Five Disruptions That We Thought Could Change Everything

Topics: Future of Learning

Back in 2012, it looked as if a surge of innovation happening across knowledge-based industries could shake up education as we knew it, breaking down traditional models and creating novel approaches. We had been seeing the digital revolution disintermediate other sectors such as journalism, music, retail and healthcare and thought that something similar could happen in education.

KnowledgeWorks’ third major future forecast, Recombinant Education: Regenerating the Learning Ecosystem, anticipated some pretty significant reshaping of learning over the next decade:

As new education innovations, organizations, resources, and relationships proliferate, we have the opportunity to put the pieces – some long-established and some new – together in new sequences to create a diverse and evolving learning ecosystem. Just as genetic recombination increases diversity by producing new forms of DNA, so too education recombination promises to bolster the learning ecosystem’s resilience, helping it withstand threats and make use of possibilities.

Now that it is 2022, we have reached the time horizon of that forecast. As KnowledgeWorks has done with past forecasts, we are looking back at the future to take stock of the space between what we imagined might unfold and how education and the surrounding landscape look today.

This retrospective will revisit the five disruptions that formed the core of the Recombinant Education forecast.

  • Democratized Startup: Transformational investment strategies and open access to startup knowledge, expertise and networks will seed an explosion of disruptive social innovations.
  • High-Fidelity Living: As big data floods human sensemaking capacities, cognitive assistants and contextual feedback systems will help people target precisely their interactions with the world.
  • De-Institutionalized Production: Activity of all sorts will be increasingly independent of institutions as contributions become more ad-hoc, dynamic and networked.
  • Customizable Value Webs: Innovative, open business models will leverage complex networks of assets and relationships to create ultra-customer-centric experiences across industries.
  • Shareable Cities: Next gen cities will drive social innovation, with urban infrastructure shaped by patterns of human connection and contribution.

These disruptions were major societal shifts that promised to have broad impact on the future of learning. We forecast that they would cause deep, and sometimes unsettling, change. But we also made the case that education stakeholders could use future uncertainty to spark creativity, not only fear.