Roads vs Rails

I am no fan of the current educational system. Knowledge is valued over creativity. When these kids get out of college and enter the work force their employers are then tasked with rewiring them to be problem solvers and risk takers.

Kids are conditioned to running on rails- "take these classes, do well, get a degree and a job awaits". Increasingly that model is breaking down. As Daniel Pink noted in "A Whole New Mind" computers and cheap labor are shifting value from knowledge to creativity. The educational system doesn't seem to get it. Their tests mostly measure knowledge- a commodity at this point. To some degree this is understandable since creativity is hard to measure. 

So these kids leave school and suddenly find themselves driving on roads- "where do I go!?". I often see this with interns and recent grads. They are very risk averse, they want to know what they need to do to succeed. They still want to know- what will be on the test? The problem is that there is no book and no test. Every day they have to figure it out. 

It's difficult to transition from professors to bosses. Part of the difficulty lies in the fact that there are many similarities between the two. They both provide leadership, support and, to some degree, friendship. But being a student is very different from being an employee. An effective employee has to be proactive, owning their role in the company. Kids coming out of college are, on the whole, not ready for this. When they look at their bosses they still see professors. 

I think every student should be involved with running a business before they leave college. Regardless of their intended vocation this is an invaluable experience. Some colleges (Purdue for instance) are working aggressively towards offering more students the opportunity to try their hand at business. This experience will begin to shift students off the rails and on to the roads while still giving them the needed safety net. 

Our competitive advantage, as a country, has been our creativity. We are a nation of problem solvers. If we have any hopes of staying on top we need to encourage creativity. We need to remember that one great idea is worth countless hours of work and gigs of memory.