In the new social, business and economic landscape every industry falls into one of only three groups. Right now your industry or profession a) has been disrupted, b) is being disrupted or c) is about to be disrupted. No industry or business will escape this process which is merely part of the natural cycle of change. The good news is that the other side of disruption is opportunity. An opportunity to consciously design the future economic landscape we want to see.
At the root of this evolution is to build our businesses on values.
As much as any other industry and profession, education is ripe for evolution. Self-managed learning environments have confirmed our knowingness that we are actually born with the desire to learn, and that the industrial model classroom was merely a road block that got in the way. It’s hard to comprehend how an education system can now position a teacher at the front of a classroom and proclaim them to be the font of all knowledge when their students have open access to the world’s knowledge base.
A critical component of our economic future will be a rethink of not only how our students learn but also to challenge the basic assumption of what school is for. In support of this I can refer to many conversations with educators, from classroom teachers to professional trainers, from head teachers to education C.E.O.’s, I have never heard one declare the purpose of school is to pass tests.
I understand this thought will cause many in the teaching profession, including their unions, to fear for their jobs. They will no doubt claim that you can’t have schools without teachers. But I don’t see this as a losing jobs scenario. Quite the opposite in fact.
With the increase in the rise of artificial intelligence, I see the people factor becoming more important mostly due to values and qualities like caring, empathy and compassion being some distance off for even the most advanced Artificial Intelligence. Maybe these emotional and spiritual characteristics will forever remain the sole domain of humans.
It leads me to conclude that the teaching profession must simply adapt to a changing of role. A role which requires a transition from ‘Curriculum Deliverer’ to one of ‘Learning Coach’, where their function is to fuel the natural passion and genius of the student rather than be the protectors of knowledge, forcing students down a pre-constructed road built for the masses.
I recognise that some teachers already see themselves fulfilling this role. Yet many teachers I have spoken to voice their inability to fulfill this role not from a lack of desire but because of the outdated and obsolete limitations of the systems in which they work. In a personal case I heard one teacher call the ‘system’ corrupt.
It’s fair to say that that the dramatic changes in learning, work and business mean the foundation of a new world of education must have the values of sustainability and adaptability embedded at the very core.
Here’s a story to demonstrate.
John, (name changed for privacy) is a highly creative small business owner. Like many small business owners and self-employed professionals he’s naturally good at some things and struggles with others.
When John was 13 after a full academic year of failing Latin, his teacher gave him one last test to display his ability. Failing the test would mean a summer of studying for the following term retake. Not something that excited him.
Being the creative thinker he was, he considered ways of passing a test which quite clearly wasn’t going to happen using the methods he’d been using to date.
Then it came to him. Problem solved. ‘Eureka’ he thought. Well I’m not sure he thought that exactly but you get the point. He’d get someone else to take the test for him.
As is often the case in business, and in life, solving one problem creates another.
Assessing the situation, he was pretty certain his teachers wouldn’t allow this entrepreneurial thinking. Or to put it another way, the system wouldn’t allow it. Apparently this is widely regarding as cheating. Although with a little bit of a stretch, and if you’re open to looking at things in a new way, you could easily see this as collaboration and leverage. Two of many values required in a successful enterprise.
Anyway, here’s how John ‘passed’ the test.
He hired (yes paid) the best Latin student to do the test for him. John helped his teacher hand out the test papers and made sure he put one out of a pre-arranged open window. The hired Latin expert was strategically placed (hiding) in a bush outside the classroom window. John’s ‘on demand freelancer’ took the test paper and quickly completed the translation onto a piece of paper.
A fake trip to the toilet enabled John to pick up the translation, again through an agreed open window, and return with the answers placed in his shoe.
While he did ‘pass’ the test and avoided Summer School, it’s true his teacher suspected that John had in fact ‘cheated’ (definitely not collaborated) to gain the required result.
What do you think about John? Rule breaker or creative entrepreneur?
The Structural Shift from Command and Control
A professional speaker colleague recently told me of her eighteen year old son solving a school test problem with a friend on Skype. If you’ve grown up in a time of ubiquitous free access to data sharing, why wouldn’t you use this approach? Her husband made a tongue in cheek comment that it would be considered cheating in his day. He’s a traditional C.E.O.
The problem of course is the very foundational values upon which our education system is built. The desired outcome of the Western education system was to produce compliant workers for industrial factories. Although in recent years it’s turned into the need to produce compliant workers for industrial offices. I have no doubt that this lack of creativity in our daily lives for most office workers creates a build up of creative mental energy looking for an outlet. The result? The rise in mental health conditions across the board.
Here are just 10 values, in no particular priority, required to equip today’s students and education professions with just some of the tools to thrive in a workplace of technological disruption (or innovation). I personally recommend that parents also take time to understood what’s happening instead of holding on to ‘in my day’ thinking.
Value 1 : TRUST that failing is part of the process.
The culture of our education system is geared toward passing tests. Success is measured in grades and how many tests a student passes. It’s why many students fail a test and find it easy to attach themselves to the identity of ‘failure’.
I’ve yet to meet a successful executive or entrepreneur who hadn’t first failed. I like to call them ‘learning experiences’. I’d tell you about all my entrepreneurial learning experiences but there’s not enough storage space on the web.
Many investors in Silicon Valley rule out investing in entrepreneurs who haven’t yet failed in business. They figure you haven’t learned enough business lessons yet and don’t want to spend their money on your education. Part of the universal law that states everything changes is understanding that innovation is a cyclical process that constantly moves through the idea creation, people connection, measured implementation and controlled improvement.
Value 2 : Learn to think INDPENDENTLY
Our education system was founded with the purpose of providing workers who would conform and comply. Entrepreneurial thinking was not the desired outcome. As an entrepreneur there’s a chance your highest values include freedom, autonomy, independence and personal responsibility. Detaching yourself from crowd thinking is critical to your future success.
Value 3 : Be your AUTHENTIC self
The conflict between standing out and fitting in is natural and human one. As a social species we all have a need to belong, to fit in and to feel part of a community. In contradiction to this we have a need for significance, to stand out from the crowd and be recognised for being our unique self.
Value 4 : Pursue your PASSION
Do you know someone who hates physics? Or math? Or someone who finds literature or music an absolute bore? Of course many of us were told to spend more time developing our weaknesses.
But pursuing something you hate doing is, by any sensible definition, is simply not success. Your passion is connected to your heart and spirit, and must be nurtured with love and compassion. Even better is that you can add more value to the market place by leveraging your natural genius, passions and story doing what you love that others find difficult or hate.
Value 5 : Always be LEARNING.
The first thing our education system does is to categorise students in to age groups. You are directed to learn with those who share an age, not with those who share your passion or talents. Why? Because it’s the most efficient method for mass curriculum delivery. In his book ‘Drive’, bestselling author Daniel Pink says this is the equivalent of classifying people by date of manufacture. It has nothing to do with their passions, or gifts, and has no correlation with the ability to learn or engage in a specific subject.
Value 6 : Be ADAPTABLE.
While the other side of Technological Disruption is Social Dislocation, it only becomes dislocating when we’re attached to our old ways of being. Social scientists, anthropologists and behavioural psychologists use a word to describe this process. Evolution.
Charles Darwin said those who survive won’t be the fittest or strongest, but those with most ability to adapt.
Throughout the course of history advances in technology have caused workplace unrest. Employees who possess what I term Previous Decision Attachment revert to fear based FIGHT behaviours. They fight to save factories. They fight to save jobs. They fight to save industries. But they fail to recognise a universal truth of nature. EVERYTHING CHANGES. While we value security, attaching that security to a job or industry that has passed its natural useful lifecycle is misplaced.
This mind seed was planted at school with the mantra ‘study hard, get good grades, get a job for life.’ Whole generations were sold the ‘Learn Once, Earn Forever’ story. My advice for anyone choosing to follow that career or business strategy today is simple. Good luck.
Value 7 : Be RESPECTFUL.
Given that the foundation of the current education system was built on a command and control hierarchical structure, and driven by the industrial need for compliant workers, it shouldn’t be a surprise that respecting authority is a value embedded in the culture of the education system. But here’s a big difference. I respect you because you’re human, not because you sit above me in a made up hierarchical structure.
Value 8 : Use the Law of LEVERAGE.
Simply put there’s no such thing as self-made. At a basic biological level you required a mother and father. Or at the very least a sperm and an egg. Every thriving organisation is required to successfully apply the Law of Leverage. When I’m consulting with leaders, managers or owners I consistently see simple behaviours that lose money, waste time and kill engagement. I used to say ‘it’s not rocket science’, until I remembered the Law of Leverage is actually.. well basically…rocket science.
You could argue, quite successfully I think, that John hiring his Latin expert was simply leveraging the talents of someone else. Not full time, but just a one off project when his situation required. Despite John’s story being 40 years ago, it sounds very much like ‘On Demand Contracting’ to me. Which of course is the way the world of work is evolving.
Value 9 : Take PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY.
I’d be inclined to suggest this is the first primary value, because all change starts here. With the growing evidence of a global shift in the desire for more personal freedom, we must recognise and accept that the other side of freedom is responsibility. My life was transformed when I hired my first executive coach (paid for from my own pocket) and I’m still eternally grateful to Hazel for asking the question which led to me repairing my most valuable relationship. She asked ‘So what are YOU going to do about it’. Turns out the other side of the things we want is Personal Responsibility.
Value 10 : Embrace EXPLORATION.
Remembering stuff is really important. If I were in the middle of an operation, I’d REALLY want my surgeon to remember which arteries are connected to what. Except the vast majority of tasks don’t require, need or benefit from using precious mental capacity holding things in storage. Henry Ford famously said ‘I don’t need to know everything. I hire people who do’. Einstein said he didn’t want to his mental energy remembering facts when that energy could be better used for creative thinking.
All of which is good news for the evolution of workplace wellbeing.
Even now technology out performs humans in accessing historical facts and data. One of the subjects I studied at secondary school was history and thanks to Mr. Goff Davies I somehow got a grade B. Of course I don’t remember much of what I was taught, mostly because a) I wasn’t passionate about it and b) I never connected the subject to have meaning in my life. But in less than 30 seconds, while writing this article I hired a free ‘on demand researcher’ (Gladys* Google as my father calls her), who helped me ‘remember’ that Neville Chamberlain was Prime Minister of Great Britain in September 1939 at the start of World War II. Useful if any potential clients have that as a pre-hire question.
So here is the new world of Education 2.0.
*In the original version of this article my father used the name Dai Google. On discovering Google Assistant on my smart phone had a female (sounding) voice, he decide a name change was appropriate.