MyNotes: Global Achievement Gap

The following are my notes from Chapter 1 of Tony Wagner's The Global Achievement Gap. This is certainly powerful stuff!!


  1. All schools are now obsolete--even the ones that score the best on standardized testing--because the world has change.
  2. All students need new skills for college, careers and citizenship.
  3. Teaching all students to think and to be curious is much more than a technical problem for which      educators, alone, are accountable.
  4. New sought after skills in employees:
    1. The ability to ask the right questions
    2. People who can engage in good discussion. You have to know how to work well with others.
    3. "You also have to know how to engage the customer, to find out what his needs are. If you can't engage others, then you won't learn what you need to know."
  1. Global Achievement Gap is  the gap between what even our best suburban, urban, and rural public schools are teaching and testing versus what all students will need to succeed as learners, workers, and citizens in today's global knowledge economy.

  1. Seven Survival Skills for the 21st Century:
    1. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving:
      1. Asking good questions, critical thinking and problem solving go hand in hand in the minds of most employers and business consultants.
      2. The way work is organized now is lots of networks of cross-functional teams that work together on specific projects. Work is defined by the task or problem you and your team are trying to solve or the end goal you want to accomplish.
      3. Teams have to figure out the best way to get there--the solution is not prescribed.
      4. Since no one is telling teams what to do, they have to figure it out--critical-thinking and problem-solving.
      5. Employees need to sift through an overwhelming amount of information in order to figure out what's important and what's not. To do this you have to think critically.
      6. Definition of Critical Thinking: Taking issues and situations and problems, and going to root components; understanding how the problem evolved--looking at it from a systemic perspective and not accepting things at face value. It also means being curious about why things are the way they are and being able to think about why something is important.
        1. What do I really need to understand about this?
        2. What is the history?
        3. What are other people thinking about this?
        4. How does all that come together?
        5. What frames and models can we use to understand this from a variety of different angles and then come up with something different?
        6. Yesterday's solutions doesn't solve tomorrow's problem.
        7. Problems change and so approaches to problems need to change.
        8. "We need self-directed people who either have problem-solving skills or can easily be trained to think on their feet and find creative solutions to some very tough, challenging problems."
        9. "The focus for the last five years has been on thinking skills, as well as emotional intelligence--can they interact and relate, can they come up with new ideas, can they bring these new ideas to the table and work with people in the process?
        10. Individuals who can see past the present, see beyond, think about the future and think systemically, connect the dots…less linear thinking--people who can conceptualize but also synthesize a lot of data.
        11. How do you do things that haven't been done before, where you have to rethink or think anew, or break set in a fundamental way--it's not incremental improvement anymore?
        12. Critical-thinking skills include the ability to apply abstract knowledge to solve a problem and to develop and execute a solution--the ability to think broadly and deeply. It means having and using a framework for problem-identification--assumptions and facts, acquiring information, viewing alternative solutions. Another part of critical thinking is surrounding yourself with people who have differences of opinion and who can help you come to the best solution: team-based leadership.
    2. Collaboration Across Networks and Leading by Influence
      1. Technology has allowed for virtual teams…you're working with people all around the world on solving a problem. They don't work in the same room, they don't come to the same office, but every week they're on a variety of conference calls; they're doing webcasts; they're doing net meetings.
      2. The hardest thing to change was the behavior of the employees. They didn't know how to operate individually and then collaborate from afar, and so we had to provide coaching and counseling on how you communicate via email and conference calls.
      3. Trust is the total number of interactions divided by the number of positive interactions. The higher the number of positive interactions, the greater the trust….how do you provide the opportunity to interact so that employees have the ability ot develop trust?
      4. As organizations become more global, the ability to work fluidly around the world is a competitive advantage: understanding how to leverage the globe, time zones, where the work can best be done, where there are skills that best match the task, either because of the culture or the training.
      5. The ability to interact with diverse cultures and religions is important.
      6. A core competency is the ability to think strategically: to figure out where the work can best be done from both a talent and cost perspective. A greater challenge…how to forge effective collaborative teams and work with people who come from vastly different cultures.
      7. Command and control hierarchical leadership is a relic of the past.
      8. Kids fresh out of school lack the ability to influence versus direct and command…the only kind of leadership young people have experienced is one that relies on obedience versus the kind of reasoning and persuasion that is the new leadership style demanded by businesses organized in teams and networks.
      9. Students have a predisposition toward believing that everythingis clearly outlined, and then people give directions, and then other people execute until there's a new set of directions.
      10. How do you solve a problem when people who own what you need are outside your organization or don't report to you, or the total solution requires a consortium of different people? How do you influence things that are out of your direct control?
      11. Mantra: Lead by influence rather than authority.
    3. Agility and Adaptability
      1. You have to be able to think, be flexible, change, be adaptive,and use a variety of tools to solve new problems. People have to learn to adapt.
      2. Adaptability and learning are more important than technical skills.
      3. To survive, you have to be flexible and adaptable and a lifelong learner.
      4. Managing disruption:
        1. How do leaders deal with exogenous factors that are going to impact the way they think and lead?
        2. How do they handle internal disruption--innovation and change management?
        3. How do they understand disruptions that are happening in our industry space or in adjacent spaces?
        4. Learners have to demonstrate that they can solve problems in a changing an duncertain world.
        5. We live in a world where there isn't one right answer, or if there is, it's right only for a nanosecond. If you're afraid, you can't think clearly.
    4. Initiative and Entrepreneurialism
      1. Take more initiative and even be entrepreneurial in terms of the ways they seek out new opportunities, ideas, and strategies for improvement.
      2. We need self-directed people who can find creative solutions to some very tough, challenging problems.
      3. Help educators figure out how to use technology effectively.
      4. Leadeship is the capacity to take initiative and trust yourself to be creative.
    1. Effective Oral and Written Communications
      1. The ability to express one's views clearly in a democracy and to communicate effectively across cultures is an important citizenship skill as well.
      2. Advice for teachers: Teach them to write! Effective communication is key in everything we do--people need to learn to communicate effectively with each other and external communities.
      3. Young people have difficulty being clear and concise; it's hard for them to create focus, energy, and passion around the points they want to make.
      4. What do you want me to take away from this meeting?
      5. Also important is the ability to create focus, energy and passion.
      6. Less fuzzy thinking and lack of writing with a real voice.
    2. Accessing and Analyzing Information
      1. There is so much more data that people have to synthesize…they can't just produce a bunch of reports. They have to find the important details and then say, "Here's what we should do about it."
      2. The ability to analyze information in order to discern new challenges and opportunities.
      3. We have to be able to access and evaluate information from many different sources, as well as evaluate it.
    3. Curiosity and Imagination
      1. New and improved knowledge workers: those who can think in disciplined ways, but also those who have a burning curiosity, a lively imagination, and can engage others empathetically.
      2. People who have learned to ask great questions and have learned to be inquisitive are the ones who move the fastest in our environment because they solve the biggest problems in ways that have the most impact on innovation.
      3. Be curious…do a system analysis.
      4. For businesses, it's no longer enough to create a product that's reasonably priced and adequately functional. It must also be beautiful, unique, and meaningful.
      5. Our old idea is that work is defined by employers and that employees have to do whatever the mployer wants. That has not been true in professional jobs for a long time because people have so many ways to influence what they do and how they it that, if they are good, they actually create their work space. Authenticity pays.
      6. We still think that work is given to people; whereas I think people actually are increasingly taking the work.


Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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