Archive for June, 2016


Thursday, June 2nd, 2016


When it comes to change, education plays a crucial role.

“The secret of freedom lies in educating people, whereas
the secret of tyranny lies in keeping them ignorant.”
(Maximilien Robespierre, lawyer and politician)

As we have seen, skills have a shelf life in today’s rapidly changing world, meaning that the “education – work – retirement” model has effectively – you probably guessed it – retired.

Do robot counselors, simplicity experts, new science ethicists or climate change reversal specialists ring a bell?

Does wisdom have a shelf-life as well?

What about morality?

These are just some of the new jobs in the near future. A future, in which lifelong learning is not only a must, but also a fantastic opportunity to add to the quality of our lives.

“We want our students to have the intellectual tools
to succeed at jobs that don’t even exist yet.”
(Stephen Kosslyn, founding dean Minerva Schools)

“As I grow older, I constantly learn more.”
(Solon, statesman)

“Knowledge has to be improved, challenged and
increased constantly, or it vanishes.”
(Peter Drucker, management consultant and educator)

We should therefore look to enhance our willingness and ability to learn, thereby redefining the relationship between “life-time”, “work-time” and “learn-time”. “Work and learn” becomes a lifelong experience leading to more than one career.

“Nothing is more terrible than ignorance in action.”
(Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, writer and statesman)

For schools, it means teaching what is going to become relevant, but also “un-teaching” what’s become irrelevant, the latter being quite difficult.

But who will educate the educators?

Who can change older people to tech younger people to embrace change?

There is another problem. In some cases, learning is anchored as a duty in our brain – something that we must do – rather than a positive, pleasurable experience. Not only that, but quite a few people – including myself by the way – didn’t study what they were really passionate about. Often, because they didn’t know or didn’t dare to say at the time. Keep in mind the positive correlation between the difficulty of a task – be it field of study or job – and the emotional involvement. The less involved we are, i.e. the less passionate, the more difficult the task at hand.

“Man works when he is partially involved.
When he’s totally involved, he’s at play or leisure.”
(Marshall McLuhan, philosopher)

The unfortunate consequence being that these unhappy students often wind up in the wrong jobs, potentially turning into disgruntled, unmotivated and disengaged employees. Being perceived as bad employees, many risk being fired sooner or later. But there are no bad employees per se, there are just plenty of people in the wrong jobs, often having been taught the wrong thing. Everyone loses, employees, employers and society as a whole.

What a terrible waste.

“We receive three educations, one from our parents,
one from our school masters and one from the world.
The third contradicts all that the first two teach us.”
(Charles de Montesquieu, lawyer and philosopher)

Judging from my own experience, I am convinced that we have to spend more time to find out what children are really passionate about and educate them accordingly, as opposed to churning out human replacements, i.e. industrious human capital, for the economy, regardless of individual talents.

Shouldn’t schools educate self-reliant citizens, rather than “producing” loyal,  productive employees?

Isn’t the latter impossible in a world, where skills have a shelf-life?

What about fostering radical thinking and some anarchy?

Can attitude be taught?

What about teaching young people to search for their passion and turn it into their mission?

Teach them to think for themselves, to learn, to observe, to analyze?

Teach them to use their own understanding and to stand up for their beliefs?

Teach them the ability to forget and to change often?

And don’t encourage them to memorize. When I went to school, many failed because their ability to memorize was substandard. Again, what a waste.

“You cannot teach man anything, you can only help him discover it in himself.”
(Galileo Galilei, physicist and astronomer)

What about a highly personalized course of study leading to individualized academic degrees, rather than standard ones, making sure that the best use is made of the individual talent every human being has?

For example, I studied economics, which in retrospect wasn’t the right decision. Actually, it didn’t feel right at the time either. Combing my topics of interest wasn’t an option at the time for various reasons. I was told that such a combination couldn’t result in a degree, that I wouldn’t be able to find a job etc. It just didn’t fit in. All too often, we prioritize and think what would be good for our “curriculum vitae”. By doing so, we forget what would be best for our “vitae”. At least I did and made the mistake of studying what I didn’t really feel like studying.

We really should listen to ourselves more often.

Isn’t it also true, that more and more companies hire for attitude and train for skills?

The current German Chancellor is a physicist by the way.

“I believe in two principles: Your attitude is more important than your
capabilities. Similarly, your decision is more important than your capabilities.”
(Jack Ma, entrepreneur)

Disruption anyone?

Entrepreneurial thinking and marketing applied to education?

More often than not, we are surrounded by models, products and services built on the logic of the past. We must challenge conventional wisdom, think what no one else is thinking.

Disruptive hypotheses are true game changers. We must ask “What would happen if …..” more often.

But this disruption must be responsible. Otherwise we’ll just end up with more planned obsolescence. Therefore, ethics and ethical mentoring are equally important. To close the gap between skills and wisdom, ethics has to be an integral part of education from early on. The Humanities need to be taught as soon as possible, they are institutionalized lateral thinking.

Just observe what is happening in the world today and you’ll realize the relevance.

We have to liberate ourselves from market requirements. It’s not just what the market wants, but what humanity needs that matters.

I was fortunate enough to attend a French high school – a Lycée – for several years, where philosophy was a required course. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of not applying what I had learned when deciding what to study. Fortunately, I rediscovered what I had learned later on in life.

“The best way to teach morality is to make it a habit with children.”
(Aristotle, philosopher)

We must not only be taught to do things right, we must also be taught to do the right things. Develop a personal ethical responsibility, in order to follow a morally correct path. Brave individuals willing to shoulder this responsibility are usually the ones initiating change, just look at religion. They wield social influence to get others to share and support their cause. They lead.

Personal responsibility

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016


The time has come to rethink the principle of leaders and followers, including the distribution of responsibilities. We must stop always looking for leaders, prophets or white knights to lead the way – but not necessarily come to the rescue – once things become a bit complicated.

Hiding behind institutional bureaucracies is lazy, gutless, ineffective and usually very expensive.

As a matter of fact, if we were to accept more personal responsibility, were trustworthy and would adhere to the subsidiarity principle, bloated bureaucracies would disappear.

“Tis the time’s plague when madmen lead the blind.”
(William Shakespeare, poet and playwright)

“If the creator had a purpose in equipping us with
a neck, he surely meant us to stick it out.”
(Arthur Koestler, author and journalist)

But it is not just about the neck

We have eyes to see, but do we observe?

We have ears to hear, but do we listen?

We have a mouth to talk, but do we speak up?

We have a brain to think, but do we use it?

We have muscles to move, but do we stand up?

“To avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.”
(Aristotle, philosopher)

“Those who have the privilege to know have the duty to act.”
(Albert Einstein, theoretical physicist)

Delegation all too often means giving up responsibility and then becoming reliant on those exploiting our weakness and cowardice. We lose our freedom and become prisoners. Prisoners of our habits and those shaping and controlling them. Once many disengage and others quickly exploit, our societal model breaks down. We know that silent majorities are no majorities, as silence gives consent.

“Qui tacit consentire videtus.”

But once majorities engage and stay engaged, minorities will find it difficult to exploit, regardless of the available technology.

“We are responsible for what we do, but also for what we don’t do.”
(Voltaire, philosopher)

We must learn to help ourselves and when – for practical purposes – some sort of representation is unavoidable, we must make sure to choose our representatives wisely and hold them accountable at all times. The revolutionary and politician Lenin believed that “trust is good, but control is better”. Unfortunately he is right. Transparency is control and therefore key in this context.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, it almost seems like the only good voter-consumer is the transparent voter- consumer. In reality, representatives and companies are the ones that have to become more transparent, a lot more transparent.

“We are moving from the central to the decentralized, from vertical to horizontal,
from top-down to bottom-up. It has taken society more than a hundred years
to build up this centralized, top-down, vertical society. So we are going to have
to learn and unlearn a great deal. The biggest obstacle is between our ears.”
(Jan Rotmans, professor)

On our planet, gravity, i.e. top-down, is a physical law, not necessarily an organizational one.

Haven’t you ever wondered, how many CEO’s would insist on a top-floor office in a high-rise without elevators?