Why Educate?

Education is important.

This societal norm is embraced by most people in North America. In fact, it is a foundational value of our social fabric. But every belief is quietly supported by a value. So why exactly is education important?

Our response to this question typically falls into one of the two following buckets:

  1. We educate to equip and prepare people for life.
  2. We educate to equip and prepare people for a job.

On the surface, these seem like simple statements. However, we must realize that our prevailing belief drive our day-to-day decisions related to education. To illustrate, consider these examples:

  • Your child is about to graduate from high school. She wants to take a year off (a gap year) to travel and take some personal development classes. You want her to begin her education degree right away so she can begin teaching as soon as possible.
  • Your rising star employee submits a request to go to a conference. The content of the sessions is outside their direct responsibilities. However, the content is helpful to their overall professional and personal development.
  • You are invited to attend a community lecture. It is on a subject that has no personal interest to you but is something that significantly impacts your community.
  • You have agreed to coach or mentor someone at work. You have a blank sheet of paper in front of you and have an hour to plan your content for the next two months.

Life preparation vs. job preparation. Our education choices are driven by one of these two motives (and occasionally by both). You have a bias towards one of these perspectives. Overall, I believe that our society places a higher emphasis on education to prepare people for work. This is validated by research that demonstrates 70% of employees do not feel engaged in their work (meaning we are more driven by the need to have a job than the need to be fulfilled).

I encourage you to draw a 1-10 scale in your mind with one choice on either end. If you have to plot your bias, where do you sit? Are you the parent pushing your child to pursue education so they can become self-reliant as soon as possible? Are you the boss who denies professional development that is broader than their job description? Are you the person who attends lectures outside of your sphere of interests just because? Or are you the mentor trying to provide both personal and professional development to your prodige?

Do you educate to prepare for life or to prepare for work?


 

Jeff Head Shot 3.jpgDr. Jeff Suderman an educator, consultant and pracademic who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman

Is Your Future Singular or Plural?

This week I asked someone a rather simple question:

“Is your future singular or plural?”

At first glance, it appears to be a rather innocent sentence. However, as you peel back the onion-like layers that enshroud this question, your answer provides significant insights about your beliefs. The easiest way to define the difference between a singular and a plural future is to tell the stories of Josh and Katie.

A Singular Future

Josh has always wanted to be a firefighter. This dream germinated when he was a young boy watching his neighbor’s house burn down. The idea has grown with him as he has matured. As a young adult, he has invested his time and training doing countless hours of physical and mental preparation. Yesterday, he finally got the letter he had been waiting for from his local Fire Department. But it held devastating news. He was not selected. Josh’s dream has come to an end and he found himself drifting as he was cut off from his anchor.

Josh struggled with his circumstances because he held one view of what the future would look like. The pursuit of a singular future can focus us, but it can also leave us without an anchor when dreams and reality collide.

A Plural Future

Katie is young college graduate, energetic and full of ideas. At times, her ideas overwhelm her because there is simply too many things that she wants to do. Yesterday, she got an unexpected letter in the mail. It was an invitation to join the Peace Corps for the next 12 months in the tiny African country of Burkina Faso. The place is so obscure she had to use Google to discover where it was! Despite her many dreams, she had never considered the Peace Corps. However, with time and consideration, she has come to realize that this opportunity aligns with her dreams, albeit in a way she would never have scripted. She has always wanted to travel, to help people and to make a difference in the world. Burkina Faso does all of these rather well and she decides to pursue this unexpected opportunity.

Katie embraced an unexpected future because she held many views of what it could look like. A plural future can feel confusing because it often requires us to hold onto conflicting ideas at the same time. However, when we understand the core values that drive our dreams, it can lead to wonderful and unexpected results. Like a year in Burkina Faso

Do you understand your personal future bias? How about your companies? Each of these two perspectives brings different strengths and weaknesses. Individuals with a singular future often pursue their goals with remarkable doggedness! But when those goals become unattainable it can cause the painful death of a dream. Future pluralists can often find unexpected success amidst an ocean of options. They can also have difficulty making decisions because opening one door often requires them to close another.

Our view of the future, whether singular or plural, significantly affects how we live. It shapes our view of risk. It defines how we perceive change. It quietly defines our views of right and wrong. It guides who we choose to spend our time with. It even affects how we manage our finances. So as Socrates once advised, “know thyself”. Is your future singular or plural?


 

Jeff Head Shot 3.jpgDr. Jeff Suderman plural futurist, consultant, professor and pracademic who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman

If Information is Power, How Do You Wield it?

The adage “information is power” is so common that we often fail to reflect on what it really means. This simple concept is foundational to how most of the world works. Our view about the power of information explains why North Americans place such a high priority on things like education (which builds information capacity), access to the internet (which provides access to information) and freedom of speech (which gives us the right to possess information).

However, if information is power, then we must assess what kind of power it wields. In and of itself, information is not good or bad. However, as we act (or don’t act) on information it inherits value. As citizens of “the information age”, what does it really mean to have access to so much information? Or to have access to so much power?

It has been said that “information is a cudgel, a beacon, an olive branch, a deterrent – all depending on who yields it and how” (Levitt & Dubner). It would seem that power and information share a symbiotic relationship. Here are two basic ways that we harness the power of information.

Information Lords: When we view ourselves as “lords”, we assume the role of an owner. We seek to use the information at our disposal for our own benefit. At times this means using it as a cudgel (think of recent political debates) and at other times we hide information in order to achieve our desired ends (illegal stock traders do this as does Kim Jong-un, the Supreme Ruler of North Korea). Recently a scandal erupted when we discovered that Volkswagen has been hiding information about their vehicle emission levels (they built their cars to cheat on emissions tests). This act reveals that those who had access to Volkswagen emissions information determined to hide it from public scrutiny. Those who act as information lords will seek to use information to build or protect their own power.

Information Stewards: A steward is different than a lord in that they understand that they are not owners. Rather, they view themselves as people who are entrusted with that which someone else owns. It may be stewards of your shareholders investments or of the well-being of others. In the early 1980’s poisoned Tylenol was discovered on store shelves. Not knowing the source of this problem, Tylenol publicly announced they were removing all of their pills from the market in order to protect consumers. This had devastating financial effects for the company. However, they realized that they were stewards of information which would save lives and acted as stewards. Those who act as information stewards will seek to use information to build up or protect those things they have been entrusted with.

As individuals and organizations, we must reflect on how we exercise the power of information. While it is easy to point fingers a Kim Jong-un or Volkswagen, we have all acted as information owners by only telling part of the story or by withholding information that helps our own cause. However, we have also had those moments when we realize that we are simply stewards of information. This occurs when you return the extra $20 in change you receive or when you admit to making a mistake that no one else knows about.

Each day presents you with countless opportunities to use information as power. Do you act as an lord or steward this information?


 

Jeff Head Shot 3.jpgDr. Jeff Suderman seeks to harness to power of information as a consultant, professor and pracademic who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman

References

Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner (2005). Freakonomics: A rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything.