Educating Tomorrow’s Workforce

Not much has changed since 2010 when on Blogging Innovation (which has now become Innovation Excellence) we asked the following question as part of a series of Innovation Perspectives:

What product or sector is in desperate need of innovation?‘.

Educating Tomorrow's WorkforceHere was my response:

When I first saw this topic I wanted to write about education innovation, but I resisted when a couple of the contributing authors chose this topic. I wrote about the publishing industry instead, but then in 2009 I came across a Phil McKinney article and had the opportunity to meet Sir Ken Robinson then too, and my passions for an education revolution were stirred.

We sit at the nexus of amazing new education technology capabilities, the globalization of work, and an incredible transformation in the needs of employers. The path forward is not the same as the road behind, but our education system is proceeding as if it were.

“We need our children to be Masters of Mystery and Einsteins of Insight.”
– Braden Kelley

Instead of pursuing the current education mantra of more, better, faster, we need to instead rethink how we educate our children because we need to prepare them for a different world. A world in which flexibility, adaptibility, creativity, and problem solving will be prized ahead of the deep technical knowledge that is fast becoming a commodity and easily available.

I’ve said here before that the keys to business success are insight and execution. We are ending an era of incredible business focus on execution excellence and are entering an era of an increasing business focus on insight. Excellent execution will always be valued and required, but more and more components of this execution are shifting from the developed world to the lower-wage developing world.

We are currently in a race to the middle when it comes to standard of living as the developing countries like China, India, Brazil and others climb up the pyramid and developed countries like the United States, Italy, Greece and others slide down. Those developing countries wanting to stay near the top of the flattening standard of living pyramid will have to re-tool their education systems to to prepare their populations to grab as big a share as possible of the higher-wage insight-driven jobs.

Here is an interesting chart from a Newsweek-Intel Study reformatted by Phil McKinney:

Innovation Skills for Children

Looking at the differences in perspectives between the American and Chinese respondents in the research, I came to two possible conclusions:

  1. I am Chinese
  2. The United States (and many other developed countries) are headed in the wrong direction and better change course on education fast

You may think that my views on education are too business-focused, but look, even the arts are being globalized (look at Cirque du Soleil).

I believe that we underestimate children’s ability to understand the real world and I think that the education system and the business world need each other more than they realize. We need to re-imagine our public-private partnerships and expectations when it comes to education, and we need to start educating today’s young kids for tomorrow’s world.

The fact is that we are pushing the limits of taking today’s understanding of science to improve productivity an standard of living. Going forward we will need to break through currently held physical and natural limits and an expanded understanding of our physical and natural worlds. This will require a new generation of scientists and workers who can synthesize approaches from different cultures and disciplines, that are masters of creative approaches to problem solving, and that have the entrepreneurial spirit to breakthrough perceived barriers. Are these the kind of students we’re educating?

What kind of students is your country educating?

Build a Common Language of Innovation

As an added bonus, if you haven’t seen it, I encourage to check out Sir Ken Robinson’s video on “Creativity versus Literacy” here:

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