In the future culture still eats strategy for breakfast

Mark Stevenson_cropped

Mark Stevenson, ONLINE EDUCA BERLIN keynote speaker

According to experts, the digital revolution was just the trailer; the big changes are still to come and they are coming quickly. We may be getting a hold of 3D printers and keeping up with biohackers but what is really needed to embrace this change is the right culture. Is there an educational system in place to prepare for the mega trends that will shape the world in the next 30 years? 

By Annika Burgess 


Mark Stevenson, renowned author, ideas generator and futurist, says so far what we have experienced is just the beginning. Everything that has happened with digital – the democratisation of power and established players losing control of the means of production and distribution – will come to the physical world with programmable biology and programmable matter through 3D printing and nanotechnology. Adjusting to the ‘Big Shift’, he says, will mean rebooting the way we think.


“The job of us in learning is to create places where people can make sense of that; to learn about it and then know what to do with it. Then we need to ask ourselves the question: ‘In most of our institutions, whether that’s a corporation or an academic institution, do they have the right culture to embrace this radical change?’ The answer is no, because pretty much all of them are made in the model of the industrial revolution,” Stevenson says.


“We have a whole new revolution coming yet we are trying to teach people about it using the structures and the assumptions of the last one.”


A keynote speaker at ONLINE EDUCA BERLIN 2014, Stevenson doesn’t simply learn about emerging technologies, he has made it his mission to ensure we are taking the right educational approach to grab on to the future.


“People often think of me as the technology guy but even though I spend a lot of my time looking at technology and travelling around the world looking at the latest stuff – that’s part of my work – it’s hardly about technology at all; it’s about institutional change, it’s about rebooting the way we think about healthcare, education, government, food production and energy production,” Stevenson told OEB.


“For me it’s not important to question technology; for me the important question is what it does to the culture that’s in place.”


He does this through his cultural change consultancy Flow Associates; working directly with schools and organisations to help them realign their strategies and transform organisational culture to embrace creativity and innovation.


“We have met with a number of schools and it’s fascinating to me that when I talk to them about the changes in technology that are coming in regard to renewable energy, 3D printing, nanotechnology, or genetics – the things that are going to fundamentally change what’s possible in our world in a precedence fashion – the question I often ask them is: ‘Are you educating students to be able to handle that world?’ The answer always comes back as a resounding ‘no’.”


Stevenson says there is still a long way to go to change perspectives – teachers continue to ask questions “from inside the box of the institution,” such as ‘what does it mean for class sizes, how long should the classes be or does that mean we need to have more breaks in the day?’ He says this is because all of us – not just teachers – have been ‘institutionalised’.


“It’s not always the schools. When we try to change things it’s the parents that often resist, even though they hate the schooling they went through – they try to replicate it for their children because that’s what they went through. It’s kind of like the Stockholm Syndrome.”


Stevenson is ‘shaking up the system’ by introducing schools to new learning techniques that allow for a broader educational experience. One of those techniques is peer-to-peer learning.


“Everybody is different so what we do is that we work with eight principles; one that is really important to any agile culture – a learning culture – is the idea of engineering serendipity. So smashing yourself into as many new ideas or different ideas as possible because learning always occurs when two ideas have sex in your brain to create a good one,” Stevenson says.


“There are many ways you can make this happen, but one way is to not stick them in the one classroom with the one teacher to go through a curriculum created by someone who’s not in that room. You can do all sorts of things but peer-to-peer learning is one of the things that we like the most.”


In Stevenson’s experience, even though it was clear that students were learning better in peer-to-peer scenarios and in a group than they would in a ‘typical’ classroom setting, the teachers were still struggling to fathom the concept. This, Stevenson says, is one of the most difficult things to change.

“It’s really challenging culturally because a teacher values standing up and broadcasting knowledge – they think they are there to perform and educate not stand there on the side-lines. They think, ‘well, what am I getting paid for?’”


WATCH: Interview with Mark Stevenson at OEB 2014


MarkStevenson video

At ONLINE EDUCA BERLIN’s Opening Plenary, Mark Stevenson will be revealing more about the principles for cultural change, and will introduce us to some of the new technologies that will ‘change the way people think forever’.

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