Ability to learn : a critical 21st Century Skill & capability

When Alvin Toffler wrote “Future Shock”, I doubt if even he imagined the dizzying pace of change that has enveloped our world.

There has been disruptive change in almost all spheres of life over the last couple of decades from the way we communicate to the way we travel. However, one sphere that has been the most conservative is that of education.

Most of our education still stresses on capacities and skills that are no longer critical in the emerging world and ignores those that are gaining prominence. For example, in a world where knowledge was passed over generations by word of mouth till the world where knowledge was scarce and locked in a couple of books or brains; the ability to memorize was a critical skill. But today when you can obtain information from all over the world with a click of the mouse we need different skills.

Organizations are the first to sense this mismatch as they try to compete in the rapidly changing world where the rules of the game are broken almost as soon as they are made with human capital that has been educated with a 20th century mindset.

HR understandably laments on the lack of talent even in a country as large as India. Most people in the employable age are not employable. This gap is where we learning facilitators step in. Increasingly, we will need to train people in capacities that till now were mere options so that organizations and individuals can meet the new world on their own terms.

In the words of Howard Gardner in” 5 Minds for the future”, “In a world that shows no signs of slowing down, no individual can rest on his or her intellectual laurels. I would now add that no organization can afford such sloth either. The future belongs to those organizations, as well as those individuals, that have made an active, lifelong commitment to continue to learn.”

What are these new capacities?

This is a question that is being asked universally as companies and policy makers are contemplating on the next generation educated person.It is critical to know what do we want from our people and then focus on cultivating that. Learning facilitators can up skill the current employees, while companies work closely with academia to ensure that the next generation has the capacities that are now critical.

In my view, the most critical capacity is the #ability to learn. Learning how to learn is a capacity which is no longer optional and is a capacity that organizations and individuals are working at cultivating.