The book is written by Edward D. Hess, who is a professor of business administration and Batten Faculty Fellow at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business. His professional experience includes twenty years as a business executive and eighteen years in academia.
As stated by the author, the Digital Age will raise the question of how we humans will stay relevant in the workplace. To stay relevant, we have to be able to excel cognitively, behaviorally, and emotionally in ways that technology can’t. Professor Edward Hess believes that such context requires us to become hyper-learners: continuously learning, unlearning, and relearning at the speed of change. To achieve that, we have to overcome our reflexive ways of being: seeking confirmation of what we believe, emotionally defending our beliefs and our ego, and seeking cohesiveness of our mental models.
The fourteen takeaways I got out of this book are outlined below:
- Hyper-Learning – the author defines this as “the human capacity to learn, unlearn, and relearn continually in order to adapt to the speed of change.” He used the hyper therm to reference the original Greek meaning of “over” or “above”. Hyper-Learning is learning over and above what is typical. It is an abundance of continual, high-quality learning.
- A challenging new era for humans -we have been in the midst of the digital age arguably since the introduction of the personal computer, but much of the populace is only how beginning to understand and predict the consequences of the relentless technological progress that characterizes this era. The continuing advance of artificial intelligence, biotechnology, nanotechnology, genetic engineering, virtual and augmented reality, quantum computing, and big data is challenging humankind on a scale analogous to the species-altering habitat migration our ancient ancestors faced. Environmental destruction forced early humans to leave the relatively safe of their African rainforest habitat for the much more dangerous open savanna… In effect, our ancestors had to learn how to survive and thrive in a completely new environment. Our ancestors had to unlearn and relearn. And this is what we all have to do in the digital age, over and over again.
- The need to evolve – our early ancestors survived being forced onto open savanna by becoming hunter-gatherers – not alone but in cooperation with others. They survived by creating small teams that worked together to find food and safety and to care for offspring. They survived by sharing the bounty that individual team members found. They prospered because they collaborated, learned together, and shared resources… Now we are leading edge of an era in which technology has the potential to both advance and destroy civilization. The McKinsey Global Institute predicts that by 2030 over 25 million jobs in the United States will be automated. Research from Oxford University predicts that within 15 years there is a high probability that 47 percent of U.S. jobs – including professional jobs – will be automated.
- Many of us working now may have been taught to believe that the most important learning occurs during the first 20 to 30 years of our lives. After that we can go out into the world, find a way of life that generally works for us, and do that thing over and over, maybe in different contexts, until retirement. That game is over… As the digital age continues to advance, humans will have to spend their entire lives learning to become and maintain their Best Selves cognitively, morally, emotionally, and behaviorally.
- Change will be constant. What worked for me yesterday may not work for me today. I can’t get complacent.
- I have to constantly ensure I am not missing something. I can’t afford to believe that I know for certain what works.
- I have to be very aware of how my environment is changing and figure out (with the help of others I trust) what I need to do to stay relevant in order to add value.
- I have to be observant and seek out different perspectives. I have to become an explorer, seeking out the new and the different, looking for novelty.
- I have to stay current – upgrading how I live my life and do my work. I have constantly to upgrade myself just like I upgrade my technology devices with new software. That means I have to be a proactive learner who is curious and aware.
- I need to seek out the opinions of experts and thought leaders and new knowledge from lifelong learning opportunities and from smart people who are in different occupations than mine.
- I have to look for and anticipate change. I have to ask myself each day, what is different or new here?
- We need others to do our best learning, because others help us to see what we don’t see, challenge our thinking, update our mental models, and pick up emotionally clues we might have missed.
- The digital age is dramatically changing how we humans live and how we work. In the digital age, the past is no longer a reliable predictor of the future. So we humans must learn to think differently and that means learning to behave differently. We need to learn a New Way of Being and a New Way of Working. We need to become Hyper-Learners.
- The challenge is harder because the science of adult learning is clear – we are suboptimal learners in that we are wired for thinking efficiently and speedily. We are prediction machines based on our past experiences. We seek confirmation of our mental models, affirmation of our egos, and cohesiveness of our existing stories about how the world works. Nonetheless, we must learn how to create, explore, discover, and innovate.
Throughout the rest of the book, the author takes a practical workbook approach to help readers create their Hyper-Learning mindset and humanize the workplace to optimize Hyper-Learning.