College graduates today are struggling more than ever to find quality employment. In fact, twice as many are unemployed now as in the 1990s, and over 50% who do have jobs are working in areas that don’t even require college degrees.
Let’s think about that for a minute and consider why.
The other day, I was looking to create a lease contract to rent out the guest section of my house. I asked a friend who rents properties if he could recommend a document source. He sent me a form he had downloaded for less than 20 dollars, and it suited my needs perfectly.
When loved ones get sick, my first move is a Google search of the symptoms. The medical information I find online is often just as helpful as the advice of doctors I’ve consulted. And many of my friends who once relied on accountants have switched to digital tax software and are handling things themselves.
Many analytical systems are now providing better insights than human consultants. There are electronic tools which can write software faster and more accurately than live coders can.
More and more traditional jobs are becoming computerized or sent offshore. And, as non-traditional solutions make things more affordable and increasingly convenient, they’re also extracting dollars from our economy by reducing or eliminating entire job segments.
This begs the question: if huge parts of time-honored industries such as the legal, medical and accounting fields are becoming automated and digitized, how will many of our children make a living in the future?
In the 2006 movie, Failure to Launch, the main character’s parents devise a plan to get their adult son out of their house and living on his own. As a parent of three myself, I can relate. I love my kids, but I hope they aren’t living under my roof till they’re 30 because they can’t find jobs after college.
In his book, A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink discusses a critical shift that has to take place in order for our children to not just survive, but thrive in the coming decades. It requires a new approach to education and parenting that focuses on right-brain development.
Left-brain teaching, or, “the SATizing of our schools,” as Pink calls it, focuses on sequential, logical and analytical thinking. Our society has pushed us to become what renowned business thinker Peter Drucker called “knowledge workers,” using analysis-based skill-sets to define and achieve success for more than 100 years.
As the trend toward automation continues, it will be successfully-leveraged right-brain thinking that will increasingly determine who succeeds.
It represents the creative abilities of individuals – the aspects that can never be automated nor easily outsourced.
It is central to such areas as design, relationship-building, and the integrative thinking of successful leaders.
Since left-brain development currently receives ample attention in school, what are the specific right-brain aptitudes that need to be fostered to create whole-brain thinking and help our children to prosper in the new world economy?
Here are six right-brain aptitudes at the heart of great whole-brain teaching strategies:
1. Empathy – The ability to create meaningful and trusting relationships is central to not just success, but also happiness and meaning as our children become adults. Empathy is at the core of building close relationships, maintaining friendships, and developing strong communities. Are our kids able to understand and practice putting themselves in others’ shoes?
We must put emphasis on helping our children pay attention to the wants and needs of others, and understand the impact of their actions and emotions on those around them. The more time we spend teaching our children to be thoughtful and aware of others, the better they will adapt, overcome and succeed in the new world economy.
2. Design – I remember watching an interview with Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Gates described the thing he admired most about Jobs as being the latter’s sensitivity for what people wanted before they even knew it existed. The iPod and iPhone are perfect examples of the late Apple founder’s instinct for a sharp, appealing design aesthetic.
We’re heading toward a future in which human touches will make all the difference as the underlying functionalities become homogeneous and commoditized. What will undoubtedly separate the products we use and the experiences we undertake is the extent to which they’re visibly beautiful and emotionally compelling.
With that in mind, let’s encourage our kids to engage with and learn more artistic and design-based processes, from songwriting to pastry decoration to graphic art. This will help them get comfortable with applying their creativity in practical ways.
3. Decisiveness – Our world is wrought with information and opportunity, and it’s easy to become paralyzed trying to process it all. This inhibits our ability to determine a course of action and move forward with confidence.
Teach your children to zero in on what they know in any moment that they’re faced with a decision, and to give themselves permission to make mistakes. This will bolster their confidence to focus on the future and not agonize over what might have gone wrong in the past.
The ability to sort through the information at hand and take decisive action is a characteristic of great leaders. No one makes the right decision every time, but the best of us turn our decisions into the right ones for ourselves merely by making them and moving forward with confidence.
4. Intuition – I’m an engineer at heart and by degree, so the act of following my intuition can be unnerving. The converse, though, is that if we had access to perfect information – something all engineers seek – then the process of making decisions could be automated.
The reality is that perfect information rarely exists, which is why we rely on processing the facts we have through the filter of our instincts.
It’s vital that we teach our kids to listen to their inner voices. I have yet to meet a successful professional who doesn’t use gut feel when making critical decisions.
If we can help our kids connect with and listen to their instinctive senses about things, we’ll help them become infinitely more effective in every area of their lives.
5. Integrative Thinking – Leonardo da Vinci is perhaps the greatest whole-brain thinker of all time, and his capacities are well-outlined in Michael Gelb’s stellar book, How to Think Like Leonardo.
In one section, Gelb describes “Arte/Scienza,” the development of balance between art, science, logic and intuition that da Vinci employed. In a nutshell, it’s utilizing the best of both left- and right-brain thinking to maximize effectiveness and prevent ourselves from making one thought method or the other into an excuse for only doing things one way.
The leaders of tomorrow need to be able to examine problems and situations both creatively and analytically. The more we can get our children to see the entire picture – that is, understanding and appreciating all angles – the better equipped they’ll be to differentiate themselves in the future.
6. Storytelling – Brené Brown once called stories, “data with a soul.” Very simply, presenting facts and information can be vastly more successful when we intertwine them with personal and emotional elements. Theoretical ideas become identifiable, and the listener becomes invested in wanting to know how the story will play out, which creates greater engagement.
Stories engage, develop relationships, and are tremendous communication tools. In fact, many of the largest and most influential companies in the world have a high-level corporate storyteller whose job it is to manage and share the organization’s stories.
Stories are the perfect way to bridge the gap between unknown concepts and comprehension. We want to know what’s going to happen, and that tension holds our attention.
Strive to get your children accustomed to using stories to get their ideas across. Utilize this technique yourself in order to teach them how to do so. You’ll be helping them develop a highly-prized right-brain skill — one that will never be grouped in with the analytical grunt-work that computers are taking off our plates.
Did you know that Einstein was an accomplished violinist? Many do not. In fact, Einstein attributed many of his discoveries to playing the violin due to the impact it had on unlocking the creative capacities of his mind.
To enable our children to succeed in the world we’re creating, we must apply a more integrative approach to parenting and teaching that balances logical left-brain development with the power and creativity of the right-brain.
Our children have the opportunity to be better than us, with broader capabilities than we ever dreamed of. By fostering whole-brain teaching strategies with the aptitudes described, we can help them become more mentally well-rounded than any previous generation would have even thought necessary, let alone possible. It’s the best way to ensure that our children won’t find themselves fighting for their own employability in the face of outsourcing and automation.