The Age of increased Agility and Relearning

“We should be able to learn curiously, apply the learnings to problems faced by the society and contribute progressively to the future”

Peter Drucker

We are always changing, the world around us is always changing, the geography, the people, the culture and everything else is changing at a steady pace. We as humans are entrepreneurial and agile in nature and we embrace change better than any other species on earth. New discoveries and innovations drive new solutions and ideas exponentially. The future calls in us for more polymaths who can think across disciplines and derive solutions interdisciplinary, thereby being innovative in solutions to evolving problems. Our current system of education is not flexible enough to the changing times especially adapting to the rapid changes in technology and innovation. We have to take advantage of the technological advances and the new and improved ways of learning new things across a wide variety of subjects to come up with solutions for the problems of today and tomorrow. For the progress we made as a society from being a nomadic hunter gatherer society to a self sufficient advanced urban lifestyle community there are few common attributes that has helped us shape ourselves – curiosity, learning and agility!

The evolution from Homo Erectus to Homo Neanderthals and then to Homo Sapiens and the greatest discoveries of our planet which changed the way life evolved over the past million years including the discovery of fire. The ability to control fire set the tone for future generations of primates and eventually us getting smarter with bigger brains. The output of human ingenuity, power and resolve is second to none as history tells us we are by far the most intelligent and dominant species on this earth. The age of renaissance paved the way for a new path in the arts, science, philosophy, free thought and more importantly – believing in things contrary to popular beliefs held at that time. If the renaissance period is a bridge between the old and new ages of the world, how relentless curiosity made polymaths and how they applied the learning’s from their intense curiosity to problems they had at their times is a great indicator of how problems of today can be solved. Renaissance period is a significant time period in which a new enthusiasm came where interdisciplinary reasoning came into being. Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press changed the way information got disseminated across the masses, thereby improving access to knowledge. The phenomenon spread to the whole of Europe and ideas traveled across borders, thereby increasing the ability to create new solutions for a wide variety of problems, across a spectrum of topics.  

Printing Press

Today, we live in a world where things are progressing rapidly. We have changes in technology, challenges like climate change and the environment and uncharted territories like the Artificial Intelligence and Automation. With the internet and seamless transfer of information across borders there is a renaissance on how data and information are transforming the world. We produce more data from all the products and services we use when compared to the past and its exponentially increasing every minute. To take advantage of the interdisciplinary thinking we need more than a regular education track, which only caters for a world of the post war years. Today schools cannot teach us everything that we have to learn for a successful career, the whole concept of higher/specialized learning itself is going through a huge transformation. Due to high agility in progressive new ideas taking shape every few years people have to re-calibrate what they know and acquire working knowledge of new technology and solutions to be successful not just at work but even in our day to day living routine.

Looking at the empirical facts we have access to from the past, the idea of relearning takes center stage and is more prominent. If we track the technologies that changed the way people lived and worked as well as the average life expectancy at birth over the past three centuries post renaissance, there are interesting correlations. During the early industrial revolution up until the end of the 18th century, one can go to school, learn a trade or technology and can have a career in the trade or technology they learnt till they died or until another disruption came into their lives. The average career span was around the same time a new general purpose technology came into existence. This has been the case for the post war years when the baby boomers came up and the productivity of the world increased in the peace years, economies started booming, populations increased and a time of unprecedented growth took place post 1950s.

Steam Engine

Though the shift was happening slowly, now things are slowly getting reversed, career span has increased and multiple technologies are coming into existence simultaneously or at a faster pace. With the advent in medicines and technology people are living longer and average life expectancy has increased significantly. Earlier people were not living longer, they learn something when they were young, the practice that and they died earlier before something new came up and changed the way they did things within their life span in most cases. Now people are looking at longer time-frames for their life on average and every few years they have to up-skill, learn and relearn things to keep up with the world. Access to information and transparency is at an all time high now and with internet, social media these days any new piece of information gets passed on instantly across the world including disruptive new innovations. This makes things easier for the people to take up and learn new things, be agile and compete in a fast moving world. On the contrary if we are not ready for the agility, things become complicated.

YearHistorical General Purpose TechnologiesAverage Life Expectancy at birthAverage Career Span
1780Steam Engine<4020
1860Internal Combustion Engine4222
1910Mass Production5535
1960Lean Manufacturing7151
Historical General Purpose Technology evolution, Life Expectancy and Career Span

Artificial intelligence, Gene editing, Robotics, Energy storage, Blockchain technology, Space travel, Cloud Computing, Internet of Things are some of the Disruptive technologies that we hear people talk about the next big thing that will impact our lives. If you see the table above, there was one disruption that came into existence every few years and now there are multiple disruptions happening simultaneously. Most people who finished school in the last few years have not had any formal training or exposure to any of these technologies. 21st century needs polymaths and great innovations combine science with the arts and so on becoming interdisciplinary.

We are the only species on this earth that can connect with fellow members of our species on abstract ideas like a nationality, favorite soccer team or a preferred rock band and so on [4], how different we might look or how diverse our background is we can always find ways to connect. This ability to connect across the spectrum has indeed made us the dominant species on this planet outsmarting all other creatures who don’t have this ability. With the ability to connect with other and the ability to be more agile and adapt ourselves to the changing realities of the world in a far quicker pace we can create a better and sustainable world for not just ourselves but also for our future generations! The only way humanity can keep and continue its progress in a world of disruptive innovations will be to keep changing that incorporates continuous learning plan for all of us at all stages of life. Public policy should be formulated supporting this and this only will solve the problems of the future. Be Curious and Agile, Relearn and Reinvent!