When designing learning and development strategy for an innovative workplace, consider the big picture of the world of work today

When you’re in middle school and your uncle drops the classic “What do you know for sure?” line, chances are you won’t have a groundbreaking answer. Most likely, you’ll either reply with a disingenuous laugh or just slowly retreat behind your parents. When someone asks Jen McCuen, Vice President of Learning and Development at UnitedHealth Group, what she knows for sure, she has an answer. And it’s a good one. We had the pleasure of asking her just that at our one-day innovation conference in Minneapolis as she enlightened and inspired us to look at the big picture of work and life.

1) The wall is gone.

Work isn’t just work anymore. Not everyone punches in and out or spends their day tucked away in a cubicle plucking at a keyboard. The line between work and life has blurred and is becoming less prevalent as the years pass. This cultural phenomenon has caused the expectations for access to skyrocket. People need to be connected at all times because work is with them all the time. Work has changed. Now, we must change the way we work.

2) What work gets done is dictated by how work gets done.

Soft skills matter. They are what define the 21st-century worker and will be all that’s left after the robots take over. An employee can produce only a certain amount of product without a proper handle on soft skills. For example, an innovator in the automotive world will have no luck marketing his or her product without prowess in public speaking. In the current industry climate, these types of skills are becoming increasingly essential. Companies do not simply want the work done; they want it done well. And until robots figure out how to lead a multi-faceted interactive speaking seminar, that’s up to us.

3) The most effective learning happens as close to the work as possible.

If medical school consisted only of bookwork, everyone would be dead. Learning requires experience. That experience should come from real work. Therefore, the most effective training tactic is to encase the subjects within their desired environment. If high-schoolers want to learn how to act, put them on a stage. If this philosophy becomes mainstream, organizations will not only produce stellar results; they will do so in a manner that caters to their dreams.

4) When people show you who they are, believe them.

We live in a world of distrust. Everybody seems to have it out for everybody else. This is due in part to a lack of genuine observation. People are so caught up in progressing from where they are now to where they could be that they forget the present. With that, it becomes easy to disregard the people in it. Simple observation can foster immense insight into one’s surroundings, of which people are a main component. When this observation yields new information, take it to heart. Do not forget it. Do not pass it off as just another fabrication of society. It is rare that people demonstrate vulnerability and share their true selves. Make sure it doesn’t go unnoticed.

5) We should stand in awe of people who fight for basic human needs.

The definition of justice has evolved over time. It is no longer constrained to the law but rather encompasses the entirety of human welfare. We live in a time and environment that constantly threatens the balance of that justice. Human needs are going unnoticed and being disregarded to cater to a fortunate few. Advocacy has risen to hinder this process. However, the act of becoming an advocate requires complete devotion to a cause, a commitment that few have the courage to make. This is why we, as one humanity, should every day observe, applaud, and learn from those who do advocate. Human needs matter, and we can help make that known.

Join us at our next MNovation conference, which is dedicated to the art and science of creating cultures of innovation through behavioral practice, intentional mindset-shifting and meaningful connection. The Brave New Workshop is a leader in transformative laughter: an innovative methodology proven to help professionals become more agile, creative and confident.