Learning and Education in the 2020s

How we handle learning and education in the coming decade will play a major role in determining societal outcomes. Will people gain the skills required by the jobs that scientific and technological advancement spawn? Will education enable us to operate in a future environment that requires collaboration, system leadership, resilience,  a learning mindset and entrepreneurial drive? Will we unlearn the shareholder value focus and broaden our focus to consider the full stakeholder community? How we educate future leaders and a society of life-long learners will provide answers to these questions.

A new Article via the World Economic Forum delves into the topic, as the authors explore the university of the future and how it must adapt to train future leaders. The article states that universities must evolve in four ways to meet the demands of future leadership needs:

  1. Embrace technology
  2. Create more action-based learning models
  3. Understand the expanded role of business in society
  4. Support life-long learning

Education and learning remains a critical issue for me, as it lies at the heart of how society emerges from the transformative pressures of the coming decade. My recent posts share several thoughts on the topic.

The Education Ecosystem

The Shifting Winds of Education and Artificial Intelligence

Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

MBA Education and Short Term Thinking

Next Generation Education

Future Hiring: Skills-Based or Credentials-Based?

The Five most Important Job Skills of the Future

The Highest Skilled Workers Reside in Switzerland – Why?

Future Hiring: Skills-Based or Credentials-Based?

An Article by IEEE Spectrum captured a dialog that occurred at a recent MIT conference. The topic: AI and the Future of Work. The conference discussion underscores the struggles between Techno-Optimism and Techno-Pessimism. Rethinking the FuturePessimistic when AI and automation are viewed as an industry-destroying path that takes jobs via self-driving technology,  smart law algorithms, and robots that continue to put factory and warehouse workers out of work. Optimistic when those same technologies are viewed as augmentation that improves the employee experience.

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The Five most Important Job Skills of the Future

In a recent Article, author Bernard Marr describes the five most important job skills of the future. A conversation that is tightly linked to the role of education, and a topic I have explored in Several Posts. Mr. Marr states that the pace of change is being driven by several factors. He paints a picture of an interconnected world that allows us to work remotely and with people from different cultures as easily as if they were in the office next door. The Healthy Extension of Life allows us to work longer, creating an age-diverse workforce. Combined with science fiction becoming reality, machines suddenly augment our skills and free us up to focus on higher-level activities.

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The Highest Skilled Workers Reside in Switzerland – Why?

A recent Article on education reveals that Switzerland has the most highly skilled workers in the world. In an era where job growth is likely to tilt towards high skilled jobs, Switzerland is doing something right. At the heart of our skilling challenges lies an education paradigm and system that were built in and for a different era. I have spent considerable time on the need for a shift in the Learning Paradigm. Has Switzerland made the shift?

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The Shifting Winds of Education and Artificial Intelligence

Nick Burnett, Futurist and Education and learning entrepreneur, recently published an Article on education and artificial intelligence. The article launches a series that explores exponential technologies and their impact on learning and teaching. The post was co-authored with Nick Kairinos and the Fountech team.  A focus on learners, teachers and leaders is critical, as education is the key to success in the 21st Century.  I recommend the article.

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Unlearning May be our Biggest Challenge

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those that can’t read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn – Alvin Tofler, Rethinking the Future. 

As we all become life long learners, unlearning could be our biggest challenge. Our mental models prevent us from seeing the need for change. We are creatures of the only world we have individually known. Even if you are one hundred years old, the mental models established after humanities second Tipping Point dominate your thinking. They form our intuitions and belief systems.

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Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

In a recent book titled, Robot-Proof: Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, Northeastern University president Joseph Aoun proposes a way to educate the next generation of college students, supporting society in ways that artificial intelligence cannot. His underlying premise is that the existing model of higher education has yet to adapt to the seismic shifts rattling the foundations of the global economy – I firmly agree. It was Alvin Tofler that said: The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those that can’t read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.

This conversation is broader than a focus on school-aged young adults. What Tofler pronounced applies to all of us. In his book, Mr. Aoun presents a new model of learning that enables us to understand the highly technological world around us, allowing us to transcend it by nurturing the mental and intellectual qualities that are unique to humans – namely, their capacity for creativity and mental flexibility. He calls this model Humanics. These Human Traits represent our future skills profile, including many of the right brain characteristics visualized below. We will want explorers, problem solvers, dot connectors, continuous learners, and those not afraid to challenge the status quo.

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MBA Education and Short Term Thinking

This recent Article focuses on the failure of MBA programs to prepare leaders and innovators to cope with a fast-changing world: leaders that can put the long-term health of their company and customers first. Here is the bottom line straight from the article:

Far from empowering business, MBA education has fostered the sort of short-term, balance-sheet-oriented thinking that is threatening the economic competitiveness of the country as a whole. If you wonder why most businesses still think of shareholders as their main priority or treat skilled labor as a cost rather than an asset – or why 80 percent of CEOs surveyed in one study said they’d pass up making an investment that would fuel a decade’s worth of innovation if it meant they’d miss a quarter of earnings results – it’s because that’s exactly what they are being educated to do

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Future Capability Profile

Future Capability Profile

This recent Article describes how Sergey Brin and Larry Page founded Google on the conviction that STEM expertise was the dominant  piece of the capability profile – setting its hiring algorithms to look for computer science students with top grades from elite science universities. In 2013, they decided to test this hypothesis by analyzing the hiring, firing, and promotion data accumulated since their incorporation in 1998.

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Next Generation Education

The World Economic Forum estimates 65 per cent of children today will end up in careers that don’t even exist yet.

“Individuals and companies that succeed in the future will be those who adopt the philosophy of lifelong learning,” says Nigel Heap, managing director of Hays UK and Ireland. “Businesses that facilitate the resources, tools and time to support learning will not only have employees who are more engaged, but their business will be better placed to face challenges and remain innovative.”

From the Future of Learning


I’ve attempted to link innovation and our well-being via a visual that I’ve shared previously in this forum. It allows us to envision our emerging future and leverage story telling techniques to describe it in ways that become actionable. One of the most critical aspects of this emerging future in my humble opinion is the future of learning and education.

Reimagining Education

Our education system must prepare individuals for the world that is, not the one that was. It must ensure that those educated embody the qualities and competencies essential to life in a society very different than our industrial past. Among them are: creativity, critical thinking, innovative thinking, curiosity, social intelligence, a collaborative spirit, adaptability, entrepreneurial spirit, connecting dots, and knowing how to ask the right questions. Our need for life-long learning and unlearning drives us to reimagine education and transform through combinatorial innovations that leverage AI, Mobile, Cloud, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Big Data, and more. Some of the facets of next generation education include:

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