Are Students Ready for an Exponential World?
I admit, I don’t know if I’d choose to put my kids in university today.
Why not? At the speed the world is moving, traditional ways of teaching and thinking just can’t keep pace. We’re already living in an exponential world, but we’re still being taught to think linearly. The two don’t mix.
An Exponential World
What do I mean by “exponential world?” It’s a term for the rate of evolution we see on a minute-to-minute basis in the technology industry. Our new exponential world is one marked by industrial, social, cultural and technological growth that is beyond the limits of the comprehension outdated institutions have taught us.
Let’s say from 1800, when Count Alessandro Volta invented the battery, to 1899 when the first bicycle frame was patented, we accounted for 100 years of human progress. Compare that to the progress made from the 1970s, when the first mobile phones were released, to the present, where the majority of the Western world can access the Internet right from their smartphones at any time. It may only be 40 years on a linear timeline, but it's thousands upon thousands of years of progress when measured alongside the 1800s.
If that’s hard to imagine - here’s another example using my favorite basketball player, Steph Curry.
Today, artificial intelligence, quantum computing and blockchain only scratch the surface of our exponential technologies. The possibilities for technology are endless, but only if we can allow our minds to think endlessly.
Linear Vs. Exponential Thinking
With an exponential world comes a necessary change to the way we think. As humans, we’re programmed to think linearly, or in ways that we can best compare to lived experience. Most of our traditional concepts are linear (think time, age, distance, etc.). So it's no surprise that we’re raised to think of things in a straight line. And for a while, linear thinking kept pace with our technological progress.
However, the only way to succeed in our new world, where progress is happening at incredible speeds, is to cut ties with linear thinking. When we start to transition to an exponential mindset, we focus on fundamentally reimagining how something is done versus making something 5-10% better.
Unlearning the Linear
We’re back to education, and how we can start to train our minds to think exponentially. Our traditional ways of teaching and learning have to change. Grading systems currently exist on a linear scale. Most primary and secondary schools still operate on a throughput or assembly line system. They push as many students through as quickly as possible.
When we ultimately place these students into jobs, on their first day, we hand them a playbook on how things have always been done. We are essentially training an entire generation of people that business has rules, procedures and processes - and they are not to be broken.
I’ll be the first to admit to my difficulties unlearning the traditional, linear way of thinking. But only when we all surrender our bad habit to focus on the predictable will we be able to move forward with exponential mindsets. Only when we start thinking in abundance will we be able to teach the same mindset to students, regardless of their discipline.