The next BIG leap forward…will our kids be ready?

If you’ve read a book that really hit you, made you think and informed what you were doing or one of your thought processes, wouldn’t it be cool to interview that person? A blogger I’ve connected with, Christian Long at think:lab (a consultancy focused on “School 2.0″…the next generation of learning) has that exact opportunity with Dan Pink, author of A Whole New Mind.

I’ve written posts that included the impact that Pink’s book has made on my thinking. Talked to dozens of people and encouraged them to read it. This post is one that sums up what I’m seeing and the dots I’m connecting with Pink’s help. Here’s a snippet:

If you’ve read Daniel Pink’s book A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age, you’ll understand his argument that left brain, serial and linear thinking is of flat value and more prone to outsourcing (because it can be) and that the next phase of value creation and innovation will come from the right brained, parallel and associative thinkers among us. Higher order thinking, pattern matching and an ability to connect the dots (which can’t be outsourced) will be highly prized and will be the intellectual fuel for tomorrow.

Disruption, creation and innovation spring forth from seeing unmet needs, patterns, mixing together elements from multiple sources, creating new and innovative products and services from unique combinations or methods and yes, accidents. According to Pink, high value innovation will be delivered by those who can see and think differently (needless to say that I found Pink’s book pretty validating on how my brain is wired and that I’m not just some guy going off on tangents all the time…and with far too many Categories on his blog).

So what’s my recommendation to Christian? If it were me, I’d ask Pink 100 questions…but if there was *one* thing that not only shapes the future design of a school and perhaps education itself that I’d ask him about….it’s a concept that is already shifting value exchange, capitalism and the nature of work around the world….and certainly will change education. The concept I’d ask Pink about is this: how is learning affected when knowledge is at your fingertips and dozens, hundreds, thousands or even millions of minds connect and the future of work is mostly virtual?

So you can see how my brain has connected some dots around this concept — which will also affect the very nature of work and value exchange — there are a handful of books (and my own publication) that have shaped my perspective:

1) When it came out, I immediately devoured Thomas Friedman’s book “The World is Flat.” In some ways I felt like I could’ve written that book, but there was one concept that LEAPT OFF THE PAGES: that even PhD-level, linear and serial processes could (and are) being outsourced. I thought about the profundity of that reality and realized that once a process — regardless of how sophisticated — is identified and mapped out, it can be handed off to people willing to do it cheaply.

2) A Whole New Mind accelerated my thinking about creativity and innovation with this premise (see his web site for more): “The era of “left brain” dominance, and the Information Age that it engendered, are giving way to a new world in which “right brain” qualities — inventiveness, empathy, meaning — predominate.

Look at those three words: inventiveness, empathy, meaning. I’ve said before that there are no experts so co-creation and inventing the future MUST be done with others directly or those that inform our thinking. Empathy is key in a flattening, connected world since tribal, community, race, color, creed are irrelevant to the ideas, perspective and humanity of those with whom we connect. Meaning is critical since our increasingly connected world means that discernment between “signal” and “noise” is harder to achieve. Figuring out what matters and is important is tougher than ever before.

3) Next I put together my own Internet-centric report, Rise of the Participation Culture (which is totally free, by the way, with not even a request for your email address). It’s targeted at strategists that are wrestling with how a culture of people who expect (and are) participating on the Internet in a myriad of ways is changing everything.

4) Finally I read Don Tapscott’s Wikinomics and THIS is the book I would’ve written if I was as smart as Don or had his experiences and connections with publishers! It’s all about the mass collaboration that is already occurring globally as the world gets connected and participants abound.

So imagine you are crafting education for the workers of tomorrow. They’ll be connected, that’s for sure. Each will have a computer on their hip with high speed mobile connections…and have access to mission-critical information, knowledge and people.

The linear, serial process people will become the higher level project managers, adept at bringing together resources and managing intellectual capital, they’ll be the knowledge assembly line supervisors of tommorrow and most likely be smart, educated people living in third world or emerging countries.

The creative class (coined by Richard Florida in Rise of the Creative Class) will be the seekers of meaning, of connection, and inventors of new ways of producing ever higher levels of abstraction that will manifest into products and services that more of the world will want to consume.

This is already happening to people I know. Two startup CEO’s I know and work with are outsourcing linear, serial coding to former Eastern bloc countries and India. Yes, this is extremely high value work but it’s of significantly less value than the strategic, macro and global level invention of hosted Web applications they’re building which may very well change the nature of online interactions (I’m being a bit evasive on purpose…but think of the global disruption of an eBay, Google, Skype or other process/technology/participatory platform that’s been delivered and you’ll get a sense of what they’re doing….albeit on a much smaller scale and vertically focused).

Kids will need to NOT JUST KNOW HOW TO THINK CRITICALLY, but also how to understand truth, seek transparency and authenticity, and engage with ideas and the essence of other people instead of other factors (like power in an organization, race, money, or other gating factors that stunt or limit the purity of an idea or creation of value). They’ll also need to understand how to manage themselves, their identities, their knowledge and their interactions with others in virtual spaces…perhaps never even meeting their colleagues in the flesh.

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2 Comments

  1. Renee Shupe on February 16, 2007 at 12:30 pm

    Steve,

    I’ve only quite recently come across your blog and I am entralled. I have always had a fascination with why people do the things they do and if you ready my 5 things you don’t know about me post at my blog you’ll quickly discover that I have a passion forensics. Now how does this relate to any of your posts? Easily forensics helps us learn more about the criminal aspect of our society and your posts have enlightened us to the fascinating evolution of the Web! Some cultural anthroplogy knowledge dump is the next on my list and your blog has certainly ignited my desire to do so. I’m going to be picking up “A Whole New Mind” by Daniel Pink. Keep doing what you’re doing, the information is provacative, brain charged, and simply very, very interesting.

    Renee – 3R.e.Medium Blog @ http://www.blog.reneeshupe.com



  2. Marc Orchant on February 17, 2007 at 9:26 am

    Fantastic post Steve – one of your best ever! I’ve had much the same reaction to Pink’s book (and Tapscott’s latest as well). Both put a lot of what I’m seeing and sensing into great perspective.

    In addition to the serial-parallel and linear-associative thinking models, I am trying to integrate these ideas with those in Edward de Bono’s work on lateral thinking as they relate to group dynamics and interpersonal communications in this shift we’re experiencing. The groups and organizations I’ve exposed to these models generally have a very satisfactory “aha!” moment when the pieces fall into place.

    The kids (of all ages) that I’ve seen exposed to Six Thinking Hats and it’s modal, consensual, and sequenced approach to dialog have gained an important edge in adding clarity to virtual interactions.



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