Teaching Youth to Leverage Uncertainty

Kids of TodayIn a recent post on GOOD, Andrea Lo, founder and CEO of Piggybackr, talked about preparing today's youth to face the uncertainty of the world as they enter the workforce. She described a world where not only is it likely that there will be fewer jobs, but many of the jobs that will exist haven't even been conceived of yet. It was an interesting article, and she pointed to a number of organizations that are committed to helping students build skills to create the work of the next generation. And that is a GOOD thing. 

And I like to think how much more powerful those programs might be if they also helped youth prepare for that future by helping them leverage uncertainty, rather than just face it. Glenda's last post was a compelling statement about the need to build adaptive capacity, looking beyond the surface of today's challenges to see, understand, and influence the patterns of interaction and behavior that will shape the world we step into each day. 

What if youth learned to be entrepreneurs, creators, fundraisers, and good citizens, AND they were armed with Adaptive Action and HSD-based models and methods that help them shape the world they face. How much further would the resources--time, energy, knowledge, connections--go if we each also had these skills?

Working in schools, we have had teachers who shared the models and methods with their students. Here are some of the skills those students now possess to leverage the uncertainties in their lives:

  • They look for what's both true and useful--knowing that when the world is uncertain, it makes no sense to gather information if you can't use it somehow. And they know that when you rely on something that isn't really true or grounded, even if it works right now, it will fail you over time.
  • They discern how to modulate their behaviors, not only according to externally imposed rules, but according to what's needed to make the group/team/classroom work most effectively and productively. They know how to contribute to that and govern their own behavior accordingly.
  • They use simple rules to define and govern their decision making and action taking, both as individual actors as well as members of a larger group. They understand that coherent and consistent responses across time and across a group make the team more resilient and more responsive.
  • They identify patterns of action and decision making and talk about shifting those patterns to increase the overall productivity or adaptability of the system.
  • They use iterative cycles of Adaptive Action to see, understand, and respond to the uncertainty they face each day.

My final message here is not that we think HSD and Adaptive Action should be preferred over any of those other approaches to preparing youth for the uncertainty they face. I love that committed individuals are engaging youth in building a stronger, more engaged world. And I believe that if Adaptive Action were also a part of the conversations and work in those groups, they would be an even more powerful force for helping today's youth face AND leverage uncertainty today and in the future.

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