The World Economic Forum (WEF)  has called for a ‘global reskilling revolution’ as people around the world try to keep pace with the rate at which old jobs are disappearing and new ones are being created. ‘Intentional learning’—a self-directed, goal-focused approach that treats every experience as a learning opportunity—is a key skill in this environment.

According to WEF, 133 million new jobs could be created by the Fourth Industrial Revolution by 2022. At the same time, millions of old jobs will be made redundant by intelligent automation and artificial intelligence. To remain relevant in the context of a ‘reskilling’ emergency and build a long-term career, each person needs to be an agile and intentional learner.

WEF says that these  jobs of the future are not necessarily only in technology and science but also in HR, sales, personal services and more—there is  “a growing need for people to develop specialised skills for how they interact with each other”. Many of these jobs are undersupplied, creating opportunities for the intentional learner.

What is intentional learning?

Education researchers, Carl Bereiter and Marlene Scardamalia, define intentional learning as: “cognitive processes that have learning as a goal rather than an incidental outcome.” This is about a person’s motivation to work through the content or experience to achieve the goals of learning, as well as the cognitive processes uses to reach these goals.

In other words, becoming an intentional learner is not just about having the goal of learning something, but also of having awareness of your learning process. By better understanding the ways in which you learn, you can use mental techniques and technology tools more effectively to enhance your ability to learn.

The intentional learning mindset

According to McKinsey, one of the major roadblocks is that “so few adults have been trained in the core skills and mindsets of effective learners. Learning itself is a skill, and developing it is a critical driver of long-term career success. People who have mastered the mindsets and skills of effective learning can… gain more of the benefits from all the learning opportunities that come their way.”

McKinsey suggests that there are two critical mindsets that enable any person to become an intentional learner:

  • Growth mindset: A person with a growth mindset believes that they can grow, expand, evolve, and change. They find pleasure in the process of learning and failures and mistakes as tools for development.
  • Curiosity mindset: “Curiosity, the engine of intentional learning, can be cultivated, even in those who don’t consider themselves naturally curious,” writes McKinsey. Getting out of your comfort zone by asking yourself uncomfortable questions, seeking new experiences and ideas, and spending time on your passions can all help strengthen your curiosity.

Furthermore, McKinsey suggests five practices to sharpen intentional learning:

  1. Setting small, clear and tangible goals
  2. Removing distractions and making time to learn
  3. Seeking actionable feedback
  4. Practicing deliberately in areas you want to grow in
  5. Reflecting on and directing your own thinking

We live in a strange world that is currently demanding a great deal of adaptability from each of us. Disruptive trends have been amplified by the pandemic. Mastering intentional learning is essential for any person who wants to be able to reinvent and reskill themselves to remain ahead of this world of constant change.


[Photo by Kimberly Farmer on Unsplash]