This week I attended a virtual conference session discussing the skills that will be needed by Project Managers in the year 2027. The speaker reviewed predictions made in the early 1900s for the world 100 years in the future. While some of the predictions still haven’t come to pass (e.g. personal flying transport devices); others were very close in their general vision, but not so much in the actual technological implementation (e.g. pushing buttons in your room to have material goods delivered versus clicking a virtual button and ordering goods from the internet). The speaker went on to say that futurists shouldn’t focus on technology when making predictions because it’s very difficult to predict the actual path of technology development. Likewise, when looking at the future role of the Community Manager it’s better to concentrate on other factors that are more predictable.
Increased Complexity (and Channels)
The Project Management study took into consideration four different geopolitical/economic scenarios. It was found that in spite of differences between these scenarios that the outcomes remained very similar because all scenarios resulted in increased complexity. Likewise, if we look at the future role of the community manager, we cannot envision an environment which does not become more complex than the current one. While we don’t know what form new technologies may take, based on previous history it seems most likely that there will be new technologies and more platforms. In the past the advent of new communication channels has rarely spelled the doom of old communication channels. Instead new communication channels have just been added to the mix; consequently, while we may think that some new telepathy channel will spell the end of all older communication channels, this is unlikely to occur. The community manager of the future can expect to look forward to managing even more channels and dealing with more complexity than even today.
Because of the increased environmental complexity predicted by all scenarios in the Project Management survey, communication was forecast to be the top skill required by the project manager of 2027. Likewise, the community manager of the future will continue to need to increase their communication skills. With the increase in global communications the ability to be able to understand the cultural context of messages will be increasingly important. Also, it seems that there will continue to be divergence between informal communication (e.g. texting abbreviations & emoticons, tweeting) and formal communication (e.g. email, blogs) used in a business context. To be able to reach different audiences, the community manager will need to understand the culture and the “proper” language needed to communicate with many different communities.
One surprising outcome of the Project Manager survey was that Leadership skills did not appear in the “top 10” list of skills. Instead leadership was rated more in the mid-range of all skills needed. A skill denoted “relaxation” did however, make the top 10. The skill of relaxation was defined as the ability to help others to relax. In the complex and stressful world of the future, the ability to be able to diffuse tense situations and put others at ease so that they can maximize their productivity is seen to be an important skill. So perhaps, what the survey is really saying is that the definition of leadership is shifting to less of a commanding, domineering presence and more of a collaborative presence, that Emotional Intelligence (EI) is a key skill that all leaders of 2027 will need. Community managers also need the skill of “relaxation” to be able to deal with stressful situations within their communities and bring out the best in their community members. Community managers already require high EI skills and the need for these types of skills will only increase in the years ahead.
What do you think the key skills for community managers will be in the year 2027? What changes do you expect to see the role of the community manager between now and 2027?