THE BLOG
08/30/2016 04:37 pm ET Updated Aug 31, 2017

The Agile Mindset: Becker College's Academic Foundation and Ethos

Six years ago, Becker College began to take a more adaptive, nimble, and entrepreneurial approach to higher education. The results--including growing enrollments and improving institutional and academic rankings, notably in the areas of game design--propelled the College forward on a path of historic growth and transformation.

The Becker community recognized that preparing students for the workplace of the future would mean cultivating global learners with agile mindsets, capable of thriving in a world of growing ambiguity and unpredictability.

This year, Becker College affirms the Agile Mindset as the academic foundation that equips students to navigate change and create value in the complex, hyper-connected, automated world of the 21st century. At its essence, the Agile Mindset values knowledge and the power of learning. It focuses on a set of four uniquely human skills, and it prepares students to adapt and create new value.

This blog is the first of a five-part series discussing how the Agile Mindset at Becker prepares students for jobs that do not yet exist and to solve problems that have not been identified, utilizing technology yet to be discovered.

Preparing Agile Learners to create the future

Technological change is happening at an astonishing pace. Futurists and economists agree that change is occurring faster than ever before in human history, not just transforming work and societies, but also challenging what it means to be human.

Thomas L. Friedman, Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times columnist and author, bluntly described the aggressive march of automation across the shifting work landscape when he said, "Anything mentally or physically routine or predictable can be achieved with an algorithm." Look no further than the check-out lines at supermarkets or online banking for common examples of the convenience, and the job disruption, rendered by artificial intelligence (AI). Driverless cars, wearable internet gear, and robotic pharmaceutical and legal services are among the upcoming inventions that the World Economic Forum predicts will further transform our lives; tipping the globe closer to what Jeremy Rifkin calls the Third Industrial Revolution.

Before the turn of the century, economists and futurists like Rifkin and Thomas Frey, senior futurist at the DaVinci Institute, urged people around the globe to brace themselves for the seismic shifts we are now experiencing in the workplace. Indeed, experts say the way we work in the last 20 years has changed as much as in the last 200. To lend further perspective on just how fast change is happening, a simple review of history is rife with reminders of the leaps that have been made over relatively short periods of time. The automobile industry provides a perfect example. For people who lived just 150 years ago, never having seen a car, the thought of traveling 1,000 miles seemed like an impossible journey. Today, 1,000-mile trips are unremarkable.

The data often cited by the experts paints a picture of even more profound challenges ahead. But for those who are adept in the skills required in the future, they also telegraph opportunities beyond imagination. A quick review of some of the statistics is in order.

Sixty-five percent of school-age children will work in jobs that do not exist.
• Forty-seven percent of total U.S. employment is at high risk for replacement by computerized automation in the next two decades.
• Fifty percent of the content an undergraduate degree may be obsolete within five years of graduation.
• Only 27 percent of college graduates ever work in their major.

With the days of the one-job, one-career clearly behind us, does this mean a college degree is a waste? To the contrary. Education's enduring power to transform lives and entire societies is evident throughout history--during different periods marked by rapid change as well as massive market disruption. Economic factors have a major bearing on the decision to pursue a college degree. More students than ever are putting a higher premium on job-related factors in their decision to go to college. While the aspirations of today's students reflect an appreciation for the role higher education plays in professional and personal growth and upward mobility, the widening gap between career expectations and the realities of the new economy demands to be addressed by college and universities.

Leveraging knowledge to create new value

Currently, five generations of Americans -- Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials and iGen, aka Generation Z -- may work side-by-side in the workplace. For the U.S. to maintain a competitive edge in the evolving, hyper-connected, global marketplace, college graduates must be prepared to be adaptive, nimble, and entrepreneurial. Professionals, regardless of their specific degree, must know how to leverage knowledge, and then apply it in novel situations. They also must be able to continually channel new learning. Or to paraphrase Tony Wagner, Expert in Residence at Harvard University's Innovation Lab and Senior Research Fellow at the Learning Policy Institute, it is no longer about what you know, but what you can do with your knowledge.

Learning agility is a job requirement, and a top predictor of success, among companies such as Google and Netflix. Graduates will increasingly need to know how to develop and flex their cognitive skills in areas such as empathy, social and emotional intelligence, and divergent thinking to work collaboratively, solve unstructured problems, and create new value for themselves and others. Automation may be able to perform routine, sequential functions faster, and more efficiently than humans, but the insight, intuition, and inspiration that will ultimately chart the course of the future reside exclusively in the human experience.

The future is now. Therefore, perpetuating an educational model that simply creates and imparts knowledge is insufficient. It is tantamount to educational malpractice. Educating young people and cultivating lifelong learners are not mutually exclusive. The Academy must evolve and operationalize models that merge learning agility with a value-creation orientation. Every college graduate entering today's world must know how to use the power of learning to navigate the future. This is why the Becker College community has pivoted to the Agile Mindset, which is driven by the College's mission and values.

For Becker, learning agility is more than an academic approach or methodology. It evolves from an institutional DNA rooted in the commitment to deliver to the world graduates, who are adaptive and prepared to effectively navigate and embrace change.

The second blog in this series will take a closer look at what it is to value knowledge and the power of learning as an institutional ethos.