From the booming, age-old readymade garments industry to exporting active pharmaceutical ingredients to Eastern European nations, Bangladesh has had tremendous success in attaining a steady economic growth for some time now. There is no doubt that this high level of consistent growth is tied to the large number of people that make up the labour force – both skilled and unskilled. With the buzz around Bangladesh becoming the next Asian Tiger economy, here are some of the skills crucial for Bangladeshis to remain competitive in the days to come.
1. Emotional intelligence
With the age of booming artificial intelligence (AI), surging machine learning, and robots replacing physical labour as part of the arrival of the fourth industrial revolution, human beings ned to remind themselves about what makes them humans in the first place: emotions. A friend of mine recently started reading Dale Carnegie's classic: How to Win Friends and Influence Others. He must have taken into account that the next popular and in-demand jobs will not be those that require a high amount knowledge, rather those which require emotional intelligence (EI).
EI can be loosely defined as the ability to effectively navigate social interactions and be aware of and adapt to various social situations. The key quality to possess and control when it comes to EI is empathy. Empathising with people will slowly become a key skill to harness. In a time when AI is not just something you watch on television, human interactions will become key for us to take our already hospitable reputation as a people to the next level.
Have you ever heard the saying, every Bangladeshi is a poet or every Bangladeshi can sing? So creativity is something you cannot do without. Creativity, by definition, means the process of generating new ideas. Generating fresh ideas can be quite challenging because most people find it difficult to get beyond the obvious, incremental solutions. We are all naturally creative, but, like every other skill, some people have more natural talent than others.
But there is a widespread misconception that creativity is inherent. It is not. Creativity can be learnt, and there are several models or frameworks that say just that. One of them is design thinking. The regular innovative process consists of four stages: ideate, define, design, and develop. On the other hand, design thinking has five stages: empathise, define, ideate, prototype, and test. With frameworks like this, a so-called not-so-creative person can tap into his creative potential.
Another myth is that you can compensate creativity with other skills. You cannot. With dealing with people and making decisions being the new norm, a Master of Fine Arts is now regarded as the new MBA. This is to recognise the importance of creativity and the benefits of artistic training. There are essential lessons an MBA can learn from an MFA, e.g. taking criticism, motivating the workforce, engaging with the audience, and learning to let go of good ideas.
3. Cognitive flexibility
Do you see these common requirements in vacancy announcements: ability to work in a dynamic environment, ability to survive under pressure, etc? Even though these have turned into buzzwords by now, there are actually people who meet these requirements, and they are the ones who are significantly more successful than others in their respective fields. The special skill they possess is called cognitive flexibility.
Cognitive flexibility represents someone's ability to shift thoughts and adapt his or her behaviour to an ever-changing environment. The level of cognitive flexibility depends on how an individual is able to disengage from a previous task and respond effectively to another task – essentially multi-task. The greater someone's cognitive flexibility is, the higher the chance he or she has to optimise or maximise his or her human potential. The reason these people are special is because they are open to self-development. They are learning how to learn all the time.
One of the major ways to strengthen cognitive flexibility is to read and learn as they keep the brain interested and stimulated, requiring several regions to work together at the same time.
4. Synthesise data into information
Even a few years back, the important management skills you needed were critical thinking and complex problem solving. Now in this age of big data, everything is data driven and all these skills and traits result into data driven decision making. Data is out there right now to be properly utilised.
The revolution of AI has started as well, but there is a gap between it and the existing big data. This gap is filled with the wonders of data science. Data science is the complex job of realising the opportunities presented by big data. Data scientists bring structure to the unstructured big data, find compelling patterns in it, and advise executives on the implications for products, processes, and decisions.
Data scientist has been mentioned as the sexiest job in the last few years and we are pretty sure the hype is only going up. Bangladesh is slowly adopting the data culture. The companies are getting used to enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management software. There are even home-grown business intelligence and analytics firms coming up to make sense of your enterprise data.
In the 46 years of our existence, we as a nation and as a people have come a long way in terms of consistent economic growth and political stability, having snatched over 60 percent of China's low-end garment manufacturing. We are slowly moving on to more sophisticated tertiary industries while exporting higher-end products, but in order to take our country to the next level and compete with the skilled labour forces of Europe and the US, we need to go back to developing our core human values and look back to what makes us human.
The writer is a part-time emotional economist and the Head of Business Development at a data analytics company in Bangladesh.