What is the future for our children? What will the world look like in ten years (in 2022) when our current 7th graders graduate from college? How do we prepare our children to be the trend setters, the problem solvers, the content creators, and the ethical leaders? How do we prepare them to survive, thrive, and shape the world that they live in?
At Head-Royce, I know that we need to strike the right balance between content and creative culture. By content, I mean what are the essential foundational concepts that all highly educated people should know? By creative culture, I mean the school needs to be a place where innovation, invention, discovery, failure, problem solving and experimentation are valued and imbued. I don't believe that content and creative cultures are mutually exclusive. In fact, they should be intricately intertwined.
One way to find this balance is to keep in mind the importance of passion and purpose.
Kids are motivated when it comes to things that they are passionate about. When we expose them to a wide range of subjects and teach them about how these disciplines directly impact their lives and the world around them, the magic of learning takes place.
Finding purpose and a sense of meaning is equally important to our young people. They don't like to live in the land of the abstract and unconnected. In fact, social media has helped to shape this generation's insistence on the real, in real-time, in a highly inter-connected manner. Yes, this is a very now-centered generation. However, our kids do care about becoming people of substance. They are concerned about fairness, justice, and equality. Our school's mission matters to our students.
I am constantly thinking about the future of education. It is what drives much of what I read and study. Some of the periodicals that I read and recommend are: Education Week, The New York Times, the BBC, Harvard Business Review, The Atlantic, Brain Pickings and Ted talks. I am heartened to read that the issues facing education are aligned with the issues on the minds of this current generation of young business leaders.
From my perspective, here are nine of the big issues facing education today:
1. How will the democratization of and ubiquity of information impact the role of the teacher?
2. How will technology impact and potentially improve teaching and learning?
3. How will the declining state of public education in the United States impact the future of our economy and our sense of connectedness as a nation?
4. How will population growth and the emergence of new economic and cultural world powers impact what is important to know?
5. What are the essential tools, skills, and content for the 21st century curriculum?
6. How do we create truly transdisciplinary, project based learning communities that prepare kids for engaged citizenship in the 21st century?
7. How do we instill a sense of urgency around the issues of natural resources, clean energy, global health, and poverty?
8. How do we instill the importance of ethical behavior across every industry?
9. What does being global mean for our students?
Current Harvard Business School MBAs were asked about the big issues on their minds. They listed: globalization, sustainability, technology, diversity, learning and convergence of the public and private sectors.
In a recent Harvard Business Review piece, they described a study, in which they wanted to understand what was important to some of the brightest young minds entering the work force. Passion and Purpose: Stories from the Best and Brightest Young Business Leaders. December 2011.
If the research is emblematic of young minds, the results are very encouraging. It also is inspiring to me as school head because I see profound similarities between the perspectives of these graduate students and our children here at HRS.
"We wanted to get to know this new set of emerging leaders better. After analyzing the stories of young leaders and conducting a survey of over 500 current business school students, we discovered that their worldviews and backgrounds differ strikingly from previous generations". Here are some highlights from the article:
- They're highly educated: 54% of Millennials have college degrees, compared to 36% of Boomers.
- They're focused on sustainability: 65% of MBAs believe that the scarcity of resources will significantly impact businesses in the next few decades, compared to 29% of CEOs.
- They seek meaning: intellectual challenge is the most important reason for choosing a job.
- They're global: The average number of countries where respondents intend to work within ten years of graduation is 4.6.
- They're looking to "connect the dots" between sectors: 84% believe its essential to understand the for-profit and non-profit sectors.
Young business people are thinking about leadership in different ways, and a new leadership ethos is emerging.
For starters, young leaders are creating opportunities across sectors - and borders. One of our survey respondents argued, "Business leaders will be forced to recognize and serve a broader community of stakeholders than in previous generations." This "broader community" transcends both sector and geographical boundaries. Furthermore, the fast paced nature of globalization was summed up by another young leader: "Simply understanding national surroundings will no longer be sufficient." The world is becoming global, and these leaders plan to respond.
What is striking, though, is the strong emphasis on the personal and ethical dimensions of leadership. Young businesspeople are viewing leadership with a sense of grace, humility, and serious responsibility. Emphasizing the nature of ethical leadership in the wake of the financial crisis, one respondent argued, "Leaders will be forced to be more transparent about everything from their decision making to their personal lives." On the importance of personal authenticity, another said, "Leadership will be less about climbing a ladder within an established organization - the 21st century is more about defining the ladder through one's actions."
These leaders are starting to live into these beliefs, and organizations need to follow suit. Senior managers and executives can harness the energy of this talented group of future leaders by focusing on the organization's authentic mission, providing young leaders with meaningful opportunities to learn and grow, and promoting transparency. Organizations that pursue such cultures will maximize their chances of attracting, retaining, and motivating today's young leaders, who, like never before, seek strong alignment of their personal values with their professional ambitions."
Many of the words in this article resonate with me and our mission: sustainability, global, leadership, globalization, and the critical dimensions of leadership. The most powerful phrase perhaps is a goal that I have for each of our graduates. I want our graduates to become engaged citizens of the world who make a meaningful, positive impact on the lives of others, "with a sense of grace, humility, and serious responsibility."