I’ve mentioned Seth Godin’s Akimbo podcast in several posts around here. For more than a year, at the end of almost every weekly episode they play an ad for something called the Alt MBA. It’s an online program that probably doesn’t lead to an actual degree, but instead seems to be more of a leadership seminar.
Anyway, the ad is wasted on me since I have no need for an MBA of any kind. But, for some reason, the language of the promotion attracted my attention.
I just don’t think it’s possible – or probable – in today’s world to distinguish yourself as an educational institution or as a success seeker at the level of information gathering or information distribution. I mean this is the information age, you can get a great book, a great essay, a great idea anywhere. None of us can do that better than the internet, right? There is no great thought leader who can out think the internet. We have data.
What Alt MBA gets right is it puts you in a context where you’re part of a community that says “Yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s good. You got access to ideas. You got access to information. That’s awesome. But when are you going to show up. When are you going to face that blank page. When are you going to face the possibilities within you. When are you going to face those fears. I’m not gonna let you hide. You gotta show up.”
And that’s the hardest part. And it sounds simple. It sounds very common sensical. But it’s the number one reason why we don’t write that book. The number one reason why we don’t ask that question. It’s not because we don’t know or we don’t have the information. We don’t have an environment and we don’t have a support network that makes it feel like showing up is possible for me. Not just possible for the success stories I see out there, but I can show up.
You can quibble with the language (that part about “outthinking” the internet for starters), but it struck me that what they are describing is very much the opposite of what we call “school”.
With rare exceptions, our system of education still treats information as a rare commodity. Something to be distributed on a fixed schedule by adults, and gathered in a prescribed process by kids. And on a regular basis, we require a demonstration that they have gathered a sufficient amount in order to move to the next stage.
So, what happens if we make a huge change and instead create an environment that makes it possible for students to “show up”. A support network to help them face the possibilities and produce their best work.
Make the primary objective of schools be helping students learn how to turn all that information we have into something meaningful and useful.
Just a thought.
Hard to find an image to go with this post so I selected one I made at a past EduCon. That’s what I think of when we talk about communities that challenge us to show up and do our best work.