One of my favorite brand lines inside The Startup Studio is “We live in a time when one idea can change the world.” In this article I want to dive into the real meaning of that statement and why it matters as a driving force inside of The Startup Studio’s corporate culture.
In his most recent book “21 Lessons for a 21st Century”, famous author Yuval Noah Harari writes on the topic of Education. According to Harari the last thing a student needs today is more content. Interestingly, he goes on to say that, the greatest quest a student can initiate for themselves in this time in our history is one that answers the question, “Who am I?”
If you have not read Harari’s breakout book “Sapiens”, I strongly encourage you to do so. In it you are introduced to the idea that as a race, Homo Sapiens might actually have been at their happiest when they roamed the earth in tight communities as foragers and gatherers. He goes on to explain that once the agricultural revolution took place we entered into the first phase of institutionalism where we became enslaved to the very systems and hierarchies we created.
By the time the first industrial revolution rolled around and the assembly line was introduced we were settling for life-long careers in one specific institutionalized role or another. Now four revolutions on here we are, rocketed into a new and digital age. Content of all kinds is at our finger tips in the instant we need it, artificial intelligence and robotics is on the rise and replacing a lot of jobs that were once done by humans. We also have a window to the world that has brought about a global psyche in all of us. Simply put, our world is no longer localized and instead we are all connected. Never before have we shifted in such a radical and exponential manner than in this current revolution.
Interestingly, we often believe that the solution to changing education resides in bringing more technology into the classroom. Or we work very hard to build out advanced curriculums that profess to build in students the “Four C”s, the essential skills of creativity, communication, critical thinking and collaboration. We claim that these skills are desperately needed today.
The truth is these skills have always mattered. No Entrepreneur in the history of the planet has ever succeeded without them. Most of us who have succeeded in entrepreneurship will tell you that we had to learn these skills independent of our education. We had to have the hunger to seek them out for ourselves and scramble and stumble as we learned through our failures.
The reason that these skills matter more today is that it turns out the mindset of the entrepreneur is now in high demand in almost all career fields. It is no longer a career choice for just the unique few of us interested in carving independent pathways and disrupting the norms around us. Instead, the skills that have allowed entrepreneurs to survive and thrive for generations are now front and center.
But bringing entrepreneurship into education has not gone well. We have taken the traditional education system made up of syllabuses, rubrics and structured curriculums and we have attempted to fit entrepreneurship into that same box. Warning: You cannot put entrepreneurship inside a text book for all to read and learn and regurgitate back using some traditional testing method. Quite frankly, that is the opposite of innovation and it is far from the disruption education needs.
The real issue when it comes to transforming education is that we are not focusing on the real problem in need of solving. To start, we have to stop using narratives that treat the future as if it is a dangerous foe and something to be feared. Instead, we have to start talking about the fact that the human mind still remains one of the greatest mysteries on planet earth. Scientists have not even scraped the surface of trying to understand its potential.
The real problem is not that technology is going to eliminate jobs. The real problem is that we are focused too heavily on investing in that technology far more than we seem to be in unleashing the unlocked potential of our minds. AI and Robotics are on the rise and will be an awesome solution to ensure our planet becomes more efficient but only we, the actual inventors of these advancements, can allow ourselves to become slaves to it. That is a choice we can make now.
We are only at the beginning of the journey. Look at our children today. They are shutting down their minds only to allow technology to take over. Buried in their phones they are obsessed with its power and its reach. The technology is dictating how they are acting and how they are feeling. That is what we have to fix.
Also, as a race that is responsible for the world it inhabits, we only have to glance back at the first, second, and third industrial revolutions to see that we have treated this planet rather poorly, or quite possibly, horribly as we pushed out all of our fantastic inventions and economic advancements. This fourth industrial revolution made up of technology and serial entrepreneurship is going to be our opportunity to repair and sustain this world. It has to be. We just need to move fast enough before it is too late.
So if it is human potential that we now need to get serious about then no where is the responsibility greater than inside of education. The opportunity and challenge is enormous.
At The Startup Studio we are using a brand new model in education named Learn to Start where students are experiencing three very specific outcomes. The model is based in the discipline of entrepreneurship but where entrepreneurship is simply the vehicle and never the expected outcome. The model offers a disruptive method of learning that ensures our students are far better prepared for this new and exciting 21st century planet. Here is a snap shot of each outcome and why they matter.
Meaning and fulfillment just became a skill. Why? First, let’s be clear about something. Wellness does not mean happiness. So often I hear people talking about the importance of happiness. Happiness has become sensationalized in our current society and worse yet we have developed platforms through technology, namely social media, that actually put it on display every second of everyday as if by some miracle everyone has achieved it. Yet there is not a high school student out there using these platforms that is not dealing with heightened anxiety like no time in our history. In fact, from what I see everyday inside our classrooms it is plainly obvious that this anxiety and stress is all coming from a very real relevance gap. Bottomline, students do not know who they are supposed to be.
The past is filled with people they believe have modeled poor examples of how to live meaningful lives, the present is a system that has no relevance to preparing them for the uncertain future they face, and the future, because of this uncertainty, is simply daunting. In addition, they are bombarded with a fantastic amount of content telling them a myriad of different stories, most of which are wrapped in consumerism, and it is causing them to be very confused and overwhelmed.
So what is wellness? Wellness is knowing yourself. It is being confident in your own skin and having a deep understanding of your strengths as well as your weaknesses. Beyond all of this, it is knowing how to empathize. To see the world and understand it. Empathy is going to be the most sought after skill in a 21st century world. But no person can properly empathize with another if they are first not at peace with themselves. You must love yourself before you can truly love another and that is exactly how empathy works.
Why is empathy going to be so sought after? Because we are about to enter a world where everyone is going to be competing for the creation of the next best solution, value proposition and branding message. Only humans who can effectively empathize with others will be capable of understanding all the different personalities inside the marketplace at a deep enough level to create products and services of the future that brings real meaning and connection to their lives.
The problem is that we are not even scratching the surface of building education models that can begin bringing students the environments they need to begin creating in them real wellness. On the contrary, students are in the biggest relevance gap that has ever existed and it is causing the opposite effect. Anxiety and depression statistics tell this story in abundance. If we hope to prepare students for the future we need to get serious about changing this.
No one is going to care in ten years from now how well a student performed on a SAT exam and if Universities intend on remaining relevant they will need to find a much better way to evaluate exceptionalism. Employers are only going to entertain serious portfolios that clearly illustrate that a student first knows themselves and second knows how to build effective brands starting with their own.
Think of empowerment as the outcome wellness creates. Empowered people do not fear the unknown because they trust themselves and their ability to handle uncertainty. At The Startup Studio it all begins with story. Every student sitting in a classroom today has a unique story to tell. Who they are is a pertinent aspect of what they should do in the world. Yet ask yourself- how often does a student really get to tell their story? How often are we allowing a light to be shed on the students in front of us so they can learn who they really are? Moreover, how skilled is a teacher in actually managing a classroom in a way where there is enough trust and mentorship built into the instruction so as to allow students to actually feel secure to share the reality of their lives and “reality” is the key word here.
With so little time in which to pack in a syllabus and lesson plan our classrooms can too often become more about making sure the twenty or so students in the room just stay on task to keep up with the pace the teacher requires so as to ensure by years-end everything is covered and the grades are all in. All the boxes checked so to speak. All that content and testing is placed front and center while twenty amazing stories have been silenced in the process.
In a 21st century world empowerment is going to be tantamount to success. People who know themselves and are confident are going to be the ones that will drive the economy. No longer is the marketplace filled with institutionalized corporations. Instead, it is filled with hyper-entrepreneurialism, Founders who actually do not believe educational qualifications tell the entire story. After all, these are people who chose to break the status quo and change the world because some way they themselves found empowerment. These new company owners are not all that concerned about whether students have degrees. They want to know if students know themselves and can serve a role in delivering their value propositions to the market effectively.
Today’s young startups as well as those well established corporations are all working double and triple time trying to stay ahead of a curve that is moving and shifting like no time before. Consumers are gaining the kind of power that no one could have ever predicted 20 years ago.
We are only a few years away from seeing advertising as we know it disappear. It will be completely obsolete in a world where algorithms will connect consumers to their favorite brands and vice versa. Only students that can show they are truly creative and capable of critical thinking will have value. Also if you are not an excellent communicator your creativity and critical thinking skills will be lost to someone who is. How do you become great at all of these skills? There is only one way. The exact same way entrepreneurs have done it for a millennia – through failure.
We have to begin operating schools where failure is no longer a negative outcome that describes a bad grade you receive but instead is the exciting outcome inside of your day to day learning environment. We need teachers to stop being delivers of content and instead become trained in supplying their students real and effective mentorship based in guidance.
We have to realize that learning content for the purpose of academic pursuit is fast becoming a very poor use of time. Instead, we need to build classrooms where students are only learning to be learners. Any content a student learns today is under threat of being obsolete in as little as a day depending on how current the information they are reading actually is. Also, students need to learn not only how to be highly effective and constant learners but also how to know and decipher what to learn.
Access to content is overwhelming so knowing what is relevant and what is not is tantamount based on whatever problems you are trying to solve. Also, students will need to know how to analyze data and information in a way that ensures they can create effective models that are solving problems actually worth solving and that ensure their new solutions will be sustainable, profitable and efficient. After all, these are the only metrics that matter to a 21st century economy. The most difficult part of it all will be that students can not be force-fed existing methodologies. That will have zero value in our new world.
Only a student capable of building new and unique models will be regarded as performers. Then once a student learns how to learn and learns how to develop effective models that bring about real solutions to problems actually worth solving, they are also going to have to know how to brand these solutions into stories the world will actually care to respond to in a positive way. The students that do this part the best will be the ones who have first excelled in accomplishing the skills of wellness and empowerment. They will be the top performers under this new and unique method of education.
So why do we live in a time when one idea can change the world? If a student today can accomplish a state of Wellness, Empowerment and Performance and then combine it with the awesome power of the technology now at their disposal, they will have a super power like nothing ever seen before in the history of the world.
A human in that state can change the world and all of their ideas will simply be starting points to experiment with, sparks of light that can ignite something incredible. However, the only way this becomes a reality is if we begin to make serious, meaningful and sustainable change to education.
Schools are still the central hub where young minds are still showing up everyday, willing and ready to be developed. We just have to turn the ship in a new direction with an entirely new course map.