strategically leverage a full spectrum, whole brain way of thinking.
In the future, jobs will require people to be adaptable and innovative. Students that learn these skills will be in high demand and the next leaders of organizations driving innovation.