The #1 Skill That All Kids Need to Be Successful in an Uncertain Future
The age of the robots is here, and experts are predicting widespread disruption to nearly every industry and widespread job loss. In addition, the recent health crisis and economic downturn has upended many industries and is pulling society even faster towards online business models and communities.
But there is a silver lining for our kids.
Technology will create millions of new jobs for students who are prepared for them, and thousands of new industries, many of them online, will be created for the next generation of entrepreneurs and professionals.
So if we had to boil it down and select the #1 skill that all kids need to to be successful in this new world – what would it be?
Tech skills like coding and data analytics are important, but there is one skill that is even more useful.
That skill is problem solving – but of a very particular kind.
The Most Valuable Type of Problem Solving
Sure, our schools are already teaching problem solving.
Students solve math and science problems, and these are surely helpful for brain development and provide the foundation for a number of careers.
But the most valuable problem solving skill is not taught in 99% of schools.
What kind of problem solving is this?
It is finding a pain point that affects a group of people, an organization, or a community, and coming up with a creative a solution to reduce or eliminate this pain.
In MBA speak, this skill is known as value creation, and the most common way that value is created is by solving a problem at a price that the market is willing to pay.
Mastering this skill is the key to every entrepreneurial business, and getting good at this in whatever company or organization you work in will earn you promotions, pay raises, and leadership opportunities.
For example, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos was well aware of the many pain points Amazon has solved as an online marketplace. Here is just a short list off the top of my head.
1) Amazon solved the pain of having to go to the store.
2) It solved the pain of going to the store to find that what you wanted was sold out.
3) It solved the pain of going to the store and buying a bad product or service (Amazon reviews handle this).
4) Amazon solved the pain of having to return to the store to return a defective product.
5) It solved the pain of high retail prices (Amazon was able to undercut traditional retailers who needed to charge more for high rent in expensive locations).
When our children land their first jobs as teens or young adults, you can bet that every employer will value their ability to see pain points, solve problems and provide value – whether these are new product ideas, solutions to customer issues, or solutions that provide greater efficiency in their organizations.
Entrepreneurs or professionals who are able to listen to those around them, observe their nuisances, dislikes, or even outright pain points, and come up with solutions to solve these problems – will do very well in tomorrow’s world.
How Can We Teach our Kids to Develop this Type of Problem Solving?
You can start teaching kids this type of problem solving and value generation at a relatively young age. Here are a few tips that can help:
1) Ask your kids to help you solve problems
When you have a problem around the house that feels age appropriate, ask your kids to help you find a solution. If they are younger, you may have to give them some tips and hints, but as they get older let them provide solutions.
2) Play problem solving games together
One of my favorite activities to do with kids is to build Rube Goldberg machines. This involves creating an often ridiculously complex machine to execute a relatively simple task. Setting up Rube Goldberg machines encourages creativity, trial and error, and problem solving.
3) Do some DIY (Do it yourself) projects at home together with your kids
Buy some intricate Lego kits, subscribe to some cool STEM box services, purchase rocket kits, or try project-based computer science subscriptions like CodaKid. Make sure to let your children drive the process, make mistakes, experience bugs, and flex their problem solving skills to resolve issues that they encounter.
4) Teach entrepreneurial thinking
When your kids experience something that they don’t like or complain about something to you, ask them what they would do to fix this issue. Brainstorm and see if they can come up with a solution, product, or service that would address it. When the time is right, encourage your kids to set up their own businesses – either online or in the neighborhood. Lemonade stands are great, but there are now many more creative online opportunities that will teach your kids problem solving – including online storefronts, internet influencer services on YouTube, and more.
5) Avoid “Snowplow Parenting”
The term “helicopter parenting” – or incessantly hovering over every part of your child’s life – has been replaced by a new term called “snowplow parenting.” Snowplow parenting is the act of clearing pathways for your children in a manner that prevents them from solving problems on their own and experiencing failure. We’ve all seen parents who do this. They are the ones who call their college-aged children to remind them to study for tests or that get involved in their work lives. Learning how to let our kids make mistakes, take ownership of their failures, and pick themselves up when they fall is a foundation in developing their problem-solving muscles.
In conclusion, there is a very specific skillset that successful entrepreneurs and professionals exhibit, and it is rarely taught in school.
Problem solving, especially as it relates to providing value for customers or employers, is the one skillset that turbocharges career advancement and greatly increases the odds of entrepreneurial success.
Teaching your children and teenagers to develop this skill early and often will give them a leg up in tomorrow’s world, despite all of its uncertainties.
We hope you liked our article The #1 Skill that All Kids Need to Be Successful in an Uncertain Future.
Do you have good ideas about how to best prepare our children for success in tomorrow’s world?
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