Preparing Our Children For Tomorrow

The Wall Street Journal wrote an article last week titled, “The Angst of Endangered CEOs”. The article chronicled how job security is becoming a real issue for leading chief executives. The article attributes this trend to impatient investors, new technologies, and rival upstarts.

It will be interesting to see if this will persist. In my opinion, it's likely that it will. Much of the turnover is stemming from increasingly disruptive innovation that is having a profound impact. This will not only reshape industries, but it will leave everyone vulnerable in the wake of change.

While an article like this will often give pause to your personal career aspirations, I found myself thinking about what it meant for future generations. As a parent of 4 children, I am always considering what our kids will need to do in order to remain competitive in the future. As some educators would suggest, we need to prepare kids for jobs that don’t yet exist. To address this possibility, we are seeing some progressive US school districts adopting the Four Cs of 21st century learning. These are four skills that have been identified by the United States-based Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) as the most important skills required for 21st century education: creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication.

While I entirely agree that we must find a way to integrate these skills into our children’s curriculum, I also think they only scratch the surface for what will be necessary to remain competitive. We need to become more aggressive in our efforts, yet remain nimble to keep pace. Business is radically changing. Education should follow.

Here are 3 other aspects that we should consider if we want to prepare our children for a prosperous future:

Think Big - I don’t think we should ever underestimate the potential of our children. It’s been my experience that kids are far more engaged with issues that are real and relevant. Don’t play in hypotheticals… give them a whopper of a problem! For example, the US alone spends $3.4 billion on healthcare, which ⅓ of those costs are unnecessary. How can you cut those costs while improving access to quality care? The world is aging faster than ever. Today, 8% of the world’s population is over 65 years old. That number will grow to 17% or 1.6 billion people by 2050. What must we do to properly care for older adults given the shortage of caregivers and physicians? Early exposure to some of the world’s biggest challenges will not only help to establish a global perspective, but also establish a longer runway for new and innovative ideas.

Be Strategic - It still surprises me that most schools don’t include strategy in their core curriculum. Strategy is central to living. We apply a strategy to virtually every aspect of our lives from navigating our careers, managing our finances to staying healthy. It’s crazy to think something so important is often ignored. We could keep it simple. For example, apply Pareto’s Principle to a certain problem statement. What is the 20% that will give you the 80% return? I often say the word strategy is synonymous with choice, so what are those “choices” one must consider in order to achieve a specified goal? Imagine how valuable it would be if children learned a skill like this at an early age? At a minimum, it would alleviate the typical churn from the usual tactical, reactive responses.

Innovate with Technology - Albert Einstein once said, “Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” I think this quote is so appropriate given the opportunity our next generation will have with technology. We are moving into a fourth industrial revolution with major breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, 3D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology and quantum computing. Our next generation will need to get more acquainted with these emerging technologies at an early age to explore the possibilities. It will be important to find a way to incorporate this technology into the classroom setting. We should treat it no different than any other subject like math, foreign language, etc. If it is applied correctly, this technology has the potential to solve some of those systemic challenges and make the world a better place.

I am certainly not an expert in education, but I know something must change. Many schools still teach as if they are preparing children for the 20th century. The world is changing, rapidly. If the schools can’t begin to adapt, we need to rally the private sector to augment and help. It’s critically important. Our future depends on it.

What do you think? How else do schools need to adapt?