I am a teacher. More specifically, I am a professor teaching undergraduate and graduate students. I have been involved in higher education for more than thirty years, enjoying both teaching and administrative appointments but spending about one-half of that time teaching. I have also engaged in a variety of pursuits including the practice of law, a technology related entrepreneurial venture and some non-profit work in healthcare, among other ventures. You get the idea, a bit eclectic, but for the most part, very interesting and challenging.
Over the years, I have watched my students face any number of challenges … including most that you would expect. The good news is that most of those challenges were met and addressed reasonably successfully. The challenges that I believe are not being addressed reasonably successfully are related to the impact that technology mediated innovation is having on their future prospects.
The challenges that I refer to will not be a surprise to those of us who pay attention to developments in technology mediated disruption and innovation. If you are unfamiliar with these developments I suggest that you visit the World Economic Forum’s September 2015 report, Deep Shift: Technology Tipping Points and Societal Impact or the SAP report, 99 Facts on the Future of Business in the Digital Economy. You might also take a look at The Fourth Industrial Revolution by Klaus Schwab and The Second Machine Age by Brynjolfsson and McAfee.
The presumptions of the last 50+ years have been, or will be, upended at a speed and intensity that many cannot even imagine. Our education system remains focused on a model that was quite useful when we were an industrial economy but has clear shortcomings when we are thoroughly engaged in an information based economy. The conventional wisdom … that good grades at a good school would deliver a good career … is a bit thin at this point.
My best advice to my students is that they must be the most flexible, adaptable, imaginative and resilient person in the room. In other words, in addition to any subject matter expertise or substantive experience that they have mastered they must also add a somewhat different perspective to their learning. I have developed the FAIR Framework to support that perspective and build out their portfolio. What, then, are the pillars of this framework?
Flexibility, the first pillar of the FAIR Framework, requires you to remain open to new ideas … alternatives that challenge the status quo … frequently in ways that seem to be ridiculous, frivolous or just impossible. In fact, you must diligently attempt to identify those trends in advance to the extent possible.
Adaptability is the second pillar. The influences described above … those that require flexibility … are driving change so rapidly that if you cannot adapt you will fall behind. Your future will require you to quickly adapt to changed circumstances.
The third pillar of the framework is imagination. We are all aware of the value of creativity in our society. If we can’t imagine a solution then we cannot successfully implement one. The value of imagination cannot be understated.
The final pillar is resilience. Those who actively engage will occasionally experience failure. Many argue that if you never fail you simply have not tried hard enough or taken sufficient risk. If you engage with the intensity required by the first three pillars you will undoubtedly fail, perhaps more than occasionally. But you will learn from those failures and resilience will help you to recover effectively and move on to the next challenge.
The FAIR Framework recognizes attributes that are essential for us all if we are to be prepared for the disruptive possibilities that the trends described above represent. All of us who coach, advise or mentor anyone should be helping them to recognize, and develop, the attributes that will support them as they navigate the challenges they will inevitably face.