When you come to a fork in the road, take it. – Yogi Berra
As I look at what I’ve learned about business, information technology and learning over the past decade I see two major influences, perhaps not mutually exclusive, that will change how we work and learn. One is the pending major shift in energy consumption and the other is our increasing connection through the Internet.
My observations and readings tell me that when we change how we work, our education systems follow suit. There is no doubt that many of us will be changing how we work in the near future. That will mean changes in how we educate ourselves.
Peak oil has already passed and we will have to come to terms with using more costly sources of energy and using less of it. That will change how we get to work, how we go to school, and especially how we make and move goods. Scenarios such as Jim Kunstler’s are one possibility, but there are many others. Change does not happen in a straight line. However, there is no doubt that the shift away from the cheap oil economy will have repercussions at all levels.
The Internet has also changed how we work and communicate and this will continue unless something like the long emergency happens. In the meantime, the Net is changing how we do business and how we perceive learning (e.g. connectivism). For example, command & control, supply chain management and performance management are all being turned on their heads as hyperlinks subvert hierarchies. The same is happening in schools as what is taught inside has less relevance with the outside. Here in New Brunswick debates rage on singing O Canada and wearing sweats in school while critical thinking and basic digital literacy are ignored. Meanwhile, kids are having conversations with friends around the world, getting involved in international causes or creating media that is watched by over 150,000 people. Not your typical day at school.
Can we simultaneously prepare for these two possibilities- a connected world and a long emergency? I believe there is a viable option in natural enterprises, as put forth in Dave Pollard’s Finding the Sweet Spot, which I reviewed last year. Natural entrepreneurship will work in either an electric or a non-electric future, making it more resilient than most industrial models. For instance, Dave found that successful entrepreneurs had several things in common.
They built strong, collaborative relationships and networks, and operated their enterprises “on principle”. They understood that powerful social relationships are the underpinning to all human enterprise, and that collaboration succeeds better than competition. And by sticking to principles of responsibility and sustainability they ensured that these relationships were deep, trusting, and reciprocal.
Principles for natural enterprises can work whether the network of relationships is local or global. Since business models drive education models I would suggest that our business schools take a serious look at new business models and do so soon. Meanwhile, our educators have to engage in discussions on what our education system can do to build the skills for natural entrepreneurship. Time is running out.
First we shape our structures and then our structures shape us – Winston Churchill