Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Disruptive Education

I encourage entrepreneurs to look at industries that haven't changed much in decades to find ripe opportunities for new, more sustainable approaches. Our education system certainly qualifies. What are the skills and experiences that our citizens will need to survive and prosper in this world? Innovation, Languages, Creativity, Cultural awareness... Was our public education system designed to deliver these skills? No. It was designed to make sure farmers could read. Then modified after WWII to teach math, science and engineering. Now, I am not really sure what it is designed to do (but will observe we need to import students to actually do upper level math, science and engineering).

So, I'd encourage students to take responsibility for the content of their education. In the immortal words of Mark Twain, "never let your schooling interfere with your education." Pay attention to the advice of mentors and professors whom you trust, but understand that the curricula which shape your education didn't come engraved in stone. You probably have a better sense of what you need to know than the professional educational establishment does.

In other posts, I have discussed the book Medici Effect, which does an excellent job of discussing how innovation is fostered by intersections of cultures and disciplines. These can be random or intentional. This is what at least part of your education should be about. Sure, you need to build some expertise in a discipline, but don't confine yourself. Seek out the random intersections. Go to those seminars that don't have much to do with your field. Put your mind on "open" and see what occurs to you. This is what is going to lead to the disruptive innovations that will change the world. Innovation comes from inspiration and perspiration, but also combination.

What got me going on this? Well, I saw a few students skipping class today to attend the Focus the Nation events at Colorado State. And last week I encouraged a student to attend a session with Susanne Jalbert about entrepreneurs in Iraq, in lieu of her regularly scheduled classroom activity. I'd encourage students not to feel guilty when they do this- don't think of such activity as "skipping" a class, but rather as "leapfrogging' a class. Right DC and Chex?

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