A Brief Scan of 21st Century Learning Practices and Priorities

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Experts, pundits and futurists often point to the need for individuals and organizations to adopt 21st century learning priorities and practices, but what are these?  Reflecting on our futures work across different professions and industries, we organized a brief scan overview of the learning this century so far seems to require of individuals and organizations.

For individuals, we see these cognitive skills on the wish lists of many employers and professions:

  • Critical thinking & problem solving-- for our complex world and interdependent world
  • Creativity and innovation--to create new value & solutions
  • STEAM literacy—that’s science, technology, engineering, art and math to give us the baseline knowledge we need. Different fields emphasize different elements but technology literacy challenges individuals everywhere.

Individuals also need to develop a number of competencies to be successful in our world.  These competencies keep coming up across every field:

  • Teaming—it’s the new way to work and we’re still figuring out how to do it
  • Collaborative leadership— recognizing our fluid work requires leaders to work with others inside and outside their organizations
  • Interdisciplinary—boundaries are blurring but we aren’t yet good at working and learning with people from other disciplines
  • Cultural competency—take a look at the U.S. census data, enough said
  • Lifelong learning & adaptation— yes learning how to learn and keeping up with what to learn requires skill and discipline

As one group correctly observed in looking at our individual and organizational competencies, if individuals have these competencies they can infuse them into their organizations. Here’s what we see topping the list of competencies for many organizations:

  • Collaboration— replacing the old behaviors of independence and competition with new ways of working is not easy
  • Innovation—adopting practices and processes that promote individual and collaborative initiative to improve everything we do
  • Anticipatory learning/foresight—waiting to be blind-sided by the future is neither smart strategy nor good stewardship
  • Change & complexity—implementing the new direction, ideas and strategy in a world filled with complicated people and challenging situations

Organizations are creating new structures with these attributes to help individuals and organizations learn more effectively:

  • Networked—taking full advantage of online platforms and collaboration technologies
  • On-demand—from online resources to mobile and embedded decision systems, we want the answers at our fingertips
  • Technology-supported— this is a demanding learning curve to make the right investments in learning technologies to deliver on expectations
  • Curating/knowledge management—learning is happening everywhere through experiences and in multiple media channels and organizations need better systems to collect and distribute this learning

These are the 21st century learning priorities and practices we’re tracking across our futures work for associations serving members in lots of different fields. What would you add to this scan of what individuals and organizations are learning and doing to live and succeed in our times?