Learning to lead in the 4th Industrial Revolution
Education plays a central role in our prospects of succeeding in the 4th industrial revolution.
Throughout the ages, global revolutions have created dimensional changes in the way the world works. However, the true impact of every one of these revolutions, whether political, industrial or digital, has not been the result of the actual advances that have driven them, but rather the effect they have had to fundamentally transform the systems within which people exist and function.
The same is true of the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution in which the world currently finds itself. While a one-dimensional view of this revolution is that it is all about the convergence and disruptive effect of technology; the most important outcome of this revolution will, in fact, be the impact that it will inevitably have on human wellbeing.
With this in mind, the response of mankind to this revolution should not focus on optimising technology purely for competitive advantage or profitability. Rather, we need to prioritise the optimisation and harnessing of rapid technological advances for the purpose of enhancing human development.
Achieving this type of systems optimisation for human wellbeing is made very challenging by the narrow focus on individual survival and organisational competitiveness that the Fourth Industrial Revolution has encouraged. However, this preservation focus is taking our eyes off the bigger, arguably more important question, which is how do we as a human collective respond to the disruption around us in a way that takes the unpredictability out of this new world system and moves us all forward, together, as a human race?
It’s not an easy question to ask. And it’s even more difficult to answer. But it demands a response if the world is to have any hope of emerging from this Fourth Industrial Revolution with its humanity intact.
Ultimately, education has an absolutely vital role to play. The breakneck pace at which the world is developing is creating new social, political, industrial and digital systems.
As educators, our first reaction must be to play a role in enabling those who pass through our education systems to harness this new way of living and working in order to lead the world within these new ecosystems and ensure they promote and enable sustainable human wellbeing. And nowhere is this need for an impactful response to changing social and industrial paradigms more important than in developing regions like Africa.
One of the biggest risks posed by the rapid and massive convergence of technology, particularly for these developing worlds, is that people do not, and will not, have the capacity to fully harness the opportunities it presents to benefit human development. To mitigate this risk, education needs to adapt - and do so extremely quickly.
If my recent experiences with many leaders of tertiary institutions across the continent has shown me anything it is that our education mindsets remain largely bogged down by traditional thinking - the most prevalent of which is the concept that people go through education systems to prepare them for a job.
That is, quite simply, no longer the case. The days of job security are long gone. As educators, we should no longer be asking our young learners what they want to be one day, but rather what they intend on accomplishing; what they want to change; and what contribution they intend on making to the world.
Then we need to completely overhaul our education approach. The focus cannot be on churning out engineers, accountants and lawyers who only possess the knowledge to do the job for which they studied. Instead the key outcome of our modern education systems needs to be the development of innovators and leaders with the ability to identify trends, evaluate systems, pinpoint opportunities, drive change, and most importantly, have an impact on the world - irrespective of what line of work they end up doing.
Ultimately, the security and resilience of tomorrow’s employees does not lie in their ability to do a job. It is inextricably linked to their ability to adapt and their capacity to harness the constant flow of new knowledge to create the tomorrow they desire - for themselves, and their fellow man. And unless education is enabling them to achieve this, it is not realising its full potential, nor delivering on its responsibility, to contribute to that future.
with Standard Bank, at a one-of-of a kind confluence of global educators, industry, government bodies and thought leaders. Facilitated by leading international thinker, Peter Cochrane, former CTO at BT, Cochrane will be engaging attendees on how to best navigate the rapid disruption brought on by the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Read more:
Professor Alwyn Louw, president: Monash South Africa. Photo Supplied