Education in the World of Massive Change


Does education need massive overhaul, are students, being prepared to be FUTURE READY, with the skills essential to thrive in the world of massive change?  In this blog post, Tom Rudmik, co-founder and CEO of GEENIUS/PLI Inc., founder and CEO of the Profound Learning Institute (PLi),  and founder and CEO of Master’s Academy & College addresses these questions by proposing a new emerging framework of education, called  iCubed (I3) Learning™.

Tom Rudmik states,

The next revolution in education will come about as we learn to leverage technology to support richer, more rigorous and relevant learning experiences. Current educational models are based on antiquated industrial age models where education is standardized and delivered at a specified rate to all students regardless of their interests and capacities to learn.  Education must move from the industrial age mass production factory model to mass customization, 21st century model with the signature being innovation and creativity.

How important is the question, “Will our students be FUTURE READY?” Naturally, no one would say that this query is unimportant.  However, our world today makes the answer to our students' readiness highly relevant.

Presently, our world is experiencing massive change in virtually every sector.   This change is being driven by human ingenuity and invention.  Competitiveness, within the global marketplace, is being challenged by thriving economies in Asia and elsewhere.  But, as educators, we must ask the question, “What are we doing to prepare students for the “World of Massive Change”?  In order to remain relevant, schools in today’s world must equip students with skills that go beyond the basics of academic excellence.

Dr. Canton, a renowned futurist and CEO of The Institute for Global Futures, as well as a Fortune 1000, advisor, gives ten trends that are shaping the creative economy.  Trend number eight concerns education. Canton believes that the educational system today is broken and is not preparing students to be “FUTURE READY”.

The current model of education was designed to service an age that has passed us by - the Industrial Age.  The focus of the Industrial Age school system was conformity, compliance and meeting standards.  On the other hand, the present Creative Age is being fueled by innovation and creativity, highly sought after characteristics, yet hard to find and even harder to develop.

The I3 Learning™ Model with its focus is on the FUTURE READINESS of students is not a future hope, but a CURRENT REALITY at Master’s Academy and College, the first prototype school of Profound Learning.

The Current Condition

We are living in a world of massive change; we take for granted the speed of innovation that has created the world around us.  But, the next fifteen years will see an acceleration of innovation, change and disruptions on a scale no civilization has ever experienced.

Many parts of the world, such as Europe and the United States have witnessed the decline of the industrial age. The struggle of daily business will be won by the people and the organizations that adapt most successfully to the new world that is unfolding.

Who will thrive in the coming years?


James Canton in his book, The Extreme Future” lists 10 trends that are shaping the Creative Economy.  Trend number three states, “The creative economy represents the largest future threat or opportunity for your career or business – depending on whether or not you prepare for it.”  How then, does when get prepared?

A recent IBM global survey of over 700 CEOs revealed an astounding fact, that 65% of the CEOs are planning radical change to their company’s business model and of those, 61% fear that changes by a competitor could likely result in a radical change to their business landscape.

Businesses today will find it impossible to match or outperform the market without abandoning the assumption of continuity.   In other words, what has made the company successful today will not necessarily guarantee success in the future.

“A focus on cost-cutting and efficiency has helped many organizations weather the downturn, but this approach will ultimately render them obsolete. Only the constant pursuit of innovation can ensure long-term success.”

—Daniel Muzyka, Dean, Sauder School of Business, Univ of British Columbia

We are now living in a different age, the creative age and we must ask the question– are schools adequately preparing students for the world they will be entering?

As we move into the third generation of the information age, the Creative Age, a premium will be placed on our ability to create, innovate and to design.  The workers of this age will require many new skills that are not traditionally taught in schools.

Richard Florida in “Flight of the Creative Class” highlights the importance of the creative class to the overall economy.  Even though the creative class makes up about 30% of the entire US workforce, it generates close to 50% of the total workforce revenue. 

Recent global surveys with 500 leading CEOs when asked, “what must one do to survive the 21st century” answered, “practice innovation and creativity”, yet only 6% felt they knew what it was and or that they were doing a good job of it.

Business Week JANUARY 31, 2006 that the four-day World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, is over, two things, at least, are clear. First, top managers of global corporations are convinced that innovation and creativity are critical to the future success of their companies. Second, to make that happen, a massive hunt for creative talent around the world is under way.

If any single business theme emerged from the 22 sessions on innovation at Davos, it is that CEOs realize that their current corporate organizations and cultures need to be dramatically changed, and that new people with new skills have to be hired.

The world has massively changed over the past 20 years, with even more dramatic changes yet to come.  Has education kept up with these changes?  Are schools adequately preparing students to be “Future Ready” in this world of massive change?

Dr. James Canton, a futurist, CEO of the Institute for Global Futures, and author of the book “The Extreme Future”, presents the following top ten trends that are shaping the Creative Economy.

  1. A new convergence of economics, democracy, trade, and technology, will determine the future leadership of nations, productivity of business, and wealth of individuals.

  2. The mantra is “free minds, free markets, free enterprise”.  This offers the greatest prosperity-creating opportunity in the history of civilization.

  3. The creative economy represents the largest future threat or opportunity for your career or business – depending on whether or not you prepare for it.

  4. Bits, atoms, neurons, and genes are the new building blocks of the creative economy.  People and organizations that know how to leverage them will benefit.

  5. Breakthrough innovations in the four power tools – IT, Biotech, nanotech, and neurotech – will create widespread global prosperity.

  6. Individuals and organizations must quickly develop strategies for the creative economy – before their competition does.

  7. Now is the time to invest fast in people, technology, ideas, collaborations, products, and services that will build the creative economy.

  8. The education system is broken and must be reinvented to prepare nations, products, and services that will build the creative economy.

  9. The creative economy will become a potent force for global poverty reduction, borderless commerce, and democratic reforms.

  10. Knowledge, the power of creative ideas, is the currency of the creative economy.

The Current Condition of Education

C. Otto Sharmer, professor at MIT and author of “The Theory of U” states,

“We pour considerable amounts of money into our educational systems, but we haven’t been able to create schools and institutions of higher education that develop people’s innate capacity to sense and shape their future, which I view as the single most important core capability for this century’s knowledge and co-creation economy.”

Research has shown that the traditional model of education actually inhibits the development of the most essential capability for the 21st century, namely innovation and creativity

But why does creativity remain so elusive?

“Research suggests that we start our young lives as creativity engines but that our talent is gradually repressed by schools. Schools place overwhelming emphasis on teaching children to solve problems correctly, not creatively.  The propensity for convergent thinking becomes increasingly internalized, at the cost of creative potential. “

Scientific American Mind, May 2005

Traditional Model

Traditional higher education offers a lecture/ laboratory/tutorial/exam model of education. The expert will give a lecture, and you are expected to learn the material that you are lectured on. It is generally less interactive. Some people find it less frustrating because the information is given to you, you are not required to look it up and find the answers to questions on your own.

Problem Based Learning (PBL)

Problem Based Learning is a learning model that was initially developed by McMaster University and has since been adapted to various degrees in many medical schools, world wide such as Harvard Medical and University of Toronto Medical schools.

The focus of problem-based learning is the tutorial, where by a sample clinical problem or scenario is presented.  As the scenario unfolds, the group is encouraged to brainstorm to come up with issues that are important to fully understanding the scenario. These would be questions that you don’t have answers for, things you need to understand more deeply, or topics that you have yet to cover.

The basic principal behind PBL is that the starting point for learning should be a problem, query or puzzle that the learning wishes to solve set in a real world context.  Although students must engage with the process, creativity is not required; rather students become researchers of the existing knowledge base and extract the knowledge needed to solve the problem posed.  In so doing they learn the curriculum hidden within the context of solving the problem.

Knowledge- Fuel for the Creative Economy

The creative age is fueled by knowledge.  Knowledge for years was housed in massive repositories called libraries, and more specifically books.  A privileged few were given the right to publish and they became the academic elite.  The old adage of publish or perish was how a person became recognized within the establishment.  All of this began to shift with the advent of the Internet in the 1970s and 80s.  Knowledge creators were able to collaborate and share their published work electronically, but it was still within a closed circle of knowledge creators, the academic elite.

By the 1990s, a new revolution began to explode onto the scene, it was a similar revolution that was ignited with the invention of the Gutenberg’s printing press in the 1400s, but on a much larger scale – it was called the World Wide Web – the internet, that was accessible by everyone and not just the academic elite.   

User created content and social networking characterizes the emergence of Web 2.0 during the first decade of the 21st century.  Anyone can write a blog, capture a video and publish it on YouTube.  Now the media elite is being threatened by the new sense of empowerment of the masses to create all forms of media and news.  The Web 2.0 phenomena has fundamentally created a cultural shift by empowering millions of content creators.

The creative age is fueled by knowledge, there is no shortage of fuel, it is widely available and more is being created everyday.  But, how does knowledge, fuel the creative age?  At the heart of the creative age is innovation, the ability to combine ideas and knowledge in new and novel ways that results in solutions that bring value and benefit.

Education needs to respond to the dramatic changes that have occurred over the past 10-15 years.  Leading educational institutions are beginning to take on the challenge of preparing it students for the 21st century.  The founders of GEENIUS, Tom and Andy Rudmik,  both educators, envision the following:

A Systemic Change is Needed

To better prepare students for the 21st century, education must be more intentional in creating the conditions for “Future Ready” skills, which include innovation and creativity.  By individualizing the learning process, and reducing the time of delivering core curriculum, time will be freed up for more authentic learning experiences.   With this time compression, clear focus can be given on things like innovation and creativity, which are essential ingredients that fuel the creative economy. 

Structures for a New Paradigm in Learning

A system is defined as an entity that maintains its existence and functions as a whole through the interaction of its parts.  A human body is a perfect example of a system made of many parts and subsystems functioning together to produce and emergent property, which we call life.  Emergent properties are those attributes of a system that cannot be produced by any of the parts or subsystems alone.  For example we are able to see two dimensionally with one eye, but when both eyes are operational a new property emerges which is three-dimensional vision, a property that neither eye possesses on its own. 

The emergent property of 21st education is a learner who has become a designer of the future, who not only embraces change, but has become a catalyst of change.  How does one shift the paradigm of education from the ivory tower of knowledge to a dynamic knowledge creation – design oriented institution?  To do so, new system structures need to be created that will generate the new desired behaviors.

Since knowledge is the fuel of the creative economy, students must work with knowledge that results in the formation of new knowledge.  It is this new knowledge that will drive innovation and invention.  As students learn to play with knowledge, combining knowledge from various disciplines, learning to see the weak signals of what could be, a vision of future possibilities begin to emerge that will ignite the passion of the creator/designer within.