Learn and Lead

About continual learning and leadership

Seven Survival Skills in Today’s World

I recently came across International Finance Corporation’s (IFC). It’s “6th International Private Education Conference, Rethinking Education, Shaping the Future, brought together thought leaders and investors in education from around the globe. On April 1-2, 2014 in San Francisco, USA, the delegates discussed how innovation and technology in education delivery and results measurement are giving us new tools for broadening access to quality education for millions of students around the world.”

Their YouTube channel provides you with access to videos of their conference.

The keynote address to the conference was by Tony Wagner. Tony Wagner “currently serves as an Expert In Residence at Harvard University’s new Innovation Lab. Prior to this appointment, Tony was the first Innovation Education Fellow at the Technology & Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard, and the founder and co-director of the Change Leadership Group at the Harvard Graduate School of Education for more than a decade. His previous work experience includes twelve years as a high school teacher, K-8 principal, university professor in teacher education, and founding executive director of Educators for Social Responsibility.”



In this video, Tony makes some very pertinent points. Knowledge today has become commodity, available on every Internet connected device. It is no longer a scarce commodity available only with teachers. Because it was a scarce commodity in the past, it was considered that the more knowledge one had, the more value one had in the market place. Today one doesn’t need a teacher to acquire knowledge. And so how can one add value to the market place?

Knowledge is one leg of the stool, which is easy to acquire. The other two legs are Skill and Will. Skill is about asking the questions, how to acquire new knowledge, how to solve new problems. Will is the motivation to use the knowledge and skill.

In his research with companies on what are they looking for in new hires, Tony discovered that the set of core competencies required are very similar, not just to get a job, but to be a continuous learner and be an active and informed citizen. The seven survival skills in today’s world are:

  1. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving: Critical Thinking is all about knowing how to ask really good questions, how to ask the right questions, not necessarily get the right answers.
  2. Collaboration across Networks and Leading by Influence: Teams are no longer led by supervisors. They are led by peers through influence.
  3. Agility and Adaptability: Schools are in complete contrast with this requirement of the world today with their unchanging environment and syllabus.
  4. Initiative and Entrepreneurial-ship: Companies are not looking for employees who set 4-5 goals and meet all of them. They are looking at employees who set 10 stretch goals and succeeds 7-8 out of them.
  5. Effective Oral and Written Communication: The kids can’t write today because they don’t know how to think. They are also not writing with voice, which is putting their passion and perspective in the conversation to be more persuasive.
  6. Accessing and Analyzing Information: We need to teach the students to be able to search the Internet for information.
  7. Curiosity and Imagination

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are my personal opinions. Content published here is not read or approved in advance by my employers and does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of my employers.

Creative Commons License This work by Manish Mohan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 India License.

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