female head, math symbols
male head, math symbols
How to educate for work life.

Attitudes towards knowledge

Our educational system is archaic. It was originally constructed to educate people to amass information and be submissive. It was teaching people to be factory workers. Institutions still base education on the same principles.

Information is no longer a scarce commodity

School curricula that are designed to provide students with a fixed set of information are just not effective in helping them learn. Once they finish school, young people have to decide amongst thousands of professions in a period of their life when they are at their most insecure and vulnerable. Yet, both teenagers and their parents continue to not understand and accept more holistic educational systems that give students a broader base of experience. The parents of youngsters still advise them to enrol in traditional education that may give them a debt for life, and earn them degrees that are no longer relevant. It's hard to build a meaningful life when you have a profession that isn’t fulfilling.

Traditional education is no longer working

Traditional education seems to be taking longer and is becoming more expensive, while the value of the qualifications that you get are decreasing. If everyone were educated to become doctors, lawyers or economists, then these degrees would no longer be worth much. Employers are increasingly automating and outsourcing work to cut labour costs, which means more unemployment for graduates, or getting a job that doesn’t require a college degree. Competition has become fiercer in business, but the answer isn’t always to lower prices, it might be to become more exclusive. Students can hone their profile to meet the need for a more specific combination of skills. Those who get a job quickly realise that their education is just a tiny fraction of the knowledge that they need to do their work. Employers know that employees fresh out of school need time to adapt to their way of doing things.
The best way to support learning is to have apprenticeships and mentors
Professionals soon understand that they have to continue learning all their lives, and have to learn everything instantaneously. Work life luckily provides the opportunity to continue to learn. Unfortunately, few employers have systemised this.

New knowledge is scarce

There is information overload, but that’s not the main problem. The problem is that new knowledge is scarce. Peasants who moved from the countryside to work in factories in the old days had to deal with a change from their simple agricultural life to industrial work that was more complicated. Being a farmer was hard work, and because farmers didn’t know enough about agriculture, their simple processes didn’t yield enough revenue. Nowadays professionals have to struggle with problems that are complex and sometimes chaotic. Explicit knowledge doesn’t help with those kinds of problems. The only way to gain traction is to start doing something. Key players who discover unsatisfied needs and see underutilised capabilities are the ones who learn something new. By using the tools and knowledge they already have, by experimenting and playing with new ways of doing things, they will find the new knowledge they didn’t know existed.

No words to describe knowledge

The people who were immersed in something called the World Wide Web in the early nineties were on the periphery of what other professionals were doing. It didn’t seem important at the time. Kids in California who attached wheels on boards to go 'sidewalk surfing' in the fifties were gaining skills that nobody else had.
By playing, you will find new knowledge
People on the edges of established knowledge gain access to the knowledge they need, when they need it. It’s a combination of problem-solving and just playing with something that’s enjoyable. Their knowledge is tacit, and it’s difficult to codify it and make it explicit, not because they don’t want to convey it to others, but because they lack the language to express it. They don’t have words that cover what they’ve found because they don’t know its significance yet.

Learners see, hear, and feel

The best way to learn something is to be told something, then be shown it, then try it yourself and then apply it. Luckily, the best way for someone to codify the tacit knowledge that they’ve acquired is to show how it's done. Verbalisation doesn’t always have to come first, and tactile approaches may be executed before reasoning. For both parties in a learning transaction, it’s better to use as many senses as possible, so that the learner can see, hear, and feel something. Signals from perception trigger emotions and emotions help us remember and connect information to what we already know. The best infrastructure to support this kind of learning is to have apprenticeships and mentors both in educational institutions and in workplaces. Businesses and schools should resemble each other and if possible contain both. If companies were more preoccupied with learning, and schools more concerned about work, it would be easier for all stakeholders to find meaning in what they are doing.

An infrastructure to convey tacit knowledge

People who own the most valuable knowledge are often difficult to find and identify. They’re not necessarily trying to hide, they just might not realise that what they know is important. In the book "The power of Pull”,* John Hagel, John Seely Brown and Lang Davidson show that knowledge flows between the main players in a network. Students and professionals who want to access the new knowledge need to continuously update their 'stock' of knowledge by immersing themselves in these 'flows' of knowledge.  By immersing yourself in new experiences and with new contacts, or setting a scene for serendipity to happen. To access the new, most valuable knowledge more easily, employers and aspiring apprentices need 'editors' who curate collections of people and make their knowledge explicit. It’s a highly important role to be the one who connects the core of an industry with what’s happening on "the edge". We need to build platforms with an infrastructure of tools for creation and communication devices that make it easy to codify tacit knowledge to convey and acquire explicit knowledge.
Christian Leborg

Christian Leborg

Christian Leborg is a visual communicator and branding consultant. He specialises in building brand strategies and brand identities. Christian has worked with several specializations within visual communication as well as teaching and being an author. Christian now works on his third stint as an entrepreneur.