The changing nature of how we learn
…it is striking to reflect on how little education has changed in recent decades. Laptops and interactive whiteboards hardly constitute disruption. Many parents bewildered by how their children shop or socialise would be unruffled by how they are taught…Economist
This extract from Schumpeter in The Economist this week has me thinking. For the last year, I’ve been working with small groups (<10) of very bright professionals in the space between conventional leadership teaching and their lived experience in environments which are the very embodiment of VUCA.
Conventional teaching is valuable. It provides context, known names, neat models and steps. It provides references and certificates. It is very comforting. It is also, inevitably, like learning to swim by reading a book. It is not that conventional learning is inappropriate; it just belongs to a different place and time, is often written in retrospect by “winners” and all too often set in either business or military contexts and places a huge emphasis on short-term “performance” whilst paying lip service to the longer term horizons of the needs of society, community building and the needs of future generations. All too often, it is packaged in financial terms and sold as “courses” by business schools. We spend a huge amount on it, to little apparent effect.
The global Corporate Leadership Training market size was valued at USD 6990.7 million in 2022 and is expected to expand at a CAGR of 13.92% during the forecast period, reaching USD 15282.36 million by 2028. Corporate training is provided to employees of an organization to bridge the learning gap. LinkedIn
The Economist article covers the rise of AI in education - not just the impact of ChatGPT on student essays but the far more interesting work underway by the major education houses, such as Pearson and McGraw Hill. Having learned from the impact of the pandemic, they are moving beyond “onlineification” of current offerings and approaches and building dedicated AIs using their own large and validated databases of information. This way they reduce the risk of generating some of the nonsense that AIs built on wider, invalidated information that general AI can suffer from.
As they do, I wonder what it does to both business schools and the leadership publishing market. Most leadership literature is rehashed versions of existing material presented in the context of an individual’s experience, with a dash of storytelling and skilful editing, but retains the major disadvantage of mass publication in that is a generalised abstraction, in order for it to appeal as wide an audience as possible to be financially viable.
If AI can learn storytelling and apply itself far better to the narrower, more specific needs of individual circumstances, from sector to culture, then historical examples and current theories could be tailored in a few moments, questioned, rehashed, and tailored without an academic or consultant in sight.
The focus would then move from knowledge to execution, which is a different game altogether. Execution is a matter for those on the ground, not those watching safely from the sidelines.
My favourite strategist. John Boyd, identified five key features as preconditions for effective execution.:
Einheit, or “oneness” - being settled and grounded, in ourselves and with those we work with.
Fingerspitzengefühle, (I love this word), or a fingertip sensitivity to unfolding circumstances, rather like the seismic vibrations that precede an earthquake.
Behendigkeit, or agility. The capability to change as circumstances change without carrying baggage.
Auftragstaktik, or “work contract”. A relationship with those we work with, based on trust, and clearly defines where responsibilities and accountabilities lie, so that individual autonomy is always available. No referring back for permission.
Schwerpunkt, or focal point - more than a goal, something to be changed……
It will be clear that no one of these can be taught or explained at just an intellectual level; they are experiential and involve working with others on things that matter. It involves intuition, empathy, awareness, and the senses. Not places where AI goes.
Here is a link to a piece by Chet Richards on the above. Chet worked with Boyd, and his site is a veritable mine of information.
I think there is a clear message here for artisans. How we do what we do and why we do it is maybe more important than how we do it. How we do things, including our use of AI, will change. but it is the “motive force” of our engagement with it, our “schwerpunkt”, that really matters.