The Coming Revolution In Human Empowerment – Part II

Tech Industry

Power to the People, right on”

Part I of this series provides context for the human empowerment revolution. To access it, use this link: https://www.forbes.com/sites/johnkao/2022/04/19/the-coming-revolution-in-human-empowermentpart-i/?sh=255a9879ccf0

The core dynamic underlying the human empowerment revolution I am describing and the human empowerment industry that flows from it is the shift of power from institutions to the individual. In our legacy systems of public education, human resource management, certifying bodies, corporate training, and professional guilds, power adheres to the institution and the individual is correspondingly disempowered.

But we live in an era of discontinuity, one not only shaped by disruptive technology but by the weakening of legacy business models underlying institutions such as formal education, which up until now has been the societal gathering place for cultivating human potential at scale. And this extends to other legacy approaches to human capital cultivation that are now equally ripe for reinvention.

Such legacy models empowered massive, centralized institutions (universities, certifying bodies such as professional boards and standardized testing agencies) to develop efficient, linear sequences of learning that achieved scale and certified performance on their terms – a version of the ultimate self-licking ice cream cone and at societal scale.

Educational institutions as we know them today were a response to the needs of the industrial age for evaluation. Standardized metrics placed labels on the “good ones“

and allowed them to advance, while the “slow ones” were tracked into alternative employment or given some form of remedial education. Enabling external, “objective” measures of accomplishment – grades, standardized test scores, diplomas – took precedence over efforts to personalize learning for a specific students’ needs and passions. This meant that students once certified by the “system” were still left with the daunting challenge of figuring out how to make choices from life’s buffet that best expressed their values and passions.

Certification and credentialing followed this industrial logic. Disproportionate power accrued to legacy institutions because of their ability to bestow badges of accomplishment that were the language of representation for a talented person in their efforts to seek opportunities. The fact that many innovators, entrepreneurs and cultural creatives have rejected this system, dropped out, and succeeded without its help gives the lie to its current legitimacy. They have rejected the information asymmetry and disempowerment that flows from legacy human resource and human capital practices. This asymmetry is compounded by the difficulty of finding the right advice, support and services “just in time.” Guidance counselors, outplacement consultants, coaches and therapists are a challenge for the average person to find and choose from. The process often resembles the highly subjective “taste” required to select a good bottle of Bordeaux or a great pair of loudspeakers.

But we no longer live in an analog world in which pursuing standardized career pathways is the key to success and in which linear learning pathways are the gold standard. On the demand side for talent, the world of employment has mutated in noteworthy ways. First, the rate of societal change has accelerated, and wholesale

disruption of traditional career paths is the result. New types of careers are popping up like kudzu after a heavy rain. Employers, alarmed by how unprepared new entrants into the marketplace are, increasingly inject proprietary learning experiences into the public space both to screen for new recruits but also to supplement the inadequate offerings supplied by traditional learning institutions. Given the cost of recruitment, this also makes good economic sense.

Gaps are equally obvious when it comes to social entrepreneurship and the work of NGOs. The Sustainable Development Goals put forth by the UN are an action agenda for the human race. Yet those societal and planetary level priorities do not translate easily into learning arcs or career preparation pathways for young talent to follow. For instance, if one is interested in the security of the oceans, it is far from clear as to what the “right” academic pathway is. Internships and “try out” situations are only dimly searchable in today’s inefficient market for opportunities. And academic institutions have been slow to create bespoke pathways for such new types of demand.

Advertisement

Finally the situation is equally challenging from the perspective of ministries of labor and government officials responsible for cultivating human capital. Many countries, in order to remain economically competitive, have focused on strategic industries. This is all well and good. Yet the learning pathways to serve those critical, emergent economic sectors are haphazard at best. There is also a related issue of unemployment, especially youth unemployment in parts of the world such as the Middle East where capital is abundant, but talent must be cultivated. In such countries, getting talent mobilized around appropriate career paths is an ongoing challenge.

The situation would not be so serious if those responsible for creating and deploying

core learning experiences were able to keep up with the pace of change. Unfortunately this is not the case. Learning increasingly resembles old wine in new bottles (online learning), new wine in old bottles (the latest 500 page entrepreneurship textbook) or learning as entertainment (Masterclass).

The following table of “thought balloons” contrasts the disempowering weight of legacy with a new vision for technology-enabled human empowerment along six critical dimensions:

1-ADVICE

Disempowerment because of legacy practices and institutions

I am dependent on others to give me advice. They may not know enough, have the time or interest to fully empathize with my needs or have my best interests (as opposed the institutions) at heart. It’s hard for me to tell who the right person is for me to work with.

The Human Empowerment Vision

I get advice and support (career, personal, life planning) right when I need it and in a form that is most useful to me. This advice is objective, trustworthy, evidence-based, and respectful of my privacy.

2-LEARNING

Disempowerment because of legacy practices and institutions

My learning must fit into fixed curriculum structures defined by institutions and experts without regard for my particular learning style or personal needs.

The Human Empowerment Vision

I have continuous access to personalized learning that takes me on a journey of increasing proficiency. This learning is available when I need it and in a form most compatible with my abilities and needs (tacit as well as explicit).

3-CREDENTIALING, ASSESSMENT AND CERTIFICATION

Disempowerment because of legacy practices and institutions

I am at the mercy of institutions beyond my control to certify my knowledge. In addition, they have the right to maintain custody of my information; my transcripts are in their filing cabinets.

The Human Empowerment Vision

I am able to demonstrate proficiency in the most efficient manner and in terms of what I have actually learned and need for advancement. I own, control and freely access my own information, which represents my abilities and accomplishments to the world.

4-OPPORTUNITY SEEKING

Disempowerment because of legacy practices and institutions

I lack the means and skills to find the right opportunities for me, navigate my path and design my life.

The Human Empowerment Vision

I am exposed to the broadest array of opportunities that fit with my needs and am supported to make optimal choices at every stage in my life journey.

5-PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT AND WELLBEING

Disempowerment because of legacy practices and institutions

It’s hard to find the right resources, sources of guidance and support for my journey of personal development and wellbeing. I lack the ability to evaluate what choices I do have to find the optimal “fit” for my personal needs.

The Human Empowerment Vision

I have access to knowledge, resources and tools that help me to move from “survive” to “thrive” and to lead my “best life.” A rich array of personalized resources are available to me right when I need them.

6-EXPRESSING A SENSE OF PURPOSE

Disempowerment because of legacy practices and institutions

I am disturbed about the state of the world but feel powerless to do anything about it. I don’t know where to go to find the learning and guidance to express my values and make a difference in areas I care about.

The Human Empowerment Vision

I have access to the tools, community and knowledge that enable me to harness my proficiencies to fulfill my sense of purpose

These issues are common to all of us, whatever our situation in life. In a sense, we are all marginalized because our knowledge is imperfect and our access to support is incomplete. However, a coming tsunami of technological innovation and new business models will come to our rescue and is the subject of Part III of this series.

Advertisement

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.