No Difference: The Future of Work and Education

The future of work and the future of education are becoming one and the same. At some points in our histories, and in some jobs, you've always learned by doing the work -- there was no difference between work and education. You learned to be a blacksmith by working with an experienced blacksmith and doing the work. Now it's a bit different. People are going to change jobs far more often than in our recent past, and they are going to need new knowledge to be successful as they make those changes. The future of work and the future of education come together as they run in parallel. Our economy says you can't stop working. Our work says we can never stop learning. We can't think about the future of work without addressing the future of education. I'm looking forward to a set of posts on this topic and I hope you are too -- thoughts, ideas, plans, all are welcome in the comments.

My observations have been leading up to the idea that work and education will be tightly intertwined, but my chance to talk with Ray Wang, Constellation Research; Vala Afshar, Salesforce; Ramon Baez, former SVP at Hewlett Packard Enterprise; Ross Mayfield, CEO & co-founder at Pingpad, gave me greater clarity about what an important issue this is for how we design education, how we think about our careers, and the expectations we set for ourselves. I've linked to the video segments below.

Key points

Ross Mayfield's ideas about designing companies such that AI augments rather than replaces workers highlights for me that we need to be educating to work with technologies. I'm left wondering whether we'll end up traveling with customized AIs (just as we now customize and tune our laptops and on-line tools to best match our workstyles). Will we train ourselves and our AI tools at the same time?

Ramon Baez made a critical point about how we need to learn to work with different leaders. My takeaway: As we move through different projects or organizations more quickly, having a quick approach to transitioning into a new team will be a key skill. There is the idea of "swift trust," where team members act as if they trust each other, but better would be increasing the pace of developing true trust and transactive memory -- both critical to good teamwork.

My main point largely followed the ideas in the first paragraph: acquiring skills for work needs to start well before high school and most importantly, can never stop. From a university perspective, we should never graduate a student from the university, just from a program. We might want to start working with students before they arrive on our campus. We also have a great opportunity to work even more closely with the organizations our students work with (note how I'm dancing around the boundaries of employer/employee given a growing focus on freelancing).

Thank you, DisrupTV!

All these points were made more concrete through the facilitation of our DisrupTV hosts, Ray Wang and Vala Afshar. Aubrey Coggins produced a great show and is the creator of the clips below.

Terri Griffith

Ross Mayfield


Ramon Baez