Shifting from 1D to 4D education
Serious reforms needed to inspire the innovation economy. By Detlef Reis
As an educator for more than 15 years, both at the university graduate level and in corporate training — and a life-long learner — I believe that we need more and better education that fits the modern world of the 21st century.
Most people take the current education system for granted. They fail to realise that it was created in the 19th and 20th centuries to develop effective human resources for the industrial age.
However, to meet the needs and opportunities of the creative, agile and digital innovation economy of the 21st century, we need to elevate education to higher dimensions of understanding and human consciousness.
We need to shift from one-dimensional or two-dimensional education for an earlier age to advanced 3D or even 4D education. So, how can we evolve education across all segments of the education sector?
1D education — establishing foundational knowledge: Knowledge is the starting point in education. Most learners start their journeys into a new topic or knowledge domain with a clean slate. Then, they gradually acquire a body of foundational concepts and theories (grounded in facts, research and the observation of reality).
At the beginning of each of my courses, I share basic definitions and vital foundational concepts related to the topic to establish a cornerstone of knowledge to build on subsequently.
I also animate this foundational knowledge with concrete examples or stories grounded in reality. That way, we can transform absolute beginners in a domain into novices with a basic understanding of important foundational concepts.
2D education — add the second dimension: Knowledge plus skills equals applied knowledge. This second learning dimension allows learners to move from knowing something in theory to doing it in practice, in line with the Zen saying: “To know and not to do is not yet to know.”
Learners can develop a deeper level of understanding by building up skills. A skill is the ability to do something well. Notice that this definition of “skill” emphasises doing, not knowing. I prefer using straightforward practice exercises to give learners a chance to apply learned content, such as using a particular thinking tool.
I also ask learners to reflect on concrete experiences (like going on a field trip or doing concrete experiments) to conceptualise and personalise learning. But I let learners practise new skills only after having established related knowledge first.
By combining foundational knowledge with practical skills, learners can move from the novice to the apprentice level and arrive at applied knowledge.
3D education — knowledge + skills + experience = acquired know-how: Experience can be defined as the knowledge or skill acquired by experience over time, especially in a particular profession by someone at work. In other words, the more often you practise a specific skill or apply a piece of knowledge, the more experienced you become in a chosen domain.
Ideally, an education programme offers learners all three components — knowledge, skills and experience. Our flagship Thinkergy training courses add the experience dimension by allowing learners to practise their applied knowledge on a real case.
Thereby, we progress sequentially following the educational dimension hierarchy: disseminating foundational knowledge first, then developing skills through practice exercises, before finally staging an experience of what it takes to work on and resolve a real-life case. But taking learners to the third level of truly acquiring know-how requires a greater investment of time.
At my main academic home, Bangkok University, my colleagues and I also follow a 3D educational approach in the Master in Business Innovation (MBI) Programme by featuring real-life casework in all courses.
4D education — acquired know-how synthesised into meta-how = wisdom: Learners can activate the fourth dimension of learning over time by asking at the end of a newly acquired know-how training: “What fundamental things of how business, life, and the universe works can I unearth after having learned about, practised and then applied this particular know-how in real life?
“And how does this freshly acquired know-how connect to other know-how that I acquired before?”
Reflecting on these questions can make you become aware of non-obvious connections and commonalities between different know-how domains, topics and concepts.
This is essential because both worthy new challenges and the breakthrough ideas to resolve them often reside in the intersection between different domains and concepts. As Steve Jobs noted: “Creativity is just connecting things.”
Engaging in such meta-cognitive synthesis after completing each learning programme also makes you wise. Wisdom comprises the body of knowledge and principles that develops within a specified society or period. It grows over time and allow you to become aware of the more advanced human consciousness states.
So when you gradually build up your meta-know-how, you are also likely to move up to higher consciousness levels. You become a true master of one or even multiple fields and may eventually transform into a sage renowned for your wisdom.