Let me tell you about this batch of young people I’m teaching : they have absolutely no initiative. I gave them a list of to-do lists while I went away to Singapore. They would’ve been able to at least come up with some learning or some questions. Nothing.
I am really wondering how these people are going to adapt and survive in a very near future where you can not get trained to learn your job, you cannot get trained to learn. Why not? Because wouldn’t I rather hire or partner up with someone who already knows how to get a particular job done or already knows how to at least learn by themselves how to get it done?
I’d like them to be able to come up to me 5 to 10 years from now and say, “See, Miss Mak, I didn’t follow a single damn thing you said and I became highly successful being passive, low-tech, shallow and inconfident.” I’d really want that because the only thing I want to see is them being successful. We’re either right or we’re successful, isn’t it?
I’m going to borrow some quotes off Tony Karrer’s blog.
As Roy Amara, Institute for the Future puts it :
We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.
It’s not the strongest of the species that survive, it’s the ones most adaptable to change. ~ Darwin
Being adaptable in a flat world, knowing how to ‘learn how to learn,’ will be one of the most important assets any worker can have, because job churn will come faster, because innovation will happen faster. ~ Friedman
The most important contribution management needs to make in the 21st Century is to increase the productivity of the knowledge worker. ~ Drucker
I have observed something when I was a teen and I believed this to be true : Whatever technology or skill a person did not grow up with, they will find awkward to use and thus unable to be adept at utilizing it and leveraging with it. Even at my age, I have to say there’s a lot of catching up to do in order to become a MASTER at using technology efficiently. People look at me and think I’m so technologically adept but it all depends on whose bar we’re measuring me against.
I look at these teens and I shake my head : they are NOT growing up using technology in an intelligent way neither do they have the intellectual and language skills that makes them competitive. I’m in Penang and there’s an almost non-existent urban, middle-class here, only working class people. Middle-classdom in Malaysia has shifted : it’s not about the house, the cars and the electronic gadgets. It’s about how much leverage a parent has against unprofitable social practices. Working class people generally feel trapped by societal expectations while middle-class people are behaving more like upper-classes; demanding autonomy, flexing their intellectual and professional muscle and making change happen for themselves.
I’m going to share a really profound anecdotal evidence gained from my conversation with my business neighbor today and I hope you put it into context and think about its implications.
The business owner next door commented on how her 19 year old daughter wants neither to learn nor to get a job and so she is selling clothes at a night market. The mom disagrees with that and says it’s not a good model for long-term earnings especially at this age and is usually only an option for those who no longer qualify for work or cut off completely from continuous professional development. I suggested that her daughter takes an internet marketing course but the mother tells me that her daughter refuses because “the earnings are too little and come too slowly.” It is pretty obvious to anyone who understands the internet marketing scene that her daughter is putting the cart before the horse but it isn’t to the young lady.
This is exactly what I mean that when we don’t have the learning to learn skill, in this case, how to find information, validate and verify it, leverage, problem-solve and create with it, we will see only faults where others see opportunities. The young lady didn’t have 21st Century Skills : How do I find information that supports and refutes the information I have? How do I validate whether what someone has told me is true, what makes it true for her, what makes it true or untrue for me? How do I find people or networks who can teach me how to leverage on internet marketing and how, again, can I validate what they’re saying?
If a person did not grow up with both the thinking and technology skills of their time, they will be left far, far behind. Put this in context with 21st Century Learning Skills and Howard Gardner’s 5 Minds for the Future and you will see that the problems have only begun for this young lady.
I know just how hard it is to break out of a social class but as egalitarian as I think I am, class does matter because of the mentality we inherit. I am fortunate to have a middle-class upbringing and I am at my wits’ end how to engage working class people and tell them their working class mentality of playing catch-up is not going to do anyone any favors.
Looking at the trends and how they are shifting and transforming societies, I can see clearly how the M-shaped society is going to occur. Working class people lack 2 drivers: technology and skills of learning. Mentality cannot be taught overnight, even if an intuitive drive for technology use and learning can be taught.
I always like to say, don’t complain, just do it. But it’s been 7 years in exile here in the gastronomical paradise of Penang. This may sound counter-intuitive but anything worth happening happens without great exertion and great effort and I’ve done as much as I can and 2010 will be my “graduation date” out of my years on this island.
I’ll let you in on why people from everywhere else EXCEPT Penang realize just how much I can give – Penang people take things for granted. It’s hard to know you don’t know anything when you don’t even have a frame of reference of what’s to know anymore.