Career Grid – Our Matrix for 21st Century Careers

If you’ve seen the ingeniously scary “Shift Happens” video from Karl Fisch, or any of the several derivatives others have tried to create, you already know this: The world is changing fast. Numbingly fast.

(And if you haven’t seen the video, it’s well worth the look:

Poke around YouTube or other video sites if you’d like to see newer, updated stats. These are scary enough, and I like the background music for this one.)

Whither The Careers

Notice the scary information about careers? Half of this year’s top jobs were unknown just a few years ago (mobile app developer, anyone?). And “old” careers are disappearing as well, obviously.

Fisch originally put this together as a Powerpoint presentation designed to scare educators out of their lethargy. Along with his colleagues Scott McLeod and Jeff  Brenman, he assembled and posted the video and have created no small sensation.

Everybody who sees the work probably formulates their own questions. The one rattling against the side of my head ever since I saw this the first time:

What does this all mean for people’s work, careers and missions? With change happening this fast and this broadly, won’t we all get swept away?


But I think it’s much more likely that these deep and profound changes will open entirely new opportunities for people who are ready for them.

“Ready for them” means adept, alert and adaptable. And “ready for them” is a clarion call to each of us: those who need to prepare for careers and those who have the mission of helping others prepare.

If the go-to hot careers of 2015 haven’t even been invented yet, how will we help people prepare to succeed?

CareerGrid: Our WatchTower Matrix

One of our primary jobs as learning developers is to keep a watch – to climb up on our virtual watchtower, to try to see over the horizon and around the curve – to get as early an indicator on hot career possibilities as we can.

To do that, we work on two angles: Trend watching and inferential scanning.

Trend Watching
Our purpose is to extrapolate career and learning implications from larger trends. The key is to identify trends, then pull the career and learning implications from them.

To do that, we obviously have to select trends. Here is our hot list of trends to watch for the next few years (at least):

  • Software runs everything
  • The world is running out of fossils to burn
  • Miniaturization also liberates and unshackles
  • Access to information shifts decisions toward the user’s highest ROI
  • Biology is the new physics

Inferential Scanning

We currently scan a wide variety of feeds, engage a diverse group of Twitter users, and tune in to several great “big picture” thinkers to get a sense of the environment and its impact on our trends.

We are currently working on a more sophisticated scanning tool and approach. Our goal is to be able to hear the first “chirp” of a new career opportunity while it is still way out at the far edges of the arc of possibility.

More on that as it happens.

CareerShape: Our Framework

As we observe trends, we run them through a fairly straightforward filter to determine whether they will have an impact on 21st century careers. That filter derives directly from our views about the shape careers will take in the 21st century.

Bluntly, we believe the day of the “job” is over. The person who simply gets up in the morning, goes to work, and punches either a real or metaphorical clock is a dinosaur. That person will see his or her work commoditized, shipped to the lowest cost provider, or taken over by a machine, and probably soon.

The future belongs to the person who creates. Creates value, creates ideas, creates efficiency. The future belongs to the person who contributes.

To that end, our CareerShape filter consists of a few simple maxims. When we spot a trend in the larger environment, we run it past these maxims. If it fits within that framework, we watch it and begin to plan for ways to create learning programs around it.

Our maxims:

  • More knowlege leads to more niches. Dig the niche deeper and smaller (go small or go home!)
  • Places no longer matter, unless they matter! Work that can be done virtually or, if not, can be done on a mobile basis.
  • Independence rules. Freelance and entrepreneurial opportunities provide an empowering and challenging environment, while reducing labor costs for large organizations. Freelancers and independents rule the future.

We are frankly not that concerned with demographics, as opportunity is available to anyone from any age or population group. We understand that equity issues occur all over the field, but believe in the power of human spirit and the liberating effects of technology and the free market to overcome them.

We consider globalization a given. Unless a job or process is location specific (farming, mining, environmental work), it is susceptible to being packaged and shipped to another part of the world.

Note that I didn’t say it is susceptible to being shipped overseas and “done cheaper.” We believe virtual work will engage a dynamic and vibrant worldwide workplace.

Currently, Americans often associate commoditized work with “offshore” factories or call centers. In fact, we believe that process will soon become two-way.

Along those lines, for American readers, we fully anticipate a renaissance in American manufacturing. Stay tuned.

Education Ecosystem – Part I

This is the first in a series of posts in which I’d like for us to think really carefully about “education” and the role it plays in a society.

So, pretty lightweight stuff.

But if we’re going to think in terms of “reforming” education, and consider how we might do that – or if it can even be done – we owe it to ourselves to examine some fundamental principles.

Among those principles – foremost, in my mind – is its ecosystem. An ecosystem can be considered “, and its … environment.” (Lifted, selectively, from our friends a Wikipedia:

Like every other ecosystem, education exists within the flotsam and jetsam of its age and place. Its “community” and its “environment” intermingle and determine the effectiveness of its outcome.

I think it’s safe to assert, given all the conversation about “reforming” education and the distinct efforts to move away from a “19th century” model, we’re collectively not real crazy about the “outcome” we’re getting from our otcome-based education system.

If we think about education from an ecosystem perspective, one of the first things we should establish is its position, its place in the overall social organism.

Where does education fit? What is its role? I’m going to share my working definition of education:

“Education is the means by which people are prepared to survive and thrive in the world they will inhabit.”

It’s a high level description, by design. It lets us think of everything we do to help people “survive and thrive” as education. And it lets us evaluate the point of any “education” that does not contribute to people’s surviving and or thriving “in the world they will inhabit.”

Education, by this standard, must prepare people to “survive and thrive” in a world of:
– almost constant change
– breathtaking technological progress
– limited static resources (I did not say “limited resources.” There is a huge difference)
– access to information so great as to be overwhelming
– creation of new information – and reorganization of information – on a colossal scale
– global competition
– automation and mechanization
– miniaturization on every front
– shifting social compacts favoring independence over size

Think about how these very real factors of education’s ecosystem – it’s “community” if you will – have changed in just the past 5 years.

Have even the most progressive “education” organizations kept apace?

“Well, we offer our courses online!” whoop de doo

“We’ve shifted to ‘challenge based learning’!” Small progress is better than none.

“We’ve lengthened the school day!” Oh, yay. It doesn’t work, so let’s do MORE of it.

The ecosystem has changed. Radically. And that shift you feel beneath your feet is the ecosystem changing again. Today. It’ll change again tomorrow. Even more profoundly.

Can we keep up?

That’s just one of the questions we should be asking ourselves. I’ll share a few more in the next installment of this series.

Thanks for playing along.

Hacking Education

“Hacking” is very much back in vogue.

Not the “breaking into computers illegally” kind of hacking. Sadly, that’s never gone out of vogue. Rather, this is the “figure something out all by yourself” hacking.

We’re seeing all kinds of amazing technology hacks. Hack-A-Day is a daily feast of imagination and intriuge.

People are hacking biotechnology. Which, some others find scary.

Kids are hacking skateboards, hacking cars (also called “hooning” in the most disruptively delightful misuse of language since “hippie.”), and of course hacking the daylights out of their mobile phones.

“Hacker culture” as it was known in the 70’s and 80’s is making a major comeback.

There is, it seems, a new thirst for bypassing corporate and socially acceptable channels and doing a little experimentation with life.

It’s like a breath of fresh air.

There’s a ton of sociologically valid reasons for the updraft in hacking. No need to dredge through them here. Suffice it to say there will always be a significant move to counter the prevailing cultuer. And another to counter the counterculturalists. And another to counter those who would counter…well, it goes on and on.

We live in a world where most anyone can simply “pick your movement” and hang on for a wild ride. Look deeper within larger prevailing trends, and we’ll always see a good-to-great number of very interesting subtrends. Like hacking.

Amid the ensuing chaos, some people have begun to write about “hacking education.” It’s a subject I find endlessly fascinating and frustrating.

Fascination, because it so desperately needs to be done. Frustrating because it’s such a tough hack. Here are some reasons why:

– For the most part, we’ve left the education process to the “experts.” Not the execution, necessarily. A growing cabal of homeschoolers, craftschoolers and privateers are breaking the establishment’s grasp. Slowly.

I’m talking about the process of education, and its deepest operating premises. It is riddled with assumptions about subject coverage and “standards” and delivery techniques. It is overloaded with assumptions about the value of credentials and the brand identity of one’s education experience.

Say it with me: “It’s IMPORTANT that my kid get into a ‘good college.'” (Thus endeth the poor kid’s quest for their own original mission, at least until they’re 28 and have lived at your place for an extra 6 years.)

Hack This and You Can Hack Education

Hacking is all about figuring things out for yourself. Education is all about feeding information and answers to others.

Hacking is all about results and experimentation. Education is all about navigating a system and “earning” credentials.

Hacking education would require feeding information to others in such a way that they figure things out for themselves. Then assigning credentials accordingly.


Do that and you’ll have hacked education. Not talk about it. Not give it lip service.  Not set up some microspecimen lab where it sort of takes place.

Do it. Systematically. Comprehensively. Courageously.

Set up a system where everybody learns shortcuts to figuring things our for themselves. Let them investigate, explore, use intuition to solve problems and surmount obstacles.

Then figure out how to turn all that messy experimentation into neat credentials they can show to the world.

Liberate them from the tyranny of compliance, while retaining trace evidence of their genius in a form that reflects their value.

Do that. You’ll be the biggest horse’s bottom the establishmentarian educators ever knew. And you’ll unleash a global creative wave like the world has never seen.

The time is now. The opportunities are immediately before us. Let’s hack this deal.

Using Smallworlds for Learning

Smallworlds rocks.

A 3d virtual world, Smallworlds addresses a ton of the major drawbacks to its bigger competitors in the space:

– Browser based. No downloads, no installations, no patches, no reinstalls for updates. It launches inside the Web browser and can even be embedded inside Web systems. This makes the transition from, for example, a Web site or forum into out of Smallworlds nearly transparent.

– Flash platform killer graphics. The graphics look terrific. The development team has obviously coded something heavy on top of the Flash engine because the rendering is beautiful, and yet the graphics load very quickly. Continue reading “Using Smallworlds for Learning”

SLoodling Along?

Progress comes in bumps and slides, sometimes. You work along for a while with nothing to show for it, and then all of the sudden a few things start to come together. You take those few things and add a few more things; before you know it, you’ve made a little progress.

That’s how things have been lately on the PlanetGED project.

Continue reading “SLoodling Along?”

Using Machinima for GED Tutorials

We are still working to pull together the components of PlanetGED, our GED test preparation program.

Each year, around 700,000 Americans take the GED and about 200,000 of them don’t pass one of the five segments. We’re putting together a study program to help them succeed.

One of the driving values behind PlanetGED is user-friendly space and methods. We know it’s tough to go back to school any time, at any age, and even harder if you feel like school has already been a n0-go for you.

So we are working to develop a series of animated characters to “host” the program and to deliver short (1 minute) overview tutorials that introduce subjects, test taking hints, and key concepts. Hopefully, it’ll be done with a little bit of humor, too. Continue reading “Using Machinima for GED Tutorials”

Using GoAnimate and xtraNormal for Learning

We’re hoping to create something really original for our Planet GED study program. It’s important to us to get beyond the “buy a book” or “take a study course” method.

One of our priorities is to make the program user-friendly. Not just easy to use, but also friendly to the users. There are probably lots of ways to do that, but we’d like to use animated characters. Continue reading “Using GoAnimate and xtraNormal for Learning”

Outsourcing College Degrees

This is where we think college degrees are going. Sharp, progressive schools have long ago figured out that they can’t develop curriculum fast enough to keep up with changes in the real world, no matter the field.

Their accreditors are too stodgy. Their faculty are too territorial and entrenched.

They need an outsource solution that can move fast, provide world-class quality and accountability, and keep their students at the leading edge.

We’re working on it.

Continue reading “Outsourcing College Degrees”