Unexpected Side Effects

There is no question that the current economic downturn is transforming the way we live, work and think. But far from being a total disaster, the current economic crisis may have given us the push we need to start thinking in a new way. Most of us are by nature creatures of habit. We do the same thing day after day. We rarely ask ourselves why, and seldom look for alternatives. Not anymore!

Just like many of you, I am in the midst of planning for next year. Dealing with this struggling economy has forced me to take a fresh look at everything we do. It has become abundantly clear that to succeed (in business and in education), it can no longer be “business as usual.”

We no longer have the luxury of pushing things to the back burner. Big or small, inefficiencies must be identified and dealt with promptly. Outcomes must be measured, and spending redistributed and aligned with our goals. Success is not achieved through creative budgeting or being frugal, it is achieved by simplifying, focusing our efforts, leveraging untapped resources, building in flexibility and being innovative. Focus only on the short-term, and you run the risk of stifling the innovations that are key to future success.

Some believe that technology may be one of the answers. A recent event entitled Hacking Education, attended by education and business leaders including Jeff Jarvis, author of What Would Google Do?, examined the impact of the Web on education and how to innovate our current educational systems. (In this context, hacking is defined as solving a problem in a way that breaks some established and widely accepted rule or conventional wisdom.) Their hack — a new learning ecosystem involving virtual education, direct-to-consumer learning services and peer-to-peer learning that can augment or displace our current public education system.

Despite the problems caused by a struggling economy, I welcome the unexpected side effects. Our current way of doing business has been disrupted, forcing us to open our minds and take a closer look are what we are doing, how we are doing it and why — in the long run making things more affordable, more accessible and better for everyone.