The Internet is the single most disruptive and creative force in the history of human kind. It changed our lives. While not the only things, digital products are things we buy now. Product consumption is undergoing a revolution. The nature of work will never be the same. The middle men are constantly being cut out. The innovation in how various services are provided has had an even greater impact on global society and economy.
Google is 19 years old and it's difficult to imagine life without it. 14-year old Facebook analyzes your behavior to provide you with a catered online experience. Amazon was formed 23 years ago and Apple has been around since 1976. There aren't many people in the world unaware of the Big 4.
And how about a few game-changing squirts who have yet to reach the ripe age of 10? 8-year-old Uber is valued at $40-70 billion. I recently rented a cabin in Wisconsin using the 9-year-old $30-billion hotel industry disruptor Airbnb. And even though it was acquired in its 5th year of existence by Unilever in 2016 for a cool billion, I still use the Dollar Shave Club razors to keep my melon clean and shiny.
Those are the heavy hitters many of us know but there are many other innovative companies and start-ups that have been changing the way business is done around the world. Some are being formed right now as I'm typing and as you're reading. At the same time the old guard is being replaced or is shaking in its boots as jobs and trends of yesteryear are disappearing.
The wiser elders are adopting. They are buying out and hiring the new blood, the creative competition, with hopes of using their mojo to stay relevant. It's not a mere transfusion. It's an infusion. They are acquiring the fountain of youth because times are a changin'.
Change Is the Only Constant
It's true. I wish I said it first but I can't take credit no matter how smart I want to seem. But there's more to it. Change is not just constantly happening. It's happening faster than ever before. It's speeding up. There are more changes too. This is today, not some distant future.
So why is it that school isn't adopting to the trends of the times? The digital revolution in the industry and daily life is not replicated in school. While use of technology in education is increasing the what of teaching is the same. It can be argued that the how of teaching is barely changing too. Hopefully initiatives such as project-based learning and genius hour follow the 80/20 principle and provide 80% of academic results as they are used only 20% of the time (or less) in most schools. But this begs at least a few questions: Are we wasting the other 80% of our kids' time learning useless things? and Are the concepts we teach using 20% time useful to our kids or just repackaged same old?
Parents and educators should be alarmed that schools rarely teach their kids how to find opportunities present in today's marketplace. For example, the business class in my high school teaches how to start a restaurant or retail business all the while the way most business is done today has already changed enough that it is far more transferrable to know how to create content, market, and make money online.
Change Brings Necessity & Opportunity
I know I have it backwards. Necessity Brings Change is the old, tried, and true cliche. I agree but think it's more of a cycle that's self-perpetuating. Just as a need for something calls for a change (a solution to a problem), the change itself will produce feedback we can use to improve that which already exists and feedback that allows us to see new needs. These needs will call for more changes. These changes will require... you get the point.
And no one knows exactly what the future will look like but we know it will be different. I, for one, believe that it will be necessary to continually anticipate the changes a person's industry might undergo to remain relevant or be able to adopt and learn new ways of doing things, new skills, and new knowledge quickly.
This isn't our grandparents' world. Job hopping is quickly becoming the new normal. Technology is always changing. Progress is accelerating. Reaction time is shortening. The answer lies in not just reacting to changes but anticipating them. Those who anticipate the changes and the needs will thrive. They won't just notice trends. They'll create them.
Luckily, becoming a trendsetter is not a prerequisite of success. Remaining relevant is enough. As the very job and industry an individual is a part of changes she must become savvy at anticipating which way the progress is going and taking steps needed to keep up with it or stay ahead of it.
This requires a certain mindset. Resting on her laurels is no longer possible. After becoming qualified for a job in the first place, she will need to keep learning to stay qualified for the new version of the same job as it morphs into something perhaps diametrically different. As human demand and technology and everything else around that product or service keeps evolving, she will need to continue to learn to remain at the top of her game. Being good at something right now does not guarantee being adequate at it two years from now, because the technology and the understanding of this field will change drastically. This is the price of progress and our students will pay it if we don’t prepare them for it.
And it's not just about adopting to changes in professions. Anticipation of the brutal fact that his job might one day disappear prepares the individual for the fallout. Understanding and acceptance of this as status quo of future life will lead to constant drive to acquire relevant new knowledge and skills. Of course, knowing how to do it well i.e. having the right skills to acquire knowledge and skills will make or break an individual.
It's scary to think we are on the brink of a future in which just getting through school, getting a diploma, and getting a decent job will not be nearly enough. Just think about all of the kids you know who make it through the educational system without being able to read well enough or those who always wait for you to tell them what to do. If you care for them you must be weary. I know I am.
To bring this point home consider a situation in which you could no longer teach or do the job you're doing right now. Would you be anxious? Would it turn your world upside down? Would you be okay? What else can you do? What would you do?
Chances are you'd be stressed out. But chances also are that you know how to do many of the things I describe below and you'd be okay. Can the same be said of all your kids?
As jobs that require a lot of repetition and direction remain few, being able to learn effectively and efficiently, to problem solve, to generate new, innovative ideas, to test these ideas, and to keep doing it over and over will be a future necessity. No longer a bane of the scientists and philosophers, reinvention of self or the industry one works in will be paramount to remaining relevant. Otherwise, he or she will struggle to find employment or will be left performing one of the few remaining, mostly mundane and mindless jobs laws and regulations forbid automating.
Reinvention as a Skill
It goes without saying that a career that exists today might not exist tomorrow. But it’s perhaps more important to point out that schools still largely focus on preparing students for specific jobs; jobs that exist now. I don't know of any high school or college courses that embrace constant change and focus on teaching adaptation to it. However, courses and books that address this trend are produced by the industry thought leaders who experience it. One such book is Reinvent Yourself by James Altucher.
Altucher recognizes that being able to reinvent yourself requires certain thinking and behaviors. It's a skill that comprises of multiple micro skills one must acquire to be successful. There are real individuals who do it consistently and anyone can learn to do it.
And yet, education at large is stubbornly refusing to change and do the same. Why? Why not trust the people in the industry, the companies and the entrepreneurs who live and breathe this world of flux? Am I missing something here?!?!
And while it requires some know how, it's not that hard to teach the entrepreneurial mindset. Acquiring it will probably require letting go of a couple of centuries of academic and societal conditioning, but skills such as pattern recognition can be taught. In fact, being able to recognize patterns and predict trends is a competitive advantage as "future experts" claim it is one of the few things artificial intelligence has trouble doing. Turns out it's hard for robots to predict what humans want.
Teaching the What’s Next? Mindset
But humans can be trained to recognize patterns. Kids can be taught to analyze what innovators and entrepreneurs are doing in the fields they are interested in. They can study the thinking and the behaviors of past and present successful individuals. With practice, they can learn to identify the available opportunities and create their own.
Teaching the What's Next mindset will set our kids up for success. As schools begin to train students to have this outlook they will see the world for what it is - and really always has been - which is a world in constant flux, except now the change is faster than ever before. And it will get faster. This is why we need to do this. It’s no longer optional to leave it up to the scientists and thought leaders of the world to tell us what the changes will be.
We must show our students how to be the thought leaders and the pattern recognizes and the trendsetters themselves. We must encourage them to ask questions such as: What is impossible? Why is this impossible right now? What is stopping people from doing this? How can this become a possibility? How can I get involved in this? How can I innovate here? What does the future of this look like? What do people need now or might need soon? How can I be a player in these things?
These questions have one thing in common. We are not teaching our kids to ask them. We are not equipping them with the mindset and skills needed to look for answers to these questions either. Instead, we teach facts that live in books. But kids don't live in books. Past facts and characters do. Some are important. Some are outdated. Other things might be fictitious. But life is the realest thing there is.
Let's be real and teach real. Or else what’s the point?
You have the power to change lives. Use it often so they can change the world.
Oskar frequently shares brain-based teaching and learning strategies, lessons, and infographics. Sign up for his newsletter here to receive them.