Another dot in the blogosphere?

Investing in individuals

Posted on: December 16, 2016

Every now and then a manuscript comes along that describes an actual paradigm shift. Todd Rose’s The End of Average is one such book and it is a must-read for those who think of themselves as progressive leaders, human resource managers, or educators.

On my iPad: OverDrive app and audio book in my account.

Processed with an open and critical mind, a reader might wonder why we trap ourselves with non-existent norms and false averages. A doer might chomp at the bit to enact change or accelerate it.

Rose has a personal story of how he rose from a man so poor that he had to steal toilet paper from public restrooms to being the Director of the Mind, Brain, & Education program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He attributed this to breaking out from the averages-and-standards paradigm of school and work to one of individualisation and fit.

Compelling as his personal account was, Rose also cited how companies and educational institutions were doing this at scale while focusing on individuals.

The companies were not small rafts. They were large and successful ones like Costco, Zoho, and Morning Star. The universities he cited included Western Governor’s (with its all-you-can-learn approach) and Arizona State University (which partnered EdX).

The fact is that we have already started questioning the status quo, but these efforts are still at the fringes of society. To push towards the centre, Rose suggested that in the arena of education we focus on:

  1. Competencies, not grades
  2. Pathways, not fixed curricula
  3. Credentials, not diplomas

His call to action seemed to be this: “We must create professional, educational, and social institutions that are responsive to individuality.” Why? Fit creates opportunity for all, not just some.

Why change at all?

The current and dominant paradigm is the the Age of Average which has provided equal access to standardised processes that serve the system, but does not cater to individuals in that system.

With enabling technologies and changing expectations, we have taken our first steps into the Age of Individuals that accommodates equal fit (I call this equity). This means that individuals are judged against themselves and not arbitrary averages that do not exist in reality.

I probably do not do the book justice by summarising my takeaways the way I have. Like averaging, details and meaning get lost in such a reflection. The book is an easy read, or in my case, an easy listen (but the app was frustrating). There is much distilled wisdom to benefit from in the chapters.

I recommend The End of Average highly. It was a great way to bring 2016 to a close and look forward to 2017 with renewed clarity.

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