How learning needs to change to make the future work

I’ve been at two events over the past week that has made me reflect on what the future of learning is and the challenges it faces.   The first was a meeting at my daughter’s school and the second was at a FreeFormer’s event that debated the subject of “The Future of Work.”   

How digital is disrupting the core of how we learn

Both events made me question whether we are really building the right learning and education systems to help us adapt to the digital world that pervades everything we do.  Against the backdrop of the world becoming increasingly digitised the impact on work is and will continue to be immense.   Whether it’s through the automation of jobs through robots or the Uberisation of jobs the world of work is changing at great pace.  The psychological contracts in how we think about work are being fundamentally rewritten in real time.    This places great importance of both schools and organisations to create the right learning climate for our children and our current workforce to take advantage of this.  

In this context the question we must answer is whether our educational systems and our approach to lifelong learning is geared up for this?   I think it’s questionable.  Schools still seem obsessed with transactional exam results as every reference to league tables seem to reinforce.   Despite this gloom it was encouraging to hear my daughter’s Headmaster speak about the need to turn the “three R’s ” on its head to focus on resilience, radical innovation and reflectiveness.   An approach like this starts to challenge the core of how we teach our children.    

Organisations in turn need to question both their formal and informal structures to challenge what sort of learning environment they are the creating and reinforcing.   Is it one that allows people to constantly evolve and embrace transitioning roles or does it reinforce the protection of knowledge at the expense of innovation?

With knowledge streaming creativity must win

To successfully do this I think the whole education system needs to be questioned.   Which was a topic of much debate at the Future of Work.   One point really resonated with me which was that both education and learning needs to move from what is today a classically Jesuit model, which simply reinforces that instruction and knowledge is power.  This model changes in a world where knowledge is streamed directly to us.  This places more importance on our ability to be creative and innovative rather than retain static knowledge.   

This shift poses a number of challenges to both organisations and schools.  For example, should schools be really teaching joined up handwriting in a digital world?  How can our children spend more time building and creating things rather than repetitively remembering facts?  How do organisations support and enable frequent career transitions and allow their people to focus on creativity at the expense of protecting knowledge?   What support does an organisation need to provide its people to allow for non-linear career progression and multi-skilled jobs? 

Unquestionably there are opportunities but they can only be realised if society creates the right conditions and environment for us all to embrace this whether you are at school or work.  Everyone has to be long learners.  The constant evolution of digital technology is changing the way we work and there is a need to revolutionise education at every level.   Our ability to embrace the benefits of digitisation wrest on how successfully we do this.

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