From Push to Pull: It Will Change What Education Means

Ever since I first read about the concept of post-fordism in the early 90s, I have felt that there was a new educational world taking shape; one that would have a profound effect on society.  Hagel, Brown & Davison’s The Power of Pull (2010) provides the best explanation I found yet that gives voice to and makes sense of this feeling.

The idea of pull logically grows out of the author’s conception of how the world is changing, which they call the “Big Shift”; change that is coming in three waves.

First Wave – Access –

  1. The growth of the digital infrastructure and open trade policies provide access to instant information, communication and allows economic activity and the means of production to easily flow anywhere around Thomas Friedman’s flat world.
  2. Why it is changing things – The opposite of pull is push; predicting where information and resources will be needed and pushing it out to those locations.  This is becoming a problem because:
    1. the world is changing faster than organizations are able to predict and
    2. people who have mastered the methods of pull, and are supported by the 1st wave, are able to allocate resources more effectively and efficiently.
  3. What does it mean – Organizations that continue to push in critical areas will find it increasingly difficult to compete with organizations that can reorganize around pull.

Second Wave – Attract –

  1. How do you make use of 1st wave capabilities?  Just because you can access the worlds information does not mean you can tell what’s important and how to use it.  People are the resource that helps us to interpret and make use of 1st wave capabilities, but it is a resource that can’t be predicted.  What is needed are robust networks of people in which knowledge is flowing freely enabling the ad-hock connections that make information useful.  The knowledge you need is out there, but you need a network to help you find it an form it into a useful form.
  2. Why it is changing things – More than knowledge, you need access to the knowledge flows that are at the heart of networks of people committed to solving the same problems that you are.
  3. What does it mean – The knowledge stocks you possess are depreciating rapidly and are already less valuable that the ability to tap into knowledge flows.

Third Wave – Achieve –

The wave is not yet clearly formed because it is just beginning.  Hagel et al have predicted that, as more and more organizations harness the power of pull, it will have a transformative effect on general society.

How Will Pull Change Education

The idea of “Pull” (Hagel, Brown & Davison, 2010) will change the way we orient ourselves to just about every aspect of education and learning.  Here is a list of some:

  • Leadership – Most discussions of leadership focus on how to develop individual leaders who then lead (push out change toward) other people.  Simple models of leadership risk over simplifying what is a complex, collaborative and integrative process.
  • Curriculum – Most curriculum pushes knowledge out, but what is needed is the ability to join in with robust learning networks that can attract the most valuable knowledge flows toward us.  Skills are needed, background knowledge is needed, but collaborative networking is the real source of value.
  • Educational Institutions – These bodies previously nailed down the core knowledge that professionals needed, but Hagle et al argue that today’s important knowledge flows on the edge where people are wrestling in creative spaces “with how to match unmet needs with unexploited capabilities and uncertainty” (p. 53).  Institutions need to become “platforms to amplify (the quality and diversity of) networks of social and professional relationships” (Hagel et al, p.107) and to encourage people to identify and pursue their passions. (parenthesis added).  We need institutions that can serve as creation spaces to “scaffold scalable colaboration, learning and performance improvement” (Hagel et al p. 139).
  • Being an educated person. That used to mean knowing a lot of stuff, but to pull something different is needed:
    • A disposition for exploring the new, the unexpected, and the patience and listening skills to perceive what is going on at a deeper level.
    • finding ways for people to find us and for us to find relevant others,
    • relationship skills for deepening our networks,
    • a comfort level for living on the creative edge.

If anyone reads this and thinks of more, or disagrees, please comment and thanks!

    Architecture for Learning: The Importance of the Built Environment

    Recently I’ve been reading Hagel, Brown and Davison’s From Push to Pull and  Richard Florida’s Who’s Your City and have come to the conclusion that architecture and the design of physical and social space is important to learning and education.  Both books suffer to a certain extent because they are based on data that is primarily correlational not causal, but they do help to make a strong case that:

    1. Learning throughout one career(s) is more important that ever for individual and organizational success.
    2. Social space is important to enable and deepen learning.  The conversations and social interactions we are involved in have a strong effect our thinking and the built environment could have a significant impact on shaping social interaction.
    3. While the internet has enabled conversation without regard for distance,  most social interaction still our in physical space and tacit aspects of learning are still important.
    4. The physical and social design of space has an important effect on who we find in our spaces and what conversations we have there.  I think this is especially true for people together from different disciplines.
    5. Most new knowledge and new ideas today require creative processes, most creative process depend on synthesis and the cross-disciplinary fertilization of new ideas, the design of social space is important in bringing about cross-disciplinary fertilization.

    Let’s bring another idea into play, the movement from the production of products to the production of experience.  Apple makes money selling various computing devices, but they compete on the basis of consumer’s computing experiences.  The desire fro experience will also change builders and architects.

    I think Rob Pitingolo’s post make a good point about choosing where to live when he says:

    (A)menities are great once you’re settled in a city. But they aren’t necessarily the things that draw people there in the first place.  Now, ask someone who is transplanting themselves to a city like New York or Chicago and there is a decent chance they will say the things they find appealing include: the vibrancy, the energy, the freshness, the opportunity, the culture.

    Rob is right when he goes on to say that these are abstract ideas, but I would also say that what these people are really looking for is the quality of their everyday experience.  That is the job of architecture today; to design social spaces around experiences.  And it is not just for individuals either.  If I am the CEO of a biotech start-up, a bank, or any business that depends on innovation, I care not only about who to hire, but also about putting them in the social space where they can be most effective.  I need them to be someplace that is fresh, vibrant and full of good energy. The American Institute of Architects discusses designing spaces for knowledge communities, but John Hagel et al make it clear that these communities need to go far beyond the university campus to our everyday spaces.  Yes, you want to hire smart people, but their most important learning will occur after you hire them and you want them in a space where their learning and success can be maximized.

    Architects have designed amazing buildings, but we also need amazing communities and architects also have an important role there.