Teaching Lab

10 superpowers for the future of work

We are going through the fourth industrial revolution, and the world of work is changing faster than ever. Artificial intelligence, automatization, robotization, and virtual technologies are changing the ways we work and also challenging our perceptions on what it means to be a human. Nobody knows what the future will bring for us, but there have been a lot of discussions, forecasts as well as research concerning the probable competences everyone will need to be able to navigate in the ever-changing future of work.
Focus group discussion of conceptualising Aalto-level Game Changer competences
Focus group discussion of conceptualising Aalto graduate's superpowers / Photo: Niina Pitkänen

Are generic skills the core skills of the future?

The profound changes in work also challenge education. As Charles Fadel, the Founder and Chairman of the Center for Curriculum Redesign has put it:

“Education much needs an innovative curriculum adapted to the needs of 21st century learners and societies: Is education relevant enough for this century? Are we educating learners to be versatile in a world that is increasingly challenging?”

Many experts suggest that we should re-think the core-skills of the (academic) education: Should we keep educating deep substance experts? Or should we focus more on the generic, transferable, transversal or so-called soft-skills we all need in the work-life despite our specific field of knowledge or the organization in which we work?

Work = Learning

The idea that education should focus more and more on general skills is based on the fact that the field-specific knowledge changes and updates so quickly that we must anyway be able to learn and re-skill ourselves throughout our careers. And, for most of us changing the whole career a few times in our lives will be just normal.

It has been said that in the future the work is learning. That makes the ability to engage effectively in lifelong learning one of the most crucial 21st-century capabilities:

"The broad change that will be required in this new world of learning and work is to move away from traditional, front-loaded accreditation and siloed certificates to a system of lifelong learning infused with a shared set of skills-based indicators at its core.” (World Economic Forum, 2019)

Is education relevant enough for this century?

Charles Fadel, the Founder and Chairman of the Center for Curriculum Redesign

Empathy as a trending characteristic

Mah and Ifenthaler (2017) have defined that the academic competence for successful degree completion includes:

  • time management
  • learning skills
  • self-monitoring
  • technology proficiency and
  • research skills.

Many surveys also suggest that the rising work-life competences also include abilities like complex problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity, adaptability, communication, and collaboration.

Also, empathy and emotional intelligence have been identified as trending skills, maybe because those are genuinely human characteristics differentiating our abilities from the work that robots or AI can also conduct. In the future, the ability to genuinely care, love and empathize with each other can be the winning attribute in the job market.

Future superpowers

We are now in the process of internally defining what could be the most critical superpowers of Aalto graduates for the future of work. I will share with you ten great and a bit different ideas on what we should equip ourselves with in the future.


  1. Courage
    to live our own lives and keep reaching for our dreams and goals
  2. Curiousness
    towards challenges, other people and cultures and the whole world around us
  3. Taking care
    of our well-being as well as others'
  4. Ethical behavior
    in everything we do
  5. Situational sensitivity
    understanding and appreciating the uniqueness of each problem, situation and person
  6. Storytelling
    since we are not selling products or even services anymore, but experiences
  7. Self-awareness
    to be able to be me
  8. Change agency
    understanding of what wall I can move and how and be willing actually to move it
  9. Resilience to stress
    understanding the positive and temporary stress and being able to cope with the harmful one
  10. Dream-Drive-Deliver -attitude
    no explanations needed.

    The first Focus Group Discussion held in February 2019 was aiming to identify what are the critical work-life competences of Aalto graduate. The ideas shared in this discussion inspired me to write this article.

    Niina Pitkänen

    Niina Pitkänen

    Department of Information and Service Management
    Aalto Thesis Programme Manager, Work-Life Specialist
    Teaching Lab
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