The Future of Education with Tom Goodwin

LS International

This week, on the Career Success Podcast, we have invited Tom Goodwin. Tom is a speaker and writer. He recently wrote a book titled Digital Darwinism which was published in April 2018. It offers a guide for business leaders on how to embrace the power of the new, to transform companies for the modern age.

Education is lagging behind when we look at its adaptation to today’s digital age. We will be discussing an article which Tom wrote in the world economic forum titled Forget coding, we need to teach our kids how to dream  which addresses some of these issues.


We will discuss:

  • The transformation of education over the past 200+ years.
  • Skills education should be teaching.
  • What will the role of  Universities be in the future.
  • How to qualify job candidates without the reference of education.

Lauren: Hi, I’m Lauren Stiebing and welcome to this episode of the Career Success podcast. Today, we’ll be joined by Tom Goodwin. Tom is a speaker and writer and recently wrote a book titled Digital Darwinism, which was published in April of 2018. It offers a guide for business leaders on how to embrace the power of the new to transform companies for the modern age. Welcome Tom.

Tom: Thanks for having me on the show.

Lauren: I recently read your article in the World Economic Forum titled “Forget Coding”. We need to teach our kids how to dream. There’s a very interesting ideas there which we can discuss more about today, but I’d like to start out just by asking how have you seen education transformed since you were studying?

Tom: Yeah, I mean, I haven’t really if I’m being honest, which is part of the frustration that drove me to write this piece and I’m aware I’m not in the school system, nor am I there as a student, or as a pupel, but many of my friends are and we have the kind of digital garnish within the university system or the school system where we have iPads and there’ll be a room where you can do 3D printing, but I don’t think it’s…

Tom: I don’t think it’s really transformation. I think at it’s essence, a new technology changes sort society and it changes the very fabric of business and education’s role is probably to prepare people for that world and I think we’re still making the same assumptions about what the role of education is. We’re still kind of using it as a factory production line to make people the same as each other rather than to make the most of each individual skill and it’s mainly done, it’s already turned around the needs of the market really, in the 600 AD in the UK, schools were there to prepare people to be good scholars of the church system and then the military came along and the school system became about making sure that people were the same and a cog in the machine that could fit within the military system and extremely compliant. There’s the industrial revolution came along and again, people will literally like human cogs in a sort of factory production line. I think you know that that’s not fine, but it’s understandable, but you look at it today and you think, well actually, you know, the world needs people who are brilliant in one area and the world needs generalist, the world need people that will come up with ideas.
And I don’t think that we’ve transformed with that role and that output, the core, and also we haven’t really embraced new technology at the very core, so you may well be able to email your teacher, but have we really rethought about the entire online mechanism? What that means for learning and sort of reworked the whole system around that.

Lauren: And what do you believe are some of the key skills that education should teach kids, yeah from now over the next 10 years?

Tom: Yeah, I mean I like to take it on a skillls because I think most of the education system is based on knowledge, is based you knowing capital cities or remembering how to do the equations or remembering times tables. And I think increasingly knowledge isn’t particularly useful. I know that sounds strange, but just speak to Siri or Alexa, you know, they pretty much know more than you ever know because there’s many more interesting to think, you know, further within yourself. So what are the skills that you can use the build knowledge, but also what are the kinds of values and the attributes as a person that is going to be most useful? And you know, we know for sure that we can’t really predict the future. We know that, you know, a 15 year old growing up today, we’ll be in the middle of their career in 2040/2050, which is a world we can’t begin to understand. It’s the ability to relate to different people, it’s the ability to empathize and the ability to constantly reinvent yourself and change as the world changes. Most important of all is this idea of kind of creativity, so it’s easy to run around thinking that computers are going to destroy our jobs. That isn’t really the case, but we have to look at the things that computers are going to be terrible at and that’s a really good way to safeguard our own careers and what computers are definitely terrible at is anything that involves ideas and seeing things from a different perspective and the sort of creation of new out of unlikely combinations.

Lauren: Yeah, I mean if I think of creativity, you know, when it comes to problem solving, if I look at my job today or what I do today, I feel like in, in education there wasn’t ever enough time. I don’t know, I kind of feel like it was always very rushed. Like day after day, after day was always very rushed. That there wasn’t like this time to kind of sit down and think about a problem on a mid to long term basis. I don’t know if you would feel the same.

Tom: Yeah, I feel the same. Schools have sort of lost their fun. I think I was quite lucky because I grew up on the English country side. And my mum was actually my teacher for a small part of my schooling career, but you know, we probably all as adults now, learn more when more relaxed, when we were opening our eyes to the world, whether that means traveling abroad or whether that means meeting weird people and whether that means listening to conversations in waffle house. Like I think we need to try and have this undercurrent of receptivity and relaxation.
And I think we look at schooling systems that embrace play and when you look to one which are the opposites of the American system is very much about passing tests. You know, you just see different characteristics I think come through in this next generation.

Lauren: Yeah. I think one of the other points would be around relationship building.

Tom: Yeah.

Lauren: I kind of feel that’s such an important part or an important skill that you need in your career and it’s something that I’d be able to just completely skipped over in education.

Tom: I mean, it would be interesting to talk to people that know much more than I do about it.

Lauren: Yeah.

Tom: But I think somehow, we assume that, that sort of social mobility and empathy, relatability and communication skills and emotional IQ. I think we assume they’re all kind of innate things or that is a parent’s responsibility to bring out and I think we need to have an open mind about that. Actually, those are the most important things that we can ever have that we don’t tend to think about them enough, but we don’t tend to talk about them enough and I have the ability to sort of relate to people and you’re probably going to learn a lot more. You’re probably going to be more successful in any kind of career that involves persuasion or selling, which is pretty much every single job on the planet, so you need to be much more focused on these things. The hard thing about that of course is it’s very hard to measure.

Lauren: Yeah.

Tom: You know, you can’t really do that. You’re like, you know, you’ve got 39 out of 52 on the likeability scale or you know, your pupils looks at me in a really compelling way when I was talking to you, so you get an A. So we have sort of favor this idea of measuring people by the same sort of benchmarks in a rational objective way and unfortunately most of those things, they’re going to be really important, can’t really be measured that way.

Lauren: Yeah, and looking at universities themselves, why do you think that university should cease to exist?

Tom: I’m not sure if I said that precisely and we tend to sort of look at life in a very conventional way where we make lots of assumptions at this moment in time and it’s quite a short lived thing in the scheme of history. There is this assumption that somehow, you know, third or a half of people should make their way through university and that that’s the best way for people to sort of prove their worth. And I think I’m increasingly, it’d be good to challenge that. Like university is an amazing thing for many, many minds, not necessarily the mines that we assume. You know, university is not only the best for people that want to speak Latin or sort of study philosophy, but there are some minds that just love information on a digest as much weight as possible; they love academia, but we have to be aware that as cliché as it sounds, leaving school and starting an app or leaving school and traveling around the world and writing or leaving school and making a documentary, these are actually pretty remarkable ways to learn. You know, I’m quite jealous these days, about people who know how to set up a company and know how to sort of manage a P&L and they know how to persuade suppliers from China to you know, get them toilet roll manufacturing equipment.
We have a sort of snobbishness somehow now and you know, as, as middle class English guy, I’m sort of, I’ve grown up with this snobbishness but you assuming that people who are like us go to the university and increasingly, I don’t know what it really says. I mean it wasn’t really an active decision for me to go to university. It’s more that I decided not rebel against the whole system and leave the process and when I look at it now and learn so much from Twitter, I learned so much from observing stuff as I travel the world. I learn so much from other people, but relative to what I learned in a normal week now and she seems like a very inefficient place to learn. Like what it really does is it’s a great way to show that your conventional, it’s a great way to show that you’ve got good money behind you, that you’re unimaginative in what you deem as being success and is a great way to build a network which might help you get a job later on, but when it comes to developing as a, as an actual person itself, it’s a pretty crappy use of time.

Lauren: and how do you think, I mean, let’s say the universities didn’t exist or maybe they will, maybe they won’t be as important or maybe they will, let’s see what happens, but how do you think companies would then go to qualify candidates, especially at the initial stages in their career? You know, without the reference of education.

Tom: This is a very good question. It kind of gets to the heart of the issue and I think… I think maybe we’ve been quite lazy. I think you know, I’m part of several recruitment processes and I typically get to see people right towards the end and I’m aware that at that point we stripped away anyone remarkable stroke different because we kind of insisted that people studied quite boring things, quite boring institutions. There needs to be a solution. I mean, I mean, I like to think in the modern world, people can express themselves more than ever before. There’s much more transparency about people’s personality and accomplishments. You know, I can go on someone’s twitter feed and get a good idea of their brain. I can go on their Facebook page, probably see quite a lot about their character. I think any process that we can follow that asks people just all compile and create material that proves their character because I think that’s the most important thing, shows their sort of values and their skills that’s going to be a great thing for us to assess.
And it may be that that becomes an almighty burden but and you know, I like to think that these things are really important, like finding the right talent and people for a role is absolutely essential and if that means that we need to employ, you know, several people full time to be spidering their way through this stuff, maybe there is a role for artificial intelligence and all that sort of jazzy software to help out in the process. But I think this idea that somehow we can compare people based on GPA, so what kind of degree they got. I think that’s just not a very useful way to think about measuring people.

Lauren: I would say from, from the clients that we work with as well. I think across the board self awareness is one of the key things that they’re always looking for, which you don’t need any education at all and even someone that’s 16 can either demonstrate or not demonstrate that. So, I think it’s just goes to show, you know, let’s say the education versus the more behavioral skills that companies are looking for as well.

Tom: No, absolutely. I mean it’s a cliché to talk about a can do attitude, but you know, when I work with people, increasingly, I just want people to make happen what it is that I need to make happen but that’s always in the roles that I have people helping out with. It’s always about their attitude. It’s always about thirst, it’s not about how hard they work, it’s about the degree to which they’re prepared to carry on going and use their imagination and try different combinations. It’s not something that university system is particularly good at creating. So this isn’t necessarily a rallying cry against universities, its more to think, if we were to create a structure today to get the most out of people, say that 19, 21, 24 year olds with the best equipped people on the planet, I don’t think we’d start with the system that we have today.

Tom: You know we would probably, I think we’ll go as much more travel, a much more creative output or much more collaboration.

Tom: Would be a fascinating to think what that system looked like. At the moment, you know, it’s quite likely that the best people in the world is still going to go through the University approved process, but we should have an open mind-set, but in different ways to do this.

Lauren: Well, Tom, I believe that you’ve given our listeners a lot to think about

Tom: I hope too.

Lauren: Yes. If anyone has any questions or comments, please feel free to write them in the comments section below and myself or Tom, we’ll get back to you. Thanks.

Tom: Thank you.