Things are moving faster, and careers are supposed to be changing more frequently. What does that mean for university degrees (or other employment preparation)? Yes, university degrees aren’t necessarily just employment preparation, but I’m thinking about a degree program that provides a useful preparation for the coming world. And I think it’s got several key components.
For one, anything we do, in working together and in meeting client needs, must be aligned with how our brains work. Industrial design, interface design, learning design, marketing; increasingly everything about our products and services must be producing experiences. And, if the prognostications are to be believed, experiences that transform us. Increasingly, organizations will need to work in such ways, and those that understand this will be core. Similarly, increasingly products and services will likewise need to adapt. At core, everything we do revolves around thinking, and our brains aren’t changing. Understanding cognition is a sustainable value.
A second such areas is understanding information technology. Increasingly, the capability of computational systems to serve as configurable information processing machines is fundamental to society. It’s the perfect cognitive complement, doing well what our brains don’t, and vice-versa. And while the technology continues to evolve, some core understandings don’t. Computational thinking is focused on breaking down problems into tractable steps, and that’s part of it. And understanding how AI works (e.g. machine learning, symbolic logic, neural nets, etc), and even quantum computing, are tools to solve problems. People need to understand computational technology to complement our cognitive capability, and it’s stable enough to again be a sustainable edge.
Then, the question is, what complements these to provide a solid foundation. I have two answers: one is design (e.g. design thinking), and the other is business. And I had trouble reconciling this until recently. So, in some sense, design is an outcome of our cognitive processes, and an application. (To design is human!) But being systematic about it is a useful integration of the other two. For those who haven’t had experience in business, however, an overall understanding of business is key. This suggests that a full bachelor’s program would include design and business, while a master’s program could focus more specifically on the design (assuming some business experience).
Could these be minors on some other area people might want? It might be good to supplement this with specific interests whether bio, art, or what have you. You do want to support people’s passions. But I’ll suggest that these elements should be part of all folks preparation for life going forward. So, what do you think?