In his “indispensable” 2010 book Linchpin, Seth Godin says there are only two things students should be learning in school these days: (1) How to solve interesting problems, and (2) how to lead.
He has a point. Why are our kids devoting so much time and energy memorizing stuff that’s readily available via app or Internet? Why aren’t they spending that time learning something that’s really going to set them apart?
As radical as that sounds, Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee take Godin’s idea even further.
In their riveting 2014 book The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies, Brynjolfsson and McAfee say modern education should focus on just three things:
- Large-frame pattern recognition.
- Complex communication.
“There’s never been a worse time to be a worker with only ‘ordinary’ skills and abilities to offer,” Brynjolfsson and McAfee write, “because computers, robots, and other digital technologies are acquiring these skills and abilities at an extraordinary rate.”
In other words, learn stuff that technology isn’t going to be able to replace just yet. As awesome as new technology is, it leaves some awfully large gaps in the education landscape. As philosopher Elbert Hubbard once said, “One machine can do the work of 50 ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man.”
Our goal, then, is to be extraordinary. Doing so means learning the right things. I wholeheartedly applaud Godin, Brynjolfsson and McAfee for reimagining education. Our educational system could use a ton of reimagining these days.
For CPAs, though, the answer doesn’t have to be that radical.
You still have to know your core technical competencies. Technology hasn’t quite been able to replace the accounting, auditing, tax and finance skills that are the foundation of the profession. Not yet, anyway.
Still, there are new skills you’ll need if you want to stand apart from the competition, and these are skills technology will never be able to touch. I’m talking about leadership, innovation, collaboration, social business, and strategic thinking, to name but a few.
The point is this: What we learn and how we learn it have been turned on their heads. Education has changed radically.
Now it’s time for educators — and yes, for students themselves — to catch up.