Monday, March 18, 2013

Learning Agility

I have been thinking about what makes you desirable in the workforce, hirable  or in demand... I don't know that I have the answer, though I do have thoughts on the matter. 

Being highly educated is great and it may look wonderful on a resume, but it certainly does not guarantee a job, much less a career. Far from true, I know a recent law school graduate that has yet to find a job... going on 6 months now. I once worked with a rough neck hanging drywall in my teens who had a Master's in English Literature. We both worked shirtless, without insurance  covered in dust and grime for 8-12 hours a day without overtime or insurance. Recently a former student implored his hundred or so Facebook friends to tell him why he should stay in college and not just go back to hunting and fishing in his home village. I told him it was all about choices. 

Choosing to be a professional fisherman and subsistence hunter and gatherer in a remote village is quite noble and, I admit, fairly enticing. The average Alaskan fisherman probably makes about as much as a teachers in most of the country after all. The point is that I can save a few thousand dollars, buy a boat, motor, net, and gear and try my hand at fishing any time I choose. Your average fisherman cannot throw on a suit, hobnob with education elites, and chat about the next technology horizon. I can choose. Living without choices can be a prison. 

It's time for a jail break from the cell block of traditional education! 

This picture is so fitting because the iPad offers so much... The HUGE remote is an old laser disk remote, which though laughable in size was an incredible device in it's time. Now not only do we not have to get up, but we can record our favorite shows from an app on our phones. The computer, an Apple circa late 80's, complete with a floppy disk for sharing files, is now a dinosaur to youngsters Bumping, Dropbox-ing, or Google Driv-ing files to each other (collaboratively editing real time, I might add). The mouse has a single button, a ball, and a wire... crazy, I know! Now we touch things with several fingers at once, if we touch at all. DViT technology is infra red light and camera based and who hasn't played an Xbox Kinect in this day and age?! Then there is the less familiar document camera, which obviously is wired, low quality and utterly inferior to the iPad in image quality, not to mention the editing and enhancements available through thousands of apps. Finally there is the rat's nest of components mounted to the wall. The latest iPad is superior in display to the monitor, faster than the Mac Mini from startup to surfing the web, and easier to use than the Polycom CoDec (VTC equipment). I can join a VTC from my phone or iPad and even control other PCs simultaneously with apps like Bridgit from SMART. I won't even mention the DVD/VCR... lets just say I haven't cried over scratching my favorite movie in iTunes a single time.

I think the future of success will be defined in terms of our ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn new schemata. Finding tools and resources, connecting talent and needs, and building a network far greater than previously imagined is the key. Social media and the internet in general will allow for instant access and collaboration on levels not yet dreamt of. The speed at which one masters all of these skills will determine their success. I recently read an article which referred to this as "learning agility." I think it fitting, even alluding to the physicality involved in the process of learning and growth in terms of brain development.  

Ponder this: do you get frustrated when asked to do something that "already works perfectly well the old way" in a new format or on a new device? 

If you do, I challenge you not to learn how to use the proverbial iPad in my picture above... but to learn, then unlearn the iPad as you know it. The future is now, and we need all the practice we can get. Practicing in a class is expensive, sometimes effective, rarely fun, but ultimately optional.

Get ready. Get agile.