TED : Ideas worth spreading

Review: The human skills we need in an unpredictable world

Speaker: Margaret Heffernan
TEDSummit 2019
Date: July 2019
Location: Edinburgh, Scotland

Description from TED website:
The more we rely on technology to make us efficient, the fewer skills we have to confront the unexpected says writer and entrepreneur Margaret Heffernan. She shares why we need less tech and more messy human skills — imagination, humility, bravery — to solve problems in business, government, and life in an unpredictable age. “We are brave enough to invent things we’ve never seen before,” she says. “We can make any future we choose.”

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My Review / Notes / Thoughts

“The unexpected is becoming the norm.”

How timely her talk was, considering it was given just prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. We can all learn a lot from her talk. But here are some of the bits I picked up from it that I want to share with you.

In the past, we had “just in time” management… now, she recommends that one of the skills we have “just in case” management. We can’t always plan for what’s coming because we don’t know when, where, or what. But we can be prepared… it’s not necessarily efficient, but robust preparedness provides us with options when something does eventually happen.

The skills she lists that we need in this new “norm” are:

  • Preparedness
  • Coalition-Building
  • Imagination
  • Experiments
  • Bravery

These are not skills that we typically teach in the education system, but perhaps we need to conduct some ‘experiments’ and work on developing these skills in the lives of those we have been tasked with educating.

One way of utilizing this talk would be on a faculty/instructor in-service day. A session could start with this talk, then have the participants break up into groups and brainstorm ways to build these skills in their students. After a while, have the groups come back and give a report to the rest of the participants so everyone can share the ideas that were generated.

I certainly can see this talk being used in classes as well, especially with first-year college students. Have the students watch the video and then either participate in a group discussion or perhaps write a paper or journal on ways they could develop these skills in themselves and others.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree that these skills are important for us to develop in our young people? How would you go about implementing this talk into an engaging student assignment? How might you go about developing the actual skills in your students?


Until next time … live long, life-learner!

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