Going green: Our post-industrial imperative

Peter Senge, Bryan Smith, and Nina Kruschwitz wrote an article in Booz Allen Hamilton Inc.‘s strategy+business on transforming business thinking to combat climate change.

We cannot meet the 80-20 challenge under the present industrial system. Success will require a sea change in the prevailing kinds of energy we use, cars we drive, buildings we live and work in, cities we design, and ways we move both people and goods around the world. It will require other changes that no one can yet imagine. That’s why basic innovation is so important: Humans must rapidly rethink and rebuild their infrastructure, technology, organizations, and approach to working with nature. Meanwhile, the growing recognition of this 80-20 challenge [to generate an 80 percent reduction of worldwide emissions in 20 years] — among scientists, businesspeople, and citizens — is itself a signal that the industrial age bubble has reached its limits, just as general recognition of the unsustainability of many Internet businesses preceded the bursting of the dot-com bubble of the 1990s.

Indeed, the industrial age is over (at least in industrialized nations), and the world is moving toward a socioeconomic system that favors knowledge and innovation over industrial outputs.  Global climate change is creating an imperative for ecologically sound, innovative transformations of industries and society.  The idea of “business as usual” is no longer economically sound or socially acceptable.

When we talk about schools going green, we often focus on energy efficient classrooms, lunchroom waste reductions, and conservation of office supplies.  Far less frequently, we talk about helping students build a capacity to innovate toward creating ecologically-sound solutions.  We’re producing students that will be successful in 19th or 20th century assembly line jobs, but not for roles they will need to assume in a knowledge- and innovation-based society.

No more business as usual means we can no longer do education as usual.

With this in mind, it’s perhaps appropriate to round off Cobo‘s list of skills for knowledge workers with a final point: be responsible. These are all items that schools should work on developing in the communities they serve:

  1. Not restricted to a specific age.
  2. Highly engaged, creative, innovative, collaborative and motivated.
  3. Uses information and develops knowledge in changing workplaces (not tied to an office).
  4. Inventive, intuitive, and able to know things and produce ideas.
  5. Capable of creating socially constructed meaning and contextually reinvent meanings.
  6. Rejects the role of being an information custodian and associated rigid ways of organizing information.
  7. Network maker, always connecting people, ideas, organizations, etc.
  8. Possesses an ability to use many tools to solve many different problems.
  9. High digital literacy.
  10. Competence to solve unknown problems in different contexts.
  11. Learning by sharing, without geographical limitation.
  12. Highly adaptable to different contexts/environments.
  13. Aware of the importance to provide open access to information.
  14. Interest in context and the adaptability of information to new situations.
  15. Capable of unlearning quickly, and always bringing in new ideas.
  16. Competence to create open and flat knowledge networks.
  17. Learns continuously (formally and informally) and updates knowledge.
  18. Constantly experiments new technologies (especially the collaborative ones).
  19. Not afraid of failure.
  20. Oriented toward building positive social, economic, and ecological futures.