The world has changed so much in the past 20 years. Very few aspects of our world are the same. From communication, to turning on a light bulb, to sharing resources with peers; there just hasn’t been a lot that has been free of impact by innovations in technology, science, or the like.
In the past 20 years we have also moved through the Information Age, the Knowledge Society, and run smack into Collaborative/Experience Age. We have shifted from a society that leverages accessing information, to sharing information, to reclaiming our connection on a very human level. If we pay attention to what Jeremiah Owyang is talking about, what comes next will challenge our conceptions of work, relevance, and our impact even more greatly.
In short, knowing stuff is no longer enough. You have to be able to connect, apply, and adapt.
As I work with graduate students, coach adults and organizations, and support strategy for a fair amount of innovators it is clear that while things have changed around us, so too has our ability to think. As Stephen Camarata and others have suggested, even with all of our advances we have struggled with improving our capacity to think (and think critically). When we think critically, we have the cognitive capacity to connect, apply, and adapt. Without those thinking skills we can far too easily fall into a trap where our work dies on the vine of the information and knowledge age (finding little relevance in or connection to today’s world).
As I have talked with graduate students these past few years, I have found myself concerned about their ability to think. Really think. Most are good at completing tasks, following directions, and meeting timelines. But when I ask them what they have been working on it has been hyper-focused on one specific area so much so that they can’t see the connections between their work and the world around them.
The work of our graduate programs has to go beyond content, they must prepare our future leaders to think, connect, contribute, and most importantly understand.