A world turned upside down

Most discussion about the future of learning, training, and instructional design is the tail wagging the dog. Learning is a lagging indicator, not a leading one. The nature of learning is changing because the world is changing, not because we’ve identified some great new innovations in learning that are going to help improve the status quo. Learning is taking a greater role because the economics of a knowledge era value knowledge.

Discussions of ROI minutiae, how far to open the corporate kimono, making the case to one’s boss, and hand-wringing over loss of control are merely rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. World culture is in the midst of a phase change. Ice is turning into water. Nothing will remain the same.

In phases transitions, you’re either ice or water: there’s no in-between. It’s like being born again; you are or you aren’t. Yes or no.

People still in the ice age believe in certainty, control, planning for the future, causality, and scarcity, and some day we’ll figure it all out. Ice-agers think of workers as spectators and rule-followers. Icy business practices are competition, secrecy, and measurement by quarterly financials.

Water people believe nothing is certain, control is an illusion, just do it — the future is now, complex adaptive systems, abundance, and we’ll never figure it out. Aquarians consider everyone a participant in a perpetual improv performance. Watery businesspeople believe in collaboration, transparency, and the value of intangibles.

It doesn’t work to take one from column A and one from column B, e.g. secrecy and transparency are opposites. Competition and collaboration are the same deal.

Most people shape their world view in childhood and adolescence. First we make our habits, and then our habits make us. Change is hard but change is inevitable.

People who were in the primary grades when the web became popular are teenagers today. Most of them are water people. They value relationships more than facts. They make their own determinations of what’s good enough. They work collaboratively. They don’t obsess over pleasing their elders. They are direct and transparent. They will not put up with the rigidity of ice after they’ve experienced the power of flowing water.

What should a person do if they find themselves in a non-believing, ice-age organization? One alternative is to try to help the organization to get religion, to thaw. But phase change isn’t incremental; it’s all or nothing. Incrementalism simply delays the day of reckoning.

Another approach is to cherry pick the aquarian toolset for things that resonate for both ice and water and apply them to keep ice organizations on life support. In this, we’re back to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

What’s the most enlightened thing to do here? I’ll post this issue to the Internet Time Community in case the discussion grows lengthy.