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Perhaps the most common fear of teachers in a classroom is that of losing control. The fear of students running amok and dominating the room is enough to send many teachers back into the traditional authoritarian format, where silent and repetitive work is the key means of learning. In my experience of working with schools and teachers, the words ‘Project-Based Learning’ are often quick to conjure up these fears.
Over my years of working in the business world around ideas of innovation and leadership, one lesson I have learned is that there is a lesson to be learned in most places. I must admit though, when I sat down to watch Frozen 2 with my son, I did not expect it to be one of these places.
For as long as work has existed in the form we know it, the idea of a workplace has been a given. Work has traditionally been the place you go between 9 and 5, Monday and Friday, where the tasks of your job are conducted in the vicinity of your colleagues.
Recent years have seen changes in the workplace begin to emerge with the advent of automation and Artificial Intelligence. Working from home has become a viable option for many businesses in recent years as our capacity for online connection has increased and autonomous work has risen in popularity along with collaborative work.
Along with lockdowns, shopping frenzies and social distancing, COVID has brought the technologies that we once reserved for years down the track right to our doorstep. While Augmented Reality (AR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) have slowly but surely been infiltrating our daily lives in recent years, COVID has accelerated this to an unprecedented extent.
Whatever the circumstance, one thing we can be sure of is that the future is coming. No matter the success of the standards and systems of the past, disruption is inevitable. Incidentally, it is in crises that the future often arrives. Think back to some of the biggest technological innovations of the past and you will find yourself in the greatest wars and struggles of history.
COVID is no different. The past few months have seen the future that we knew was awaiting us arrive far ahead of schedule bringing with it the innovations and solutions that we were promised in a decade.
Think back to your teachers at school. What characterised them? In schools, the approaches to teaching and authority tend to group themselves into four key categories.
These categories apply just as readily to forms of leadership that we come across in workplaces, teams and the public sphere. The traps that teachers fall into are just as dangerous for leaders in any industry and the potential for both harm and good is just as strong.
For many of us in the corporate or educational world, the idea of a Growth Mindset has been front of mind in recent years. In many of my own books and articles I have explored what constitutes a Growth Mindset, what differentiates it from a Fixed Mindset and how it can be fostered in workers, students and leaders.
However, a recent study reveals the emergence of a third kind of mindset that has proved to propel people further into innovation, creativity and efficiency than the other two ever could.
A number of years ago, a team of researchers conducted a fascinating and somewhat callous experiment in an effort to understand the process of conditioned behaviour.
As part of the experiment, scientists placed five monkeys in a room with a staircase in the centre and a bunch of bananas hanging at the top of the staircase. Whenever one of the monkeys would try to climb the steps to reach a banana, the scientists would use a hose to spray the other four monkeys with ice-cold water — much to their irritation.
Working from home has certainly been far from bliss for many of us. Attempting to do our office work within the clutter and distraction of home, navigating complex online modes of engagement and doing so within the stress of such an uncertain time has made this new work form challenging.
However, for the generation we thought would do best with it, given their demand for flexible working hours, their technological competence and their love for independence, working in isolation has proved even more difficult.
For years, it has been clear that education needs to evolve. Many teaching methods felt outdated when I was in school, let alone for current students who are preparing for a future that is fast-approaching.
The adults of tomorrow need to be equipped with skills that enable critical, creative and innovative thinking, but the teaching of today continues to drill existing knowledge and tired paradigms into students.