Dawn of a New World – Part 5

Here’s the 5th and last in the series of articles about the Dawn of a New World, i.e. the scenario that the Covid-19 crisis (really a Climate Change crisis) is setting for the quantum leap of humanity in a completely new dimension.

Part 5: Education of the New Leaders

It is clear at this point that the New World’s leaders will need to have very different skills from those taught today to those aspiring to leadership position. So: what about management training as we know it? 

It shall be profoundly transformed too, like the rest of our society. 

Humanities, philosophy, applied psychology, anthropology, fundamentals of biology are some of the subjects that shall enter the curriculum of new managers. Teaching structures shall shake off the usual rigid academic structures, with their lecturers unchangeably wrought in their roles and often removed from experience “in the field”, to become more open and flexible, closer to real life. 

The proliferation of courses, degrees and masters born in the pursuit of the latest trends, fundamentally motivated by profit reasons for universities, shall cease. Such paraphernalia of courses has up to now not only often deluded participants into acquiring skills and important professional opportunities, but it has also significantly lowered the average level of culture and the operational and social intelligence of management and the community alike.

Education and training centers shall also respond to actual Basic Needs of their public: their success will not derive from the artificial multiplication of services but rather from the Value generated for their stakeholders. This means providing the right training to “navigate” the world safely and effectively in the era of Climate Change.

Teachers shall be more “educators” – i.e. people who can facilitate the expression of a potential inherent in their students – than “teachers” – those who from a position of authority imprint knowledge on minds that ignore it. In addition to experts in the subjects and their concrete application, widely diverse trainers shall intervene, such as workers, craftsmen, clerks, public administrators, nurses, farmers, shopkeepers… people with life experience in many different contexts who can foster the development of a critical mind and a holistic view of problems in the future leaders.

Time and opportunities to acquire real experience shall be provided to the trainees, since little is learned about real life at university and at school: one cannot learn what India is like by staying at home and reading the National Geographic. If you can’t smell the odors, if you don’t experience the incredible crowds of a train at peak hour or a market, if you don’t walk in a Himalayan forest or through its tropical jungles, you’ll never know what it’s like. But it begets big problems if you think you do and you are in a position to make decisions impacting the lives of its people. 

“Apprenticeship” shall return to be a fundamental step for learning humility confronting any job, including management positions, and even be considered a point of honor in a resume. 

What about the teachers in the New World, now? Above all, they shall be the ones who acquire and absorb the new values, even more so than their students. It is the role models – the examples – that shape the deep culture of a generation, so the new humanist imprint shall come first of all from the example of those who have the role of educators. Here too, the academy should strip itself of its ermines and “baronies”, returning to be a place of dialogue, sharing and development of knowledge at the service of society. The “teaching staff” should be open, integrating figures such as the diverse people mentioned before, in a continuous exchange between the reality of work and education.

There are already many examples of extra-academic training worldwide, of various quality levels and some even excellent, although not equipped with the promotional means of large university institutions. The educational revolution is already underway, but it shall become mainstream quickly, in order to face the times ahead.

Another element that will characterize education in the era of Climate Change, requiring great changes, is its “public”, increasingly composed by the generations from the Millennials onwards. Such are very demanding generations, fast in making decisions like their thumbs are at typing, but for this same reason sometimes superficial, requiring a very strong charisma to get involved. Their attention generally goes more to Values than to material content. Because of the superficiality induced by the digital environment in which they grow up, they need to be strongly stimulated to learn and direct their curiosity towards complexity rather than being just attracted by speed. They are very demanding “students” for their teachers and, children of a frankly not exceptional generation of parents, they need excellent role models to inspire them. Fortunately, they are naturally inclined to sustainability and generally much more ready to adopt lifestyles adapted to the Climate Change era than their predecessors. For educators willing to engage creatively and dialogically with their students, they should constitute very inspiring cohorts.

The fast spread of “remote” education will pose an additional challenge, especially in terms of quality. In these few weeks of “pandemic” crisis there has been a proliferation of courses, webinars and other imaginative online “training” formulas. It costs little to produce them and they are an excellent vehicle to get widely known at a low investment. But the quality? If it is true that in the New World there shall be a wide access to training and information at very low cost (see J. RIfkin’s hypothesis exposed in his “Green New Deal”), on the other hand it will be very important to find ways to evaluate quality and to establish self-regulating mechanisms of “natural” selection. 

In this regard, I believe that we must learn from what is happening in the news field, where unlimited access to content production and wildly downward competition on costs have resulted in a very serious deterioration in quality and a loss of credibility in the media. Unlike Rifkin, I believe that you cannot have quality without paying for it, because to generate quality you need commitment, intelligence, culture and time, human time.

Therefore, just as well as to live in the world of uncertain-quality-information-bulimia we need the contemporary development of culture and critical sense, the same tools shall be developed in the field of education. In the medium term, the results obtained shall say whether an educational centre produces quality training or not. Easy access to information and the speed of circulation of comments and reviews shall help to make the selection faster and more efficient. However, social frequency, the constant exchange of experiences and direct information between real people, from many different backgrounds, will remain indispensable tools for the qualitative growth of our managerial classes.

Interaction from the very first years of training with people from very different backgrounds should also make it easier for leaders to fulfill their role as stakeholders’ educators. This kind of education shall be one of the main tools for the success of the radical change that the economy and society have to make. In fact, just as until now this role was acted in a hidden way, through advertising and persuasion, to stimulate consumption regardless of the Needs, now very similar skills shall serve to guide the public towards responsible and sustainable choices and lifestyles. It is feasible, without doubt, provided there is the will to do so.

This article concludes the pentalogy dedicated to the “New World” that is stemming from the “pandemic” of 2020 and will live in the time of Climate Change. Hopefully, the dramatic shift kickstarted in these months of emergency will assure a prosperous and healthy future to humanity. I trust that I have made a small contribution to the discussion on our future and that it will be possible, along these lines, to activate synergies and collaborations in the interest of us all.