Saturday, January 31, 2009

What is required to be called a professional?

Recently I read an excellent article written by Subroto Bagchi on what it will take to be a great professional in the days to come. This is a question that I have had as well. As he rightly says these days almost everyone has a digital SLR. Since everyone can take great pictures these days, photo-shop them, and freely upload on the Internet, what is the difference between them and professionals such as Dewitt Jones or Raghu Rai? This is a question equally relevant for doctors, architects, software engineers, lawyers and dress designers.
He states that according to Howard Gardner (“The Harvard professor who has written 20 books and received 21 honorary doctorates; the same man who questioned the role of IQ in determining intelligence. In fact, it was he who had propagated the idea of multiple intelligence.”): "whatever may be your profession, to succeed in the world ahead, you need to master the five minds of the future…"

"The first is the mind of the discipline. You may be a trained photographer or a qualified surgeon. It does not matter. Your professional qualification is not what will make you a professional. You need to devote yourself to your profession of choice for at least 10 years before you can understand its nuances.
Empirical studies indicate that, across disciplines, amount of time is a minimum requirement. You have to give yourself to the profession as against looking at it just as a means to a livelihood, a career or a job. You need to build affection for your profession and a long view of time.
The second is the mind of synthesis. The future requires the capacity to build abstractions. In other words, you need the mind of synthesis. It is about developing an understanding of ideas, concepts and problems in an interdisciplinary manner while building depth in one's own discipline. A great shot on the outskirts of Delhi requires an understanding of where Delhi comes from historically.
The third mind is the creative mind. Clients do not like the tried-and-the tested solutions any more because those solutions are simply not innovative enough. Precisely because they are tried and tested, they have become the past.
Competitive advantage is about creativity, and creativity is about taking risks. The creative mind is about building the capacity to answer what is new and what is different about the solution you are suggesting every time.
The fourth mind is the respectful mind. In the future, all problems will require interdisciplinary solutions. Whether it is about negotiating a nuclear treaty or removing a cancerous cell from the pancreas, if anything qualifies to be called a problem, then chances are high, the solution would have to be interdisciplinary.
That means experts from different fields will have to listen to each other, learn from each other, collaborate while they compete, disagree without being disagreeable and then put multiple minds together, build consensus and emerge with the strength of the respectful mind.
Why do you think one CEO fails and another succeeds in taking a militant trade union along? Why do you think one educationist prevails over others while settling the contents of a high school textbook on national history? Why one physicist is able to get agreement on making a certain standard universally acceptable in a transnational negotiation involving competing interests? Those who succeed have the respectful mind
Finally, great professionals of tomorrow will need to understand and master what Howard Gardner calls the ethical mind. This ethical mind is about the capacity to certify the completion of one's own work. That rules out most people who need someone else to supervise them. Whatever may be your profession, to be called a professional, you must master all the five minds of the future and only then can you be globally accepted.
But why should we worry about being globally relevant? Because the benchmark no longer remains local. The benchmark is now Dewitt Jones."