The Atlantic examines the Navy’s “smart” ships, the LCSs and extrapolates to the wider, modern workforce.
And he discovered another correlation in his test: The people who did best tended to score high on “openness to new experience”—a personality trait that is normally not a major job-performance predictor and that, in certain contexts, roughly translates to “distractibility.” To borrow the management expert Peter Drucker’s formulation, people with this trait are less focused on doing things right, and more likely to wonder whether they’re doing the right things.
High in fluid intelligence, low in experience, not terribly conscientious, open to potential distraction—this is not the classic profile of a winning job candidate. But what if it is the profile of the winning job candidate of the future? If that’s the case, some important implications would arise.
One concerns “grit”—a mind-set, much vaunted these days in educational and professional circles, that allows people to commit tenaciously to doing one thing well. Angela Duckworth, a University of Pennsylvania psychology professor, has written powerfully about the value of grit—putting your head down, blocking out distractions, committing over a course of many years to a chosen path. Her writing traces an intellectual lineage that can also be found in Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, which explains extraordinary success as a function of endless, dedicated practice—10,000 hours or more. These ideas are inherently appealing; they suggest that dedication can be more important than raw talent, that the dogged and conscientious will be rewarded in the end.
These trends are more prevalent in certain fields and in certain locations. I think they have the potential to change, for the better, how people are employed – giving more power to the employee. However, I don’t think that’s the future. Human (herd) nature will intervene, and there’s the robotic/AI/civilizational collapse think, proceeding unopposed. In the end, like the LCS sailors, most folks will have to abandon ship.
Lessons, if heeded, for far-distant generations.