Facing The Future: Deeper Learning

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“If you don’t reinvent yourself, change your organization structure; if you don’t talk about speed of innovation – you’re going to get disrupted.  And it’ll be a brutal disruption, where the majority of companies will not exist in a meaningful way ten to fifteen years from now.”  -John Chambers, Executive Chairman of CISCO

We live in a world that has always had to deal with change, a world that is constantly evolving.  Yet, it is in recent times, that these cycles of change have begun to accelerate at an astonishing rate, pushing us into new and often unknown environments that are becoming much more turbulent, much more volatile, and much more uncertain towards this new pace of change.  And it is not just the speed of change that is evolving, but the level of connection through our many networks and platforms that is allowing change to  infiltrate, disperse and diffuse at such a heightened and rapid rate across our individual, organizational, and societal ecosystems.

Unfortunately, especially in the face of today’s modern pace of change, that we find our organizations struggling, as they are still learning how to engage effectively to these connections, platforms and networks; learning how to create the environments and spaces where the novel and new have opportunity to percolate, incubate, and exist.  Which means that many of our organizations are not only struggling to parallel pace the new speed of change, but find themselves spinning into irrelevance as they struggle to unentrench themselves from the command and control, hierarchical structures and systems that have mired them in continual sameness, often inhibiting their ability to stretch beyond their current level of the known.

Rather, it is those organizations that have created environments and spaces where the novel and new, where creative and innovative thinking and doing can actually infuse from the edges into the core of the organization, that are actually able to create some semblance of relevance through the creation and support of networks that enhance organizational idea flows and provide the platform to diffuse those new ideas and new knowledge across the organizational learning ecosystem.

These organizations are moving from static and solid structures towards more fluid and integrated systems.  Organizations that are able to take advantage of experimentation and discovery learning in response to what is captured from their internal and external networks, creating the learning and knowledge that expands their organizational boundaries farther and farther into the unknown, in more confident, effective and relevant manner.

It is in this work, that our individuals and organizations learn to become much more agile and adaptable towards change.  It is in their ability and willingness to engage in “deeper learning” that our individuals and organizations will learn to access the knowledge and learning that will enable them to better approach and solve the problems we are facing in not only more effective, novel and new ways…but to move to a place where we are connecting the disparate and disconnected dots that will be needed as we move farther away from those technical problems and more towards the adaptive challenges that truly shaping our modern times.

While continuously curating new knowledge and skills and working towards the idea of lifelong learning is now a necessity and requirement for today’s individuals and organizations, it is also not enough.  It is imperative that we are developing that knowledge, learning and skills in a way that it is also transferable.  Where we are consistently building up our fluency towards that knowledge, learning and skills in ways that it becomes automatic and easily transfers towards helping us solve the problems and challenges we are facing.  We engage in deeper learning in an effort to create more fluidity to applying our knowledge and skills, building more comfort and automaticity to transferring that knowledge to new situations, which will become more and more imperative to our work as individuals and organizations as the complexity and chaos of a world in the throes of constant, relentless and accelerated change pressing down upon us.  As the National Research Council’s Education for Life and Work puts forth, “Part of deeper learning is that the knowledge of the learner is organized and stored in a way that is easily retrievable and useful.  It is efficiently coded and stored.  And it is not just stored, but it is accessible and useful towards solving new and or unknown problems.”

For which Mehta and Fine add from In Search of Deeper Learning, “The generation of students coming of age today will be asked to navigate, survive, and, if they can, help to heal the world they have inherited.  Schools will need to do their part to develop skilled, creative, educated, informed, and empathetic citizens and leaders – the kind of people that our economy, society, and democracy demand.”

If we are going to become much more effective in not only dealing with the accelerated and turbulent pace of change and this definitive shift from technical problems to adaptive challenges, we are going to need to push into deeper learning, not only for the future of our students, but for the future of our individuals, leaders, and organizations.  Especially as we work to build up the knowledge, the capacity, and the competencies that will allow our individuals and organizations to move more effectively into this very uncertain and non-obvious future we are all facing.

“The new social contract is different: Only people who have the knowledge and skills to negotiate constant change and reinvent themselves for new situations will succeed.  Competency in twenty-first century skills gives people the ability to keep learning and adjusting to change.”  -Ken Kay, Chief Executive Officer EdLeader21

 

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Uniquely Human: Creative People, Creative Future

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“Despite concerns that they are not prepared for the new era and the job losses that will result from automation, majorities in Canada, the U.K., and the U.S. believe that advancements in machine learning will do more good than harm overall. And when asked about the best skills to withstand artificial intelligence, six in 10 respondents in Canada and the U.K. believe teamwork, communication, creativity, and critical thinking are most important in the new era of automation; whereas Americans are split 50-50 between those “soft” skills and technical skills like math, science, coding, and working with data.” -via TechXplore Ignore the hand-wringing headlines about the impending AI revolution, but get ready for the disruption

We live in a time of disruption…

A time that is being defined by the current level of digital disruption we are experiencing.  And unfortunately, it is technology, not humans that seem to be taking center stage and playing the hero in the future narrative we are currently writing.

In many ways, we only have ourselves to blame, as we have set the stage for this story…

From government, to business, and even education, we have pushed through the 19th and 20th centuries on a mantra focused on efficiency and standardization.  Our Tayloristic assembly-line approach that provided efficiency and effectiveness in prior times, seems to be a bit of our undoing in the present and for the future.  As John Hagel shares in Rethinking Race Against the Machines, “If you have tightly scripted jobs that are highly standardized where there’s no room for individual initiative or creativity, machines by and large, can do those activities much better than human beings.  They’re much more predictable, they’re much more reliable.”

Efficiency and standardization has become a sign of our past and present times…

For our future, of one that is being continuously shaped and shifted by our ability to automate and infuse artificial intelligence, this idea of standardization should then be sending some very strong signals of discord and incompatibility.  Especially as we find that the very idea of standardization has set the stage for the entrance of machine learning and with it, greater levels of automation.

Which means we have to begin to consider not only the skills that will be necessary and needed in and for the future, but those skills that are also uniquely human.  Those skills that stand the test of time, and automation.

While there are many, the road always seems to lead back to creativity.

In many ways, we live in times where we all have to be creative now, no matter what we do.  Creativity has always been, and even more now, continues to be a vital skillset for the future.  Unfortunately, in the past, we tended to relegate creativity to something that was only needed by the artistic class, rather than a skillset that serves us all, in both our personal and professional lives.

Too often, we have limited the idea of creativity to that of the artist, instead of seeing that creativity can exist in all that we do.  Especially as we look to the future and the skills that it is requesting – critical-thinking, problem-solving, communication, collaboration, innovation – we see that creativity can and should be infused into how we approach and utilize all of those skills. As Creative Director Stefan Mumaw defines it, “Creativity is problem-solving with relevance and novelty.”  Which means, that we live in a time when efficiency and standardization have effectively run their course, and the need for more creative thinking and creative solutions is taking center stage and exponentially expanding into every profession.

In an age that is being defined by automation and artificial intelligence, we can no longer afford to not be creative.

We begin first by realizing that creativity is not a trait that only certain “artistic” individuals are born with.  Rather, it is a skill that we all possess.  Creativity is a skill that we can continuously improve upon, that we can continue to get better at.  However, with that said, it is also like a muscle, and the more we use it the stronger it gets.  And vice versa.  The less we use it the more atrophied it gets.  Which is why it is important that we exercise our creative muscle more and more, as it is a skill that makes us uniquely human in a time when what makes us uniquely human is becoming more and more vital to our future success.

Second, we have to determine, in regards to creativity, that we begin to unlearn, in order that we may reengage and relearn.  As what we have learned, is that we have become better and better over time of diminishing our creative spirit.  As shared in the article, What is Creativity? Defining Defining the Skill of the Future Kylie Ora Lobell adds, “Research proves that non-creative behavior is learned overtime.  According to George Land’s Creativity Test, young children are creative geniuses, and become less creative as they age.  His study took a group of 1,600 five-year-olds and tested to see how creative they were.  Ninety-eight percent were deemed creative geniuses, thinking in novel ways similar to the likes of Picasso, Mozart, Einstein and other creative personalities.  He tested them again at 10 years old.  That number dropped to 30 percent.  By 15 years of age, it had declined to 12 percent.  He gave the same test to 280,000 adults and found that only 2 percent were creative geniuses.”

We can no longer afford to diminish, be that in our business or educational organizations, the creativity and creative thinking of our people.  Instead, we have to look to opportunities to reengage and flex our creative muscles, especially in a time when the solutions to our most pressing problems may require a much more creative and innovative approach.

Or as Mike Walsh shares in his book The Algorithmic Leader, “Here is the important part of the story: while machines will get dramatically better at extracting insights from data, spotting patterns, and even making decisions on our behalf, only humans will have the unique ability to imagine innovative ways to use machine intelligence to create experiences, transform organizations, and reinvent the world.”

While the future is currently being defined by changes brought on by the digital disruption, automation, and artificial intelligence, which is bringing about deep changes to how we communicate, learn, live and work.  What have to realize, especially in regards to this skills upheaval, is that some skills will continue to shift and change, and some skills will continue to stand the test of time.

Creativity is one of those skills to continuously stands the test of time.  One of those skills that remains uniquely human.

So, while it seemed that in the Industrial Age, we were intent on finding the Einstein’s.  In the Exponential Age, more and more, we find ourselves looking more for the DaVinci’s.

“You can provide a great education, but if that education is not getting drafted into future skills, questions will be raised about the value of that education.” -T. Kapilashrami, Group Head, HR Standard Chartered Bank

 

 

 

 

The New Electricity: And The Challenge Of Change

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“The adoption and integration of artificial intelligence into the global economy is set to impact the lives of hundreds of millions of workers around the globe.  Some experts estimate this disruption could result in the loss of up to 50% of the world’s jobs as these positions are replaced by AI and Automation.  Preparing the global workforce for this disruption and equipping displaced workers with new skills that allow them to succeed in this environment is essential.  The challenge posed by preparing the workforce and allowing workers to continue to add to their skills for the future will require coordination on the part of higher education, business and government.”  -Facing the Future: U.S., U.K. and Canadian Citizens Call for A Unified Skills Strategy for the AI Age via Northeastern University and Gallup

For many, we seem to be approaching the future unfolding before us with very trepidatious steps, moving forward with a sense of both wonder and fear of what is to come.  It is a time of great change, and it remains difficult to fathom how deep and far-reaching these changes will be.  This is a mind shift for all of us.  As this digital disruption is touching every part of our lives, both personally, professionally and socially.  As Andrew Ng, former Baidu Chief Scientiest, Coursera co-founder, and Stanford Adjunct Professor shares, “Artificial Intelligence is the new electricity.”

And it is on a course, much like electricity, to change everything.

Many see the often volatile and accelerated rate at which technology is bringing about change as a Pandora’s Box that needs to be closed, and closed soon.  However, that is a door that will no longer shut, as innovation has this tendency and will to find its way.  Make no doubt about it, this disruption is upon us and no matter how many times we click our heels and mumble “there’s no place like home,” it remains wishful thinking to believe that things will go back to “how they used to be.”

So now, the question becomes, what kind of narrative is it that we are going to write for the future?

Will this be a technology-centered story?

Or will this be a human-centered future?

What we often fail to realize, is that we are the ones in control of determining who will be the hero in this narrative…

And unfortunately, right now, technology seems to be winning that recognition.

But it does not have to be that way.  

In all actuality, it is up to us to design the future, not for the future to design us.  We have to strategically determine what kind of world we want to create, what kind of world we want to live in, and not just accept the future that is coming at us as predetermined and set in stone.

We are the future-makers and we write the story.

While there is no crystal ball that allows us to determine how to future-proof our children for a world that is shifting in exponential ways, we can sometimes turn to the past to see how it may shed some light on how to approach this uncertain and often ambiguous future.

Which takes us back to Andrew Ng and the idea of Artificial Intelligence as being the “new electricity.”  As we compare the disruption of electricity in the past, to our current technological and digital disruption.

While the times and the pace of change were quite different, we can see parallels in how overwhelming these “industrial revolutions” were to people, both personally and professionally, and what they required of people, especially in the midst of deep personal, professional, organizational, and societal shifts.  Shifts that required…

  • Adaptability and Agility
  • Initiative
  • Resilience
  • Critical, Creative and Innovative Thinking
  • Problem-Solving
  • Learning New Skills and Behaviors
  • Shifting of Mental Models

While, with every paradigm shift, the mantra remains that there have never been times like these before…we realize that there really have never been times like these before.  Especially as companies like McKinsey Global Institute share research that points to, “Automation technologies are likely to transform the vast majority of jobs” and “The next generation of digital tools will bring even more far-reaching changes in the decade ahead.”  It becomes very difficult to determine if we will cope effectively with the current and coming changes that will be brought upon us by the accelerating nature of innovative technologies and the digital disruption.

Especially as business, government, higher education and education as a whole struggle to parallel pace the current rate and volatility of change.

We know that these shifts of the past were disruptive as well, but we adapted, adjusted, and learned to move forward.  However, many say that this change is different and it is difficult to determine how effectively we will come out on the other side.  Which means we are going to have to be much more determined in how we strategically design our way forward, as well as remain vitally aware of current and coming shifts to better support us in how we prepare our children for this very non-obvious and unknown future.

Especially if we are going to create a human-centered future narrative where our children truly become the hero of the story…

“A central challenge in the automation age will be connecting millions of displaced workers to new, growing jobs.  Some may need to change jobs within the same company, and employers would provide the necessary training in these situations.  But many workers may need to find work with new employers or make even bigger transitions to different occupations in new locations.  A survey of US households found that more than half of workers displaced between 2005 and 2015 found their next job in a different industry.  For these workers, governments and other stakeholders can help to make local labor markets more fluid and easier to navigate.”  -The Future of Work in America: People and Places, Today and Tomorrow via McKinsey Global Institute

The Two Camps: Dystopia Or Utopia?

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“Our observation is that the experts engaging in the current debate about knowledge work automation tend to fall into two camps – those who say we are heading inexorably toward permanent high levels of unemployment and those who are certain new job types will spring up to replace all the ones that go by the wayside – but that neither camp suggest to workers that there is much they can do personally about the situation.”  – McAfee and Brynjolfsson via Only Humans Need Apply: Winners and Losers in the Age of Smart Machines

And while the debate rolls on, we just don’t know which way the scales will tilt for the future…dystopian or utopian?

How much of an affect will this digital and technological disruption, especially in regards to automation and artificial intelligence, have on society?  Will it be eradication, augmentation or freedom from jobs and work?  Will we be facing technological unemployment or technological freedom from employment?  Will safety nets such as Universal Basic Income or a “Robot Tax” as Bill Gates has mentioned, be necessary to keep people and the economy running?

Let alone, all of the other issues and concerns that are rising up from this digital and technological disruption and the advent of artificial intelligence, such as data privacy and surveillance, algorithmic bias, digital manipulation, cyberattacks and cybersecurity, and technological transparency.

But these are concerns that we must be wary towards, the growing societal shifts and changes we must have awareness of, and the plethora of questions that we must be asking of ourselves.

We can either choose to let the future happen to us, or we can determine ourselves to be designers of that future.

As Davenport adds in Only Humans Need Apply, “This was what economics Nobel laureate Robert Swiller had in mind when he called advancing machine intelligence “the most important problem facing the world today.”  He elaborated, “It’s associated with income inequality, but it may be more than that.  Since we tend to define ourselves by our intellectual talents, it’s also a question of personal identity.  Who am I?  Intellectual talents are being replaced by computers.  That’s a frightening thing for most people. It’s an issue with deep philosophical implications. Are we having these conversations? Is this being discussed in a proactive manner, rather than waiting for reactive response?  Are we discussing beyond the fiscal, welfare ramifications, to the wellness issues that may accompany the trajectory we have set ourselves towards.”

While we can never be completely sure of what kind of future we are hurtling towards, much of the current data and surveys do show that most people are at least nervous or somewhat concerned about the advancement of today’s technological capabilities, especially regarding Artificial Intelligence.  As Allan Dafoe, associate professor of international politics of artificial intelligence at Oxford shares in the Vox article, The American Public is already Worried About AI Catastrophe, “People are not convinced that advanced AI will be to the benefit of humanity.”

Concerned or not, it is difficult to forecast a future that is divided so glaringly by such different viewpoints and divided camps on where this technological and digital disruption is headed.  As Davenport shares in his book Only Humans Need Apply, “Silicon Valley investor Bill David and tech journalist Mike Malone, writing recently for Harvard Business Review, declared that “we will soon be looking at hordes of citizens of zero economic value.”  Whereas, when we look to the outlook of the other camp, we find CNBC shares, “By 2020, artificial intelligence (AI) will generate 2.3 million jobs, exceeding the 1.8 million that it will wipe out.  In the following five years to 2025, net new jobs created in relation to AI will reach 2 million, according to the report.”

At some point, we must become not only much better at building up our forecasting skills for the future, but determining how we better prepare our students for not only a very non-obvious future, but a future that is in the throes of constant and an accelerated pace of change.  As Chief Economist for the World Economic Forum Jennifer Blanke shares, “disgruntlement can lead to the dissolution of the fabric of society, especially if young people feel they don’t have a future.”

And it is up to us to make sure that our children and students are not left staring at a bleak horizon, but are so well-equipped that they will need sunglasses from the glare beaming off the brightness of the future.

In some ways, we have to begin to “robot-proof” our future generations from the outcomes of this digital and technological disruption.  The interesting thing about what is often considered “robot-proofing” are actually just extremely important skills and skillsets that we would want our children and students to carry into the future anyways.

Skills such as adaptability, agility, learnability, cognitive flexibility and elasticity, complex problem solving, critical thinking, leadership and decision making skills, creative and innovative thinking, adaptive thinking, sense making, computational thinking and technological skills, growth mindset, interpersonal communication skills, emotional intelligence, diversity and cultural intelligence, and social and emotional skills and skillsets.

More than ever, educators and education must have a deeper awareness and better understanding of the societal shifts that are occurring, as preparing students for an automated future has become a very different proposition.

We need to feel a sense of urgency and agency in determining how we prepare our students for the future, acknowledging that both of the camps that McAfee and Brynjolfsson spoke of previously are a possibility.  But in the end, we have to begin to acknowledge that no matter what future we find ourselves facing, different skills and skillsets will be needed for our children and students to negotiate the future in a much more positive manner.

For these reasons, as well as the societal shifts and changes we are currently and will be witnessing in the future, we are going to have to determine not only how we become much better at building up the foundational skills, but then determining the variety of other skills that must be integrated within and built upon those foundational skills.  It is in this AND mindset that we determine how we work towards a more equitable future for all students.  Which means providing individual access points and supports for all students in their growth and mastery of both the foundational, as well as the future skills that will be needed for positive access, options and ability to traverse a world that has become much more digital, automated, and artificially infused.  Skills that are much harder to automate and will be much more in-demand, no matter what camp the future fall into.

“There is an understandable temptation to focus exclusively on smaller, possibly more feasible, policies that might nibble at the margins of our problems, while leaving any discussion of the larger challenges for some indeterminate point in the future. This is dangerous because we are now so far along on the arc of information technology’s progress. We are getting onto the steep part of the exponential curve. Things will move faster, and the future may arrive long before we are ready.”  -Martin Ford Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future

Reinvention, Transformation, Change, And Open Systems

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“Reinvention is not changing what is, but creating what isn’t.  A butterfly is not more caterpillar or a better or improved caterpillar; a butterfly is a different creature.  Incremental change isn’t enough for many companies today.  They don’t need to change what is; they need to create what isn’t.”  -Athos, Goss, Pascale The Reinvention Roller Coaster: Risking the Present for a Powerful Future via HBR

For which Athos, Goss and Pascale add, “When a company reinvents itself, it must alter the underlying assumptions and invisible premises on which its decisions and actions are based.  To reinvent itself, an organization must first uncover its hidden context.  Only when an organization is threatened, losing momentum, or eager to break new ground will it conform its past and begin to understand why it must break with its outmoded present.  And only then will a company’s employees come to believe in a powerful new future, a future that may seem beyond the organization’s reach.”

While it is inevitable, we continue, both as individuals and organizations, to continuously push-back and resist change; even when we understand that change is an ongoing necessity if we are going to effectively adapt and sustain any form of continued relevance in moving forward into the future.  However, even so, there remains a variety of reasons to why we continue to resist change, from: an unwillingness to part ways with or release strategies that have led to previous success, a lack of trust and/or relationship, lack of understanding or clarity in the communication of the change, a possible loss of individual or organizational status or hierarchy, a lack of capacity to effectively implement the change, or a fear of the unknown, uncertainty, or failure that can accompany a change.

All of which must be understood, if any change initiative is to take hold.

And while change is a natural, but not necessarily comfortable process, individual or organizational transformation or reinvention is not.  It requires a different mindset, a completely different level of capacity, and a very different way of considering the future, which will require new behaviors that necessitate new ways of thinking, doing, acting and being.

From the past to the present, education has had to go through reinvention and a variety of transformations, but for the most part, has relied over the last one hundred years or so on small adjustments and incremental changes to the system, even as the world and society around us has been under siege with a plethora of exponential shifts and transformations, of which would include societal pillars such as the world of work.  A pillar undergoing a deep reinvention of what that means and what it looks like be career ready in a world undergoing constant change and ongoing transformation and reinvention.

In many ways, both individuals and organizations are having to continuously look at the heavy lift of engaging in ongoing cycles of transformation and reinvention.  As is shared in the ebook The Changing Face of Modern Leadership, “The shelf-life of our ideas, skills, frameworks, and systems now deteriorate at a much more advanced rate.  Under this new societal ecosystem, change and innovation has become the new fast and furious of our modern world.”

As this pace of change accelerates, the complexity and chaos individuals, organizations, institutions and systems must deal with increases substantially, as each of these must learn to adapt to the shifting demands of increasingly more dynamic and often less stable environments.  As Porter O’ Grady and Malloc share in Quantum Leadership, “In a complex system, no one element remains inert as other elements adapt to internal and external forces or lead the process of adapting to these forces.”  For which they add, “The object is to discern the effects of these forces and to judge which actions will maintain the system’s integrity, adaptability, and viability.”

For these reasons, today’s educational organizations, institutions, and systems can no longer act as “closed” systems, mired in predictable, efficient, and ordered ways of acting, reacting and operating.  Educational organizations, institutions and systems can longer relevantly serve future generations effectively if they find themselves isolated and siloed off from the necessary awareness and deep understandings of how these often exponential societal shifts will have great effect and affect on the future of the students we are serving and the world they will eventually walk out into.

Rather, education and our educational organizations, institutions and systems must learn to move towards operating with more of an “open” system mindset.  We can no longer serve students effectively for the future without removing the boundaries between the world of education and the world of work.  There must be an opening of these boundaries, as well as a greater levels of collaboration and ongoing idea flows that allow these internal and external entities to interact in ways that build up awareness, share new learnings and knowledge, and create greater levels of capacity.  And while the research on these interactions have not shown these collaborations to be as effective as one would have hoped, the necessity of an open system that allows these interactions in order that both entities (world of education and the world of work) can adapt together, simultaneously, will be important in facing this very non-obvious future in a much more effective manner for our students, as well as for the world of education and the world of work.

“People have contexts just as organizations do.  Our individual context is our hidden strategy for dealing with life; it determines all the choices we make.  On the surface, our context is our formula for winning, the source of our success.  But on closer examination, this context is the box within which a person operates and determines what is possible and impossible for him or her as a leader and, by extension, for the organization.”  -Athos, Goss, Pascale The Reinvention Roller Coaster: Risking the Present for a Powerful Future via HBR

The Digital Disruption, The World Of Work, And Our Future Systems

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“The higher level of disconnection, alienation, more declines in social capital, more groups of people left behind, more geographic areas left behind, this is not the recipe for stable, prosperous, happy society.  My worry is not that the robots will take all the jobs, my worry is that more people will be left behind and feel left behind by what’s going on.”  –Andrew McAfee Associate Director of the Center for Digital Business at the MIT Sloan School of Management via HBO Vice Special The Future of Work

It is difficult to consider the future without acknowledging the heightened levels of uncertainty, complexity and chaos that we are and will be facing in our present, as well as that future.  The pace of change in today’s world often makes us more hesitant, more unsure to choose direction as many of our strategies and actions seem to be outdated upon implementation.  As Peter Thiel put forth in book Zero to One, “Big plans for the future have become archaic curiosities.”  Yet, it isn’t just our strategies and actions that seem to be falling behind, as our skillsets and capabilities now require constant attention and continuous updating and upskilling.

We live in a time when deep digital disruption is sweeping across our societal ecosystems, changing the conditions for relevance, requiring ongoing personal, organizational and systems-wide adaptation.

We are now having to weigh a widening variety of tensions in accordance with the accompanying volatility of these often disruptive changes…

  • Adaptability AND Sustainability
  • Agile AND Incremental
  • Learning AND Knowing
  • Risk AND Safety
  • Creativity AND Compliance
  • Innovation AND Implementation
  • Conflict AND Stability
  • Discovery AND Certainty
  • Experimentation AND Inaction
  • Complexity AND Simplicity

It is for these expanding tensions that we must begin to build not only our awareness, but a deeper understanding of how this digital disruption does not exist in a vacuum.  It will have ramifications across a myriad of our societal systems.  The digital disruption we are currently witnessing not only has and will continue to transform the world of work, its complex components and dynamic dexterity has the capacity to determine and render a wide variety of our strategies, skills, frameworks, institutions and systems irrelevant.

What we often fail to grasp, is that the future of work is inherently linked and tied systemically to the future of education, the future of our economy, the future of government, the future of our country, and even the future of our world.  These systems do not work independent of one another, rather they are interdependent and rely upon each other, as any system does to sustain itself and survive and thrive.  When the parts of the system fail to work interdependently, the whole is severely diminished and the system begins to break down, as each part has dynamic impact on the other parts and the whole.

We can no longer view these parts as existing siloed from the whole and believe that the system will not eventually break down.

For example, let’s look at how the future of work (as provided by HBO’s Vice Special – The Future of Work), in an isolated arena, can have great effect on our systems:

“Trucking in the United States is a $700 billion dollar a year industry with 1.8 million people, which has so far been immune to the changes of globalization and technology, but that is about to change with technology like this.”

For which is added by Tusimple’s Vice President Chuck Price…

“We understand this is a highly disruptive technology, on the order of 10 million people, and displacing rapidly that many people would have a dramatic societal impact.  We definitely don’t want to see that, we are not targeting that.  We are focused on relieving the shortage.  But what we are hoping is that there will be a natural evolution into the jobs of the future, just as there has been in every other technological change.” 

We cannot believe that this level of possible disruption will exist in a vacuum across our societal ecosystems.  It will have great effect on people, on our organizations, on our economy, and even education and our government.

Adjusting, remaining agile and adaptive to these disruptions, will require deep levels of change in our thinking, our mindsets, as well as our systems.  Machine learning, automation, artificial intelligence, and robots will not just have sweeping effects on the world of work institutionally and geographically, it will also have a deep effect on a variety of our societal E’s: education, economy and equality.

Inability to attend to this digital disruption will enhance the growing divides we are currently witnessing, both now and in the future.

“Leaders will have to grapple with these emerging realities and incorporate them into their own lives.  Most people find it difficult, if not impossible, to imagine what the new technologies will mean for life in the second and third decades of the twenty-first century, despite wanting to embrace them.  They need help in grasping how the technologies will affect them and what adjustments they must now make to thrive in the continually emerging digital reality.”  -via Brown 2009 Quantum Leadership

 

The 3A’s At The Intersection Of Change

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“Leaders must maintain a panoramic view of the world to discern the direction their efforts should take.  Their ability to see intersections, relationships, and themes ensures that the organization will undertake the activities it needs to thrive.” -Porter-O’Grady and Malloch Quantum Leadership

A key to organizations, as well as individuals, adapting and evolving in today’s often volatile and accelerated change world, is the ability to thrive at intersections.  The space and place where “old” world meets “new” world.  Those junctions where the past, present and future can clash and collide, often in complex and chaotic ways that create more and more uncertainty and ambiguity of the future and of next steps.

It is at this intersection of change, that leaders need to begin building up a deeper sense of awareness, a greater understanding of their reality or actuality as it currently exists, and synthesizing those learnings towards determining next steps and future action or actions, at both an organizational and individual level.  These 3A’s serve as guidance posts when we reach these intersections.

  • Awareness: is not only in grounding the organization, individuals and leaders in a deeper sense of how the world is changing, but how those changes, which can be playing out both internally and externally, can and will lead to new challenges and pressures in the focus of the work of the organization and how that work is engaged currently and in the future.  Awareness allows us to pause at these intersections to better determine how external forces of change are having effect on the internal focus of the organization.
  • Actuality: is truly determining the skill and ability of the organization, and the individuals within, to adapt and evolve in response to those internal and external change forces they are and will be facing in the future.  Realization of that reality, will allow the organization to lean on its current strengths in moving forward, while still determining areas where capacity-building will be necessity in moving forward.  Actuality brings us face to face with the truth of what we are experiencing and how our mental models are, or are not, coming to terms with that experience and how we are, or not changing in response.
  • Action: is not founded in creating a plan that marches the organization forward in a linear and predictable manner, based on current understandings and knowledge, that provides a sense of assurance and safety to the organization.  But rather, a synthesis of these current understandings and knowledge, strategically integrated towards next steps with the realization that those understandings and knowledge will change and adaptation will be necessary in ongoing action steps that lead the organization and its individuals towards that future plan, and or narrative and vision.  Action requires adaptation, as well as understanding the necessity of data and knowledge in determining those action steps, but not being so overwhelmed by that data and knowledge that stifles or paralyzes individual and organizational action.

As Porter-O’Grady and Malloch share in Quantum Leadership, “When a plan is constructed, the future looks a certain way at that moment in time, and the context at that moment creates the foundation for what is anticipated.  However because change is constant and the greater environment is forever in a state of chaos and creativity, the context is shifting rather than stable.”

It is in understanding, that for all intents and purposes, knowledge is no longer a commodity as much as it is a tool…and for that matter, a collaborative tool.  Knowledge is no longer something to be hoarded as an organizational, individual, or leadership advantage, but a force that drives the needed and necessary understandings and ongoing capacity into and throughout all levels of the organization.  Injecting knowledge into the system, and allowing it to course and flow through both the formal and informal networks of the organization, allows the individuals within the organization to gain a deeper sense of why a change may be required, as well as what that may require of them.  As knowledge is injected into the system, it not only builds greater awareness and actuality of current circumstances, but prompts the need for an actionable change.  It is not enough for just leaders to only build up individual and organizational awareness, as it also requires actuality and action.  Cascading these understandings and knowledge across all levels of the organization, provides individuals with a deeper coherence of the why, what and how of a change, as well as the collective interdependence required for that change to be effective in moving the system, as well as the organization forward.

As Porter-O’Grady and Malloch add, “A good leader can read the signposts that suggest a change is imminent and can discern the direction of the change and the elements indicating it’s fabric.  The good leader synthesizes rather than analyzes and views the change thematically and/or relationally, drawing out of it what kind of actin or strategy should be applied or trajectory embraced – that is, the response that best positions the organization to thrive in the coming circumstances.”

As leaders gain greater competence of reading those intersectional signposts of change, they also begin to see how their own mental models, as well as the mental models of the organization and each individual within, can often create cognitive road blocks that attempt to dismiss those signposts as unnecessary to their current circumstances, or find fault in seeing the necessity to heed the messages being amplified out.  Unfortunately, there is often a difficult price to pay when an organization or even a leader is unwilling to see the writing on the wall or find themselves or the organization unable to adapt and change even though they are able to read that writing.

Far too often, the past can have a very deep cognitive, structural and process stronghold on the present, and eventually on the future.  Finding ways to help the organization and those within reflect on those deeply held beliefs and mental models is vital to determining direction at the intersection of change.

As Porter-O’Grady and Malloch put forth, “One responsibility of leaders is to help others mourn the loss of practices and roles that are becoming irrelevant.”   “Their idealization of the past might be keeping them from embracing the emerging and far different future.”  For which they add,“What they might not know is that holding onto practices that are no longer relevant endangers their ability to succeed in the future.”

It is, however, not only the knowledge that we infuse into the system, but the questions that we are also asking that allows the organization and the individuals within to begin to reflect deeply upon and deconstruct those mental models in order to determine a new plan, a new vision, a new narrative for the future.  Creating greater awareness and deeper actuality for the organization is not enough to move it towards action, as it also requires ongoing reflection on the strategies, structures and thinking that keeps it entrenched in stasis and status quo ways of acting and reacting to that awareness and actuality.

Questions not only create new awarenesses, they also have a tendency to disrupt those mental models and obstacles that keep the organization mired in the current constancy of thinking and doing that reflects and deflects any notion of change from current reality.  Questions that push us into new ways of thinking and new considerations for the actions we take in the present, to remain more relevant in the future.  Such as…

  • Will the teacher and classroom cease to be the main hub of learning in the future?
  • How will the focus of learning in a highly digitized world change in the future?
  • How will educational leadership skillsets need to change in response to today’s societal shifts?
  • How will the core practices of our profession need to be altered to better meet the external changes we are currently and will be witnessing in the future?
  • As lifelong learning becomes much more of a necessity, how do we get everyone (students to stakeholders) to see how they have to become more accountable for their own ongoing learning?
  • How will the progression of technology effect education over the next 10 years (2030 – Which puts a lens on the world our current kindergarteners will graduating out into)?

Today’s leaders need not only these understandings, but new skillsets, as well as the capacity to lead individuals and organizations into the future more effectively, especially in the midst of such heightened complexity, uncertainty, ambiguity, and chaos we find in today’s world.  It is no longer enough to just see those signposts of the future, that information must be understood, analyzed, synthesized, and incorporated into building a real understanding of what is to come, how that will have effect and affect on everyone within the organization.  When awareness and coherence is built around those intersectional signposts, when clarity is deepened on the actuality of current circumstances and the imminent need for change, there is greater collective commitment to change, as well as the individual changes that are necessary to support the organization in that change.

“Good leaders live in the edge land between now and the very next thing and can engage folks in the journey of the whole access across the landscape of a preferred and optimistic future.”  

“The ability to thrive in this potential distinguishes good leaders from the rest.  Good leaders are always on the edge of chaos, looking over the horizon, looking just beyond the precipice.”  

“Their real gift is their ability to backtrack to where those they lead are living and working and translate what they have seen into a language that has force and meaning for those who can hear it.” 

-Porter-O’Grady and Malloch Quantum Leadership