What’s been really interesting to me of late is how as a culture and as a society we are reacting to the changes that these technologies are bringing to our lives. I think it was spurred pretty much by the comments that Pete Reilly left here last week and the great conversation that ensued. And it’s also been coming from my own efforts to get some balance back into my life. As Jeff said, we really need to think about how to teach balance as well as technology.
Anyway, I spent last weekend reading How: Why HOW We Do Anything Means Everything…in Business (and in Life) by Dov Seidman. As the title implies, this is not a book about education, but there are many great ideas for educators to think about anyway. Here is the premise:
The world today, powered by vast networks of information, connects and reveals us in ways we have only begun to comprehend. Groundbreaking technological advances have put us in intimate contact with others about whom we often know little and understand even less. As a result, many of the tried and true ways of working together and getting ahead no longer apply…I’ve come to believe that the innovations of the 21st Century will come not just in new products, services, or business models and strategies, but in new ways to create value and differentiation, innovations in HOW. The best, most certain, and most enduring path to success and significance in these dramatically new conditions lies not through raw talent and skill but through behavior over time (x).
Seidman makes a compelling case that the “hypertransparent and hyperconnected world,” where we now find ourselves requires us to rethink much of what we do, and specifically, how we do it. In a world where “information is infinite” it does no good to horde it. We must instead make it more accessible. In a world where we can collaborate with global partners, sharing is what drives business success and, I would add, learning. “Connect and collaborate” is the new model, and power shifts to those best able to connect.
The strain that much of our culture seems to be under from these shifts is because of how dramatic and how fast they are coming at us.
For centuries, local proximity determined the majority of our social functions, containing us in relatively homogenous environments. We dealt on a day-to-day basis with people with whom we generally shared a common culture and therefore understood easily the behaviors and signals that occurred in the spaces between us. Global connectivity sets that whole idea on its ear. We now find ourselves in a world where we are thrust together in all aspects of our lives without borders and without the homogenizing pressures of locality…Before all information became zeros and ones, our lives moved at a slower pace. We had more time to get to know each other and the luxury to value personal contact in nearly all of our dealings. Now, multinational companies commonly form teams of employers chosen from various divisions, various countries, and various cultures (28).
Distance no longer separates us, and that in itself is a huge shift for most educators to get their brains around. And not only that, but the
…ties that bind us are looser than ever, and there is a new us whose members change almost daily…Electronic communication is both a boon and a bane. It makes these new, powerful networks of collaboration possible, but it does so in a strange and fractured language (31).
One other key point out of many that I could mention here is the effect of all this transparency; basically, your past is your present. And that presents an important challenge: “As reputation becomes more perishable, its value increases. As it becomes more accessible, it becomes a greater asset–and liability (38).”
And so this informs our work of re-envision of what schooling means. As much as we may not like it, we can’t go back.
We will never become less connected. We will never become less transparent…With all these changes to the way we live, connect and conduct our professional and personal lives, the questions become: How do we now thrive? How can we turn these challenges into strengths (39)?
And, I would add for our purposes, how do we prepare our kids to thrive? And as an educational system, how can we be proactive instead of reactive?
So, it’s no longer what you do so much as how you do it.
Success now requires new skills and habits, a new lens for seeing and a new consciousness for relating. In our see-through world, there’s an overabundance of information and it flows too easily for anyone to control it and outfox everyone. You can no longer game the system and expect no one to find out. You need to stop dancing around people and start leading a dance that everyone can follow. Long-term, sustained success is directly proportional to your ability–as a company and as an individual–to make Waves throughout evanescing networks of association, to reach out to others and enlist them in endeavors larger than yourself, and to do so while everyone watches you (55).
So, are we teaching that?
Like I said, most of this is aimed at business, but it’s still an interesting take on what the ramifications of all of this are, for our kids and for ourselves.