We have always designed systems to solve particular problems. Our education system was designed to solve the problem of availability of mass skills required during the industrial revolution. We needed people from different streams doing specific job roles. Our growth was linear, start from the bottom as a worker, become better at your job, then manage a team, then a department and then maybe profit centre. For a while this system worked really well, cause the industries grew and so did the need for skills.
Somewhere few years ago this started to change cause we evolved in to an information era and technology changed the way we did things. However our system still remained the same! Could this be the reason today we have an increased drop out rate? The problem we needed to solve with our education system has changed so the system also needs to change. The skills we need to do our jobs today gets outdated / updated every few years. So going to school for 14 years may give you a foundation but not necessary a skill relevant in times today. We are seeing varying patterns emerge even in our work structures. Some people do well cause they have the ability to identify the patterns and use the skills accordingly – our STEM students doing well in finance and analytics not because they know science but cause their thinking is trained to be logical and strategic.
Todays problem possibly is the learning to learn as an ability. Cause the skills we need are so fast evolving that even to do the same job today your skills required are different over a period of time. Take for e.g.. Sales (since it’s the one I know best) – earlier any one who could easily build relationships with strangers and had the gift of the gab could sell. Then we started to build vertical wise specialisation as the sales role evolved from managing a transaction to being an advocate / consultant to the customer. Today a big part of a sales professionals role is analytics using technology, identifying trends and proactively engaging customers to co create mutually aligned conversations. Just knowing how to talk is not enough – its now about a customer focussed engagement, its using technology tools to know more and stay ahead in the game.
So how is your ability to learn? This is our current problem cause we gave up reading to watching, we broke down large chunks of content into bite size pieces yet everyday I engage with people who feel their education is not relevant to what they are doing today.
“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” Alvin Toffler was so right in saying this. How do we then build an ecosystem that allows people to un learn and relearn too? This is the environment organisations of today need to provide. From learning a language to learning calligraphy the skills need to get modular and personalised rather than following streams. We need to be open to learning at every age and every stage of our careers and life.
Learn to learn before you lose relevance !