The Power to Know You’re Making a Difference

Learn or die. The need for insight in education is almost that stark. Whether you’re talking about countries, counties, cities or citizens, whether you’re reading Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat, Richard Florida’s The Flight of the Creative Class or the Education Commission of the States’ report Keeping America’s Promise, the conclusion is clear: Without education, the prospects are bleak. Freidman argues that without education and imagination, a country cannot compete in a globally woven world. Florida argues that communities that fail to support education — or worse yet, mute education expansion — are ensuring their fast decline. The authors of Keeping America’s Promise point to harsh statistics showing that without achieving at least “some” higher education, a person is destined for a very different future, one with far less security, far less opportunity and far less promise.

Thankfully, the converse also is true: Education is a powerful pathway to possibility for individuals, organizations and communities. In many ways, it is the modern difference-maker. Education opens doors to economic opportunity, individual empowerment and creative expression in a way no other force can.

It is not surprising, then, that the power to know we are making a difference in education has become a necessity for schools, colleges, universities, communities, states, provinces and nations. Nor is it surprising that the search to make better decisions, leverage better strategies and design better systems in education is the highest of priorities in academia today. To achieve these ends, to gain the power to know we’re making a difference, we need to begin to embrace insight initiatives. Insight initiatives in this context can be thought of as explorations of information from the past (hindsight) combined with looks to the future (foresight) that come together in a moment of insight to power decisions that make a positive difference. In the corporate world, some would use the term business intelligence to describe this work, or they might call it “competing on analytics.” These initiatives leverage technology, planning, research, strategy and host of other key elements.

If you’re interested in these issues, here’s a link to a free White Paper based on my speech to the Higher Learning Commission’s 111th annual conference earlier this month; it’s called The Power to Know You’re Making a Difference: Embracing Insight Initiatives in Education. What I offer in the paper is a broad exploration of the embrace of insight initiatives across multiple sectors: business, government, healthcare and education. It also explores the technological infrastructure necessary to make these insight efforts work. Finally, we dive deeper into the key issues that arise as a result of these initiatives and surface a powerful role for education, not only in leveraging insight but also in living free in the modern world.

Most likely, you agree that education is a modern imperative; and that this imperative is driving the embrace of insight initiatives in education. And you’ll see in the paper, we are not alone. The corporate, government and healthcare sectors also are taking on this sort of work, for a host of different reasons. So it’s time for us to use the CASE method—Copy And Steal Everything. Let’s see if we can learn from other sectors, learn from each other and learn from our own work in an effort to bring more meaningful, deep learning to our students. By working together, we can know that we’re making a difference — and know that we’re helping students embrace their exciting futures.

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