The Future Will Be Anything But Rote

 

“After spending time working with leading technologists and watching one bastion of human uniqueness after another fall before the inexorable onslaught of innovation, it’s becoming harder and harder to have confidence that any given task will be indefinitely resistant to automation. That means people will need to be more adaptable and flexible in their career aspirations, ready to move on from areas that become subject to automation, and seize new opportunities where machines complement and augment human capabilities.”  -via The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies

Lets be very clear: the future we are preparing our students for is going to be anything but rote.

This idea of a “skills gap” that we keep hearing about is nothing new, it has been going on for generations as education, educators and employers can’t seem to come to any real type of common ground on expectations.

The problem is that this is going to need to change, and change quickly.  Especially as the digital transformation, as well as exponential gains in automation and artificial intelligence begin to make a much more noticeable mark upon our society.  Or what McAfee refers to as the “great decoupling of the U.S. economy” as we see this divide open up between “output and productivity” and “jobs and wages.”  For which McAfee adds, “Computers are now doing many things that used to be the domain of people only.  The pace and scale of this encroachment into human skills is relatively recent and has profound economic implications.  Perhaps the most important of theses that while digital progress grows the overall economic pie, it can do so while leaving some people, or even a lot of them, worse off.”

And what makes it even more difficult, is that more and more is being called upon and asked of education to meet this “skills gap” that employers continue to hail, while society undergoes exponential shifts from the disruption erupting from and out of this digital transformation.  Unfortunately, as much as there is this “decoupling of the U.S. economy,” there is also an another, just as disturbing and concerning, decoupling created from this “skills gap” chasm that exists and has existed for some time between education and business, educator and employer.

Or as Peter Cappelli shares in the Washington Post article, What employers really want? Workers they don’t have to train, “We should rethink this fast.  Schools are not good at providing what employers want, which is work-based skills and experience.  Instead, employers need to be much more involved, not just in telling schools what they want but in providing opportunities for new grads to get work experience and learn the relevant expertise.  We need a different approach: one where employers are not just consumers of skills, but are part of the system for producing them.”

Today’s employers are asking more and more of those entering the workforce, and if current conditions are a tell-tale sign of the future, will continue to ask more and more.  We not only need to be aware of this economic decoupling, but the continued decoupling of this long-going “skills gap” that has existed between education and employers if we are to better prepare our students for the future of work.

It not only benefits our children, educators and employers to prepare our students to be more agile and adaptive to the disruptive effects that digitization, outsourcing, automation, and artificial intelligence is having on the current and future world of work…it benefits our economy and the future success of the next generation.

Or as McAfee and Bryniolfsson share in The Second Machine Age, “This reflects the career advice that Google chief economist Hal Varian frequently gives: seek to be an indispensable complement to something that is getting cheap and plentiful.”

And it will take the work of bringing education and business together if we are to truly determine what those “indispensable” skills are that lead to success in a disruptive and exponentially shifting world and future…

Future Shifts

 

“We are getting kids ready for jobs that do not exist” has been a mantra of frustration that has been bandied about the educational ecosystem for far more than the last several years.   A mantra that I believe to not only be wrong focused, but an inhibitor of change for (1) it’s predictive element relieves the system of real responsibility, necessity and urgency for any type of deep, exponential shift(s), and (2) the unknowing element of the statement can continue to allow us to insulate the system from better awareness of changes that are currently and constantly occurring across society that necessitate an educational mindshift.

When the future becomes a guessing game, when we focus on the unpredictability that we currently face, we have a tendency to recoil back to the known, back to the familiar, both as individuals and as organizations.  We often allow the fear of this vast unknown to entrench us in the status quo of the past and present.

What we have to begin to realize is that we are not getting kids ready for jobs that are yet to exist…

We are preparing them to be agile and adaptable in the face of profound shifts.

Which will eventually require some very deep shifts in our systems, our focus, our structures, processes, and even our beliefs and behaviors.  Just as we remain content-focused in skills-based world, change will be necessary in a societal landscape that is been driven relentlessly forward by the exponential pace of technology and digital disruption.

What has driven education in the past, is no longer sufficient or necessarily relevant for the future.

However, this is not some new phenomena, in fact the world of work has been very open about the skills necessary for future success and how those skill-sets are changing, especially as technological abilities in robotics and artificial intelligence continue to disrupt the workplace.

We continue to see skills such as critical thinking, creativity, adaptive and agile thinking, social and emotional intelligence, cognitive flexibility and load management, and collaborative and design attributes gaining greater traction as necessary and needed for those in and/or moving into the present and future workforce.

Whatever those skills are or will be in the future, awareness will be paramount in preparing our future generation to be agile and adaptable to these profound shifts we now face.

According to the Institute of the Future (IFTF), “To be successful in the next decade, individuals will need to demonstrate foresight in navigating a rapidly shifting landscape of organizational forms and skill requirements.  They will increasingly be called upon to continually reassess the skills they need, and quickly put together the right resources to develop and update these.  Workers in the future will need to be adaptable lifelong learners.”

However, it will not only be individuals that will need to become adaptable learners, remaining agile to our exponentially shifting world we now live in…so must our educational organizations if they are to remain significant, dynamic, relevant hubs of learning, innovation and transformation in the face of these seismic shifts and changes.

AND: A Key To The Future

 

“The skills that students need to learn in order to survive in the Augmented Age are very different from what are being taught in school today.  We will need to teach students not just science, technology, engineering and maths (so-called STEM subjects), but agility, creative thinking, rapid learning and adaptation, too.”  -via Augmented: Life In The Smart Lane

It is becoming more and more obvious that the exponential shifts that are being driven across our societal landscape from the acceleration of technology are and will continue to have dramatic ramifications on our future; from the economy and our workforce, to inevitably education and how we learn.

Awareness of these approaching shifts, connecting these varied dots, and understanding how these parts interact in the whole will be vital for preparing both our students and our educators for what is forecasted to be a very different future.

We are going to need to see how current misalignments (parts, processes) to these exponential shifts will require us to rethink, redesign and reimagine our wholes (structures, systems).

In many ways, the skill-sets, capacities and mindsets that were previously popular and efficient we are finding to be no longer relevant, effective or sufficient for the Exponential Age we find ourselves progressing into as individuals and organizations.

Which goes back to the opening quote from Augmented, in that “content” is truly no longer sufficient or adequate to prepare our students for a world and workforce that is putting a premium on “skills” (agility, creative thinking, rapid learning, adaptation).  For a world and workforce that is beginning to rethink, redesign and reimagine the very idea of work.

Especially, when we consider a workforce that is in the midst of technological disruption being brought on by a growing determination towards and focus on automation, robots and artificial intelligence.

Whether Thomas Friedman in Average Is Over, Dan Pink in To Sell Is Human or Brian King in Augmented, the idea of working for one organization, corporation or institution for your entire professional career is no longer the norm that it once was for past generations.  As King shares in Augmented, “Research suggests that today’s college graduates will have a dozen or more jobs by the time they hit their 30’s.”

Organizations, corporations, businesses, institutions that no longer want or feel that it is necessarily their duty to train those they hire.  They are not only looking for individuals equipped with a competent level of learning, but the skill-sets, capacities and mindset to be effective from the outset.  They are looking for individuals that are creative, innovative, agile, adaptive, and who can think critically, access information quickly and utilize it to make better decisions.

It is no longer an EITHER/OR game, as much as it is an AND world.

We have to understand these shifts if we are to better prepare our next generation of children with the learning AND skills that will be necessary to truly equip them to be “college and career” ready for a world that is shifting and changing at an exponential pace.

One without the other will be ineffective for the expectations of a very different future.