September 7, 2016

Watchworthy Wednesday: The 5 Most Needed 21st Century Skills

Category: Digital Citizenship
Woman printing photos for ebola health worker suits

As the third annual Character Day approaches Sept. 22, the nonprofit Let it Ripple Film Studio will be featuring “The Adaptable Mind,” an 11-minute exploration of the five skills we need most to flourish in the 21st century.

Webby Awards creator Tiffany Shlain, who founded Character Day, co-founded the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences and leads Let it Ripple, uses Twitter to pose a question at the beginning of the film: “What’s a great example of a 21st century mind in action?” She receives hundreds of responses and focuses on the one from Los Angeles-based professor and artist, Mary Beth Heffernan, who wondered how isolating and traumatic it must be for Ebola patients in West Africa to interact only with people completely hidden in frightening hazmat suits for weeks on end. “Why don’t they put photos on the suits?” she narrates. “Maybe I’m the one who’s meant to do that.”

Shlain then cuts in: “We were so moved because the way Mary Beth’s story unfolds shines a light on the larger shift we’re seeing in the world. As technologies are rapidly changing how we do everything, certain skills are becoming less valuable — the need to memorize, perform routine tasks, and soon even the need to drive — while others are becoming more valuable. So, what exactly are the skills that prepare us for a world that’s constantly changing?”

According to the film, those skills are five:

  1. curiosity
  2. creativity
  3. taking initiative
  4. multi-disciplinary thinking 
  5. empathy

Citing research studies and weaving in Heffernan’s story, “The Adaptable Mind” delves into each skill and concludes: “The skills we need most in today’s world, in any profession, boil down to being human, basically the qualities that machines don’t have.”

The Adaptable Mind from The Moxie Institute on Vimeo.

More than 50,000 groups in 70 countries have already signed up for this year’s Character Day, a free global initiative where groups worldwide screen films on the science of character development from different perspectives, dive into discussion and join an online global conversation around the importance of developing character strengths, such as resilience, grit, empathy, courage and kindness. The resources, including conversation starter kits, a comprehensive online resource hub and a mobile app that includes more than 5,000 pieces of curated content about the importance of character development to help participants create and host their own Character Day events, are available online.

This year, participants are encouraged to join the movement across social media by taking to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to nominate a friend, family member, community leader or someone they admire who exhibits one or more character strengths (i.e. empathy, grit, humility, courage, etc.) using the official hashtag #CharacterDay2016.

“Character Day 2016 comes at a crucial time, when what it means to be a good person in our society demands our renewed focus,” Shlain said in a statement. “From the way we express ourselves and treat each other online to how we communicate our politics — there is amazing scientific research to draw upon when it comes to how to strengthen one’s character.”

Banner image: screen shot from “The Adaptable Mind”

Editor’s note: Watchworthy Wednesday posts highlight interesting DML resources and appear in DML Central every Wednesday. Any tips for future posts are welcome. Please comment below or send email to