My son and I meet quite often in downtown Denver, and during those meetings we enjoy sundry conversation about many of our favorite topics. Over tea, we might exchange recommendations about our favorite smart phone apps; assess the state of the State of Colorado, the USA and the world; and we often engage in a detailed discussion about the economy. These conversations are never dull moments of idle chat.
His ability to advance our discussions into avant-garde dialogue is something I’ve learned to expect and enjoy. Last week he, once again, guided the discussion into uncharted territory.
As he rationalized his future, he talked about careers, graduate school, government, financial institutions, and travel. He presented me with his notion that immediately enrolling in graduate school might not be a prudent choice, given our evolving economy and changing society. He talked of Joseph Schumpeter’s theory of the effects of creative destruction within the world economies, and how it might affect a rapidly changing workplace; and more importantly, how it might change our global societies.
What quickly grabbed my attention was his concern that the current curriculum in graduate schools might not be relevant in the near future as our economy continues to change. He said (and I paraphrase): “Careers in business finance, law, economics, or medicine might look quite different within a few short years, given the rapidly changing world of software, genetics, biomedical advances, and, of course, the foundation of all of this change, the internet. So I need to determine if spending several thousand dollars on more education and advanced training is my best option right now.” He was clearly disappointed that our national and global institutions of government, finance, and education were simply not highly functional, and perhaps too dysfunctional; that maybe our current institutions are incapable bodies of power and influence.
I’m a strong believer in the merits of higher education. However, I fully understand that an undergraduate level education is meant to teach fundamental skills in select disciplines. It proves that one can sustain diverse moments of divergent education. But graduate school suggests a much more skill specific based education awaits a graduate. A master’s degree is thought be an avenue to “master” a specific educational discipline. The doctorate level results in an even greater mastery of skills. The notion that graduate level education will make one a lifelong learner is a given, but one does expect to emerge from this intense and expensive educational setting with very precise skills that prepare a person with specific performance potential, with knowledge based tools sufficiently honed for the task of mastering an advanced career. So is that educational goal sustainable during times of economic creative destruction? I doubt anyone could know the answer to that question as of the date of our conversation.
At that moment I began to consider the career path of my father versus myself. My father’s generation worked for an entire adult lifetime in a specific career, usually under one employer, and then retired. My generation might often change jobs, but seldom changed entire career disciplines. But my father’s generation lived in a post Depression era where changes were present—but not exponential changes like we face today. Career seekers my son’s age are facing a possible extended period of social and technological tectonic change. But what might this future change become?
Joseph Schumpeter’s theory of creative destruction included expectations that we let go of our current and all too familiar economy and the associated supporting institutions, and embrace new innovation and creativity. The time for change has come within our collective world economies and societies—and come it will. Resolutely curious people often possess the gift of creativity. Couple unbridled creativity with the innate ability to innovate, and the world as we know it can quickly change. But where do we find these agile minds that will usher in this change?
We will find them using the power of crowdsourcing to make widespread technological and institutional changes. Although many of our “leaders” might not accept these near term and long term changes in our government, financial, and educational institutions, they have no choice but to move aside and witness the future taking place. The next generation of social leaders will not live in a world where people are satisfied with the momentum of mediocrity. And I see this change coming much sooner than later if the spirit of dissatisfaction that is present in my son is widespread throughout the world. I believe it is present and ubiquitous.
This next generation is resolute and smart. And they are very pissed off. The world they reside in as citizens is not working, so, as new leaders, they will first destroy the old institutions and create a new world order.