A Mindset for the 21st Century ?/by B von Stamm/July 2016


Education, education, education. We hear a lot about the importance of getting the education for our children right. I absolutely agree. For example, if we were not educating creativity out of children we would not struggle so much revitalising it once children have become grown-ups… British comedian John Cleese has shared some interesting thoughts on creativity (and many other things) recently.

However, in many respects am more concerned about the education of those in devision-making positions today, rather than the upcoming generations. Why? For those growing up right now, the reality of the 21st Century is their ‘normality’, given that we tend to perceive as ‘normal’ that which we experience on a daily basis. They inhale the speed of change, the interconnectivity, the convergence, the uncertainty and complexity every day; for them linearity and predictability are concepts of the ‘olden days’.

Yet not so for many of those in decision-making positions today who are often too busy ‘doing’ to sit back, observe, think and reflect. And don’t forget: their way of thinking and behaving has taken them to where they are today … at the top. Yet management guru Gary Hamel pointed out in his Harvard Business Review article “Strategy as Revolution” (back in 1996!), ‘Experience is valuable only to the extent that the future is like the past. In industry after industry the terrain is changing so fast that experience is becoming irrelevant and even dangerous.’

Even those who take some time out to keep in the learning loop and attend executive programmes to further their thinking will find that most executive training runs along the well trodden paths of the 20thcentury, no chance of creating a mindset appropriate for the 21st century. (Well trodden paths always reminds me of a poem by Sam Foss that Mark Brown, creator of the Dolphin Index and good friend of the Innovation Leadership Forum, once shared with me – have a read!). Where is the experiential learning that facilitates deep understanding? Where is the deep integration of content that is required to match reality’s high levels of complexity? Where is the courage to put soft skills, emotional intelligence and intuition at par with analysis, predictability and numbers? I am all with H.R.H The Prince of Wales who said, “Much of our education seems to have been designed to destroy what is so unique in humanity – the balance between our rational and intuitive selves.” (I found this lovely quote in the newsletter of one of our ILF Wider Community members; Penelope Tobin – have a look at her blog).

We are talking about the need for a different skill set – as for example, shown in the list of top 10 skills required in 2015 and 2020 from a 2015 report of theWorld Economic Forum (you can read more here). Yet do you feel that is something that is being taught ? At school? In executive education?

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Yes yes, I know there are exceptions, and that’s what they are … exceptions, and certainly not as widely spread as they would need to be to have an impact and change mindsets on a broader basis.

What can we do to nurture these skills?

This is part of the Innovation Leadership Forum’s mailout of 19th February 2016.

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