We’re living in the knowledge age.  If you doubt that statement at all, read what Wikipedia has to say:

The world’s technological capacity to store information grew from 2.6 exabytes in 1986 to 15.8 in 1993, over 54.5 in 2000, and to 295 exabytes in 2007. This is the informational equivalent to less than one 730-MB CD-ROM per person in 1986, roughly 4 CD-ROMs per person in 1993, 12 CD-ROMs per person in the year 2000, and almost 61 CD-ROMs per person in 2007. Piling up the imagined 404 billion CD-ROMs from 2007 would create a stack from the earth to the moon and a quarter of this distance beyond.

Add to this over abundance of information the economic pressures brought to bear on business and we have the perfect storm of leaner, meaner, just-in-time workplaces requiring extreme mental agility.

What is the new skill set – the one that will differentiate business athletes from the rest of the pack?  It is the ability to recognize and make use of essential bits of data from a never-ending stream of information coupled with rapid task switching.

The knowledge age creates new challenges for leaders.  How do we measure productivity in knowledge workers? How do we ensure our important messages make it through the endless stream of data and are acted upon?  How do we keep people engaged in learning when their brains are overloaded with torrents of information?

Today’s leader must excel at rapid learning and develop systems to capture and retrieve increasingly large amounts of data.  We need to help others learn these skills so that we are developing strength and good succession pipelines within our organizations.

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