The last fifteen days presented me with two opportunities of interacting with young minds. Two different groups.
The second was at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS). This is placement season at various campuses. The idea of sharing some macro contexts, relating it to what we do on a daily basis was to enable students pursuing their MBA make informed career choices for the present and also keep emerging trends in mind as they navigate their days in different corporate portals. Atleast, that was the hope!
The first opportunity was at the Forum of Free Enterprise‘s. The Forum itself has been around for ages now and has a checkered history with people that were associated with it who modestly could be described as ‘illustrious’. The forum organises leadership camps for college students from around India in the age group of 18-21, on a regular basis. To get invited to lead a half a day workshop on ‘Social Presence’ was good enough for me to spend the Sunday on the road. I got more acquainted with the work the forum does during the course of this work and it definitely seems like stellar stuff. Do look the forum up.
I was impressed with the students and their lines of thought. The pictures above are from the entire five days that they spent with professionals from different walks of life. Brilliant stuff, I think.
Both interactions taught me a heap, while I do hope it did leave the young people with a few aspects and ideas to mull over too.
I group my reflections in three points here.
For one, the all pervasiveness of Social Tools in young lives leading them to be such immersive users of these tools is pretty evident. The ‘fun’, ‘cool’ element of these tools have caused these to be adopted into the mainstream easily. So easily and comprehensively that ‘what else can we do with these’ / ‘what are the underlying triggers to these’ etc are areas of virgin pastures for exploration
The opportunity of triggering thoughts around ‘what these tools really are’ and more importantly ‘what they can do’ when used imaginatively, is massive!
The second aspect of course, is the gap between what gets taught as part of formal education, and the hard reality of the real world seems to be more than yawning. Technology seems to be widening the gap every minute. Or maybe, thats not how I should be saying that. Technology is creating a completely new paradigm, while theories, pedagogy and curricula still belong to an erstwhile era.
Every age does this to the age that follows. The artifacts of the previous age lingering on for longer than they are relevant. Artifacts (and approaches) from the manufacturing era continuing to dominate current day formal education is a gargantuan travesty. The only difference though, this time, is that the reality of the real world (Technology has changed it completely) is far too pervasive and too widely adopted. The tumult of change is fast reaching the gates of our educational institutions. Or maybe, they already are sitting inside classrooms.
The third aspect is the aspect that I often talk about here and other fora : ‘Social’ is not a set of tools. It is a mindset. Limiting our articulation about them to an assorted bundle of tools is, well, limiting! Sure they do seem ‘fresh’ and help in incremental wins, and have commercial value too. But it is the exploration of a different mindset that triggers taking charge of these tools better.
Oftentimes it is not about these tools at all. For instance, I had a great time exploring the concept of ‘hierarchy’, ‘leadership’, ‘narrative’ from multiple angles with young minds. (In hindsight, I think I should have done more). Their perspectives were incredible. The examples that they came up with were powerful. More importantly their examination of ‘what could have been’ was scintillating. The future will be exciting when these folks are in charge.
Of course, the tools come into play sometime. But its not really about the tools. Our contexts and our weaving of these tools imaginatively to resolve dilemmas, tide over challenges and converse with the rest of the world, are pursuits that count more.
Time will tell.