Two related ideas, one on learning in educational settings and one for learning in business.
1. Learning in educational settings should only be considered successful if you both learn how to learn and if you are provided with the resources to learn into the future. Most post secondary education is organized around courses that have a beginning and an end with a bounded set of knowledge, but this does not square with the idea of lifelong learning and with the learning demands modern society places upon us. Society is still set up so that first you learn to do and then you are expected to go forth and do, but we are understanding more and more how doing and learning are inexplicability bounded together with one another. It seems to me that courses should end not with an examination, but with a path forward that points out what you don’t yet know and an introduction to a society where that learning can take place. A degree should not give you a bounded set of knowledge, but with an introduction to the flexible outlines of a path and the means to pursue that path.
2. Knowledge is more distributed than we have ever acknowledged and knowledge networks are a key in knowledge development. Business once developed around the idea of a cooperative advantage that comes from locking up and exploiting resources including people and knowledge. Knowledge’s half life continues to stink daily and I’m not sure that the super smart people really ever existed beyond the hype. Today’s business imperative is learning and to do that you must be tapped into broad knowledge and idea flows that only exist in networks. It’s the idea that we are all smarter together than anyone of us individually and we can actualize this intelligence through networks. We are not talking mobs and mob mentality, but we are talking networks where the nodes are smart people full of knowledge, ideas and experience.
These ideas are related in this way; if we want our students to have a next generation education, it will require that we put them on a path for lifelong learning, not through courses that never stop, but through learning that is embedded in everyday activities. That takes a different type of resource then we find in the university system. The closest thing we have to that resource are professional networks that are set up to function as learning platforms.