Why consilience will help your business soar in 2021

Disruptive and stressful experiences such as the still prevailing crisis can be opportunities and catalyst for growth. But, from what I experience is that the “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it” mantra still withholds many organizations and leaders to see(k) opportunities. However, research[1] has shown that crises creates new opportunities for people and organizations to implement new ideas, thereby becoming stronger for the future.

“For there is always light, if only we are brave enough to see it, If only we are brave enough to be it. “

Amanda Gorman, The Hill We Climb

Recently, a young woman took the stage on Capitol Hill, leaving few of us untouched. Her words of unity, faith and trust inspired me to reflect on the growth mindset of organizations and the people behind them. Like many others I was touched by this young poet, not only because of the power of her words, but also by her message that we must open our eyes to new possibilities. Her poem makes me reflect on the importance of “Consilience”, and why this seems to be a difficult task while this is actually something that came natural to us as children. 

Social Consilience

We might agree that 2021 is all about new opportunities to cultivate a growth mindset, stimulated self-learning and a culture of knowledge sharing.  Driving this should therefore be the number one priority of business leaders today.  I explicitly do not refer to training or fancy new apps to address the necessary reskilling for the changing future. 

How do we get started? For years, I have been looking for answers to the starting point for a sustainable learning strategy and/or state of the art digital tool to support growth. Moreover, and maybe my most urging question, how can we promote learning when it is not seen as a gift but as a “tantalus torment”?

Inspired to find THE answer and “walk the talk”, I put on my student glasses and registered at MIT for an executive Master in Digital Innovation. Many aha moments later and inspired by Paul McDonagh-Smith and his new course Algorithmic Business Thinking. Paul introduced us to the “six genes of human-centric organizational capabilities that have the potential to unify and unite our physical and digital business realities, and in doing so, provide opportunities to convert the challenges of the digital economy into opportunities for sustainable growth”:

  1. Curiosity
  2. Creativity
  3. Critical thinking 
  4. Compassion
  5. Collaboration 
  6. Consilience

Consilience inspired me the most, and what I confess, it was unknown to me! 

This concept, first introduced by author and biologist E.O. Wilson, asserts that the sciences, humanities, and arts have a common goal: to give a purpose to understand the details. To lend to all inquirers “a conviction, far deeper than a mere working proposition, that the world is orderly and can be explained by a small number of natural laws. ” Too complicated when it was first explained to me. 

When reflecting on consilience with my peer groups at MIT, I was intrigued by the suggestion that we should invest in “Social Consilience” as the key gene to be developed. One of my peers statements reminded me of the young poet as she described it as follows; “Social conscience to me is about lifting our heads up from our primary work and lives so that we can listen to the world around us, discern the needs of others and where our own skills and interests call us to engage”.  

I could identify with this through my work with our youngest digital citizens in social projects around education in Belgium. Actually, children remind me of IoT enabled robot dogs like Aibo who playfully discover the world in astonishment of all new opportunities, connect the dots in their playful manner and share their wonders with each other.

Human centered Innovation 

Coming back to the old mantra; what are we supposed to fix if we don’t see anything broken? How can we emerge stronger from this crisis as a company and as a society?  As a tech fan, and especially EdTech, I could of course claim that we should invest more in new technologies that increase involvement, stimulate collaboration and allow knowledge to flow through the organization. Many EdTech companies are knocking on doors of L&D and business leaders with those beautiful promises. And yes, don’t think I am too sceptic, the reality is many can keep their promises but some don’t. Although, such innovations can only be human-centric in essence if implemented correctly with understanding of the “six genes” that drive growth.

If the soil is acidic, he will not succeed in growing anything.

Those “genes” can be addressed with new Learning Experience Platforms (LPX), but we need to acknowledge that if the culture of the ecosystem is not considered, no digital innovation technology will ever achieve the desired results. A like to refer to LearnScapes, which are based on natural ecosystems and where similar concepts have been developed. A landscape architect might know the ideal plants with the correct watering and cross-pollination, however if the soil is acidic, he will not succeed in growing anything. 

We must dare to open our eyes, “tabula rasa” with what we had planned before 2020. Rethink our human strengths and organizational culture in a double helix partnership with technology. 

1 https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0021886307313824

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Published by Katja Habit Of Improvement

Lifelong learning and an unstoppable drive for innovation, creativity, entrepreneurship and philanthropy. Katja Schipperheijn is a digital learning strategist and internationally recognized consultant and keynote speaker on learning and engagement in the connected world. Her area of expertise focuses on the interaction of people and technology to achieve sustainable growth based on commitment and well-being. She has worked for more than 15 years with tech companies and learning organizations and holds a Master Degree in Economical Science, an Executive MBA from the Antwerp Management School and Digital Learning Strategy from MITSloan

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