Thinking out loud on education and work

I started this draft in May, and left it alone for a while as I got caught up in other things. Now that I’ve changed continents and have aligned my life and work with more of what I want to do, this feels more relevant than it ever did. It’s a snapshot, but this kind of thinking fuels why and how I do what I do: making learning at work useful, meaningful, and impactful.

Learning & Development (as traditionally assembled and installed in a company) can hardly be blamed for silo-ed learning. We’re asked to silo ourselves starting in college with our majors, which are offered by specific schools. Many American universities now have interdisciplinary degrees, cross-disciplinary centers, and/or build your own degree programs to work around this. But the traditional mental model prevails as the strongest.

We need to bridge silos, look at talents holistically instead of to solve silo-ed problems. If we can recognize that we need to stop being silo-ed to solve work problems, we also have to recognize that we need to prepare workers with the same approach to learning. For example, a political science major can do more than government work because x, y, z of her personality and experiences, life outlooks (things that are not quantifiable on a resume but make her who she is, like experiencing death of loved ones).

While we fix how we think about education, which should include framing things around big questions, teaching concepts, not subjects, and wholly emphasizing things like Emotional Intelligence, empathy, unconscious bias recognition, imposter syndrome identification and treatment, and stereotype threat, which were never named in my academic tenure.

We can start bringing these things out at work in the meantime, by framing who we look to hire by the big problems we’re trying to solve. We should have more intentional, authentic conversations around Diversity & Inclusion, and tackle issues of what unconscious biases exist, why, and how to fix. We should encourage brainstorming and innovation from the whole person, not just the part of their knowledge related to their job title.

The value add for this is BETTER: software, hardware, security, HR, L&D. Better everything. Blind spots are uncovered, audience needs are more thoroughly anticipated, better design created, and so on.