November 23, 2020

A Compass for the Future of Learning

An updated look at our Open Theses

We think a lot about the future. Predicting the future is hard. As you move further away in time, risk turns into uncertainty, which manifests into outcomes that are very difficult to think about today.

Visualising Data (2015)

We are not alone in this, since humans tend to be particularly bad at these predictions. We have a tendency to assume things will change at a constant rate, and also mistake low probability events for “zero-probability” events (and discard them).

Effective future thinkers get comfortable with confidence intervals, compounding change, and uncertainty. They understand that, over a long enough time horizon, unlikely scenarios can get real, real quick. They develop mental models to make sense of uncertainty, and update their hypotheses as new information comes in (here is my favorite example).

I see this as building a compass, over making maps.

Compasses are rudimentary. They only give you a few data points about your environment (North, South, etc.), but they get the job done anywhere on earth. That’s very useful for high uncertainty contexts (high relevance, low context).

Maps are great because they give you plenty of context about the place you are in. But unfortunately, they are completely useless as soon as you move to a new place (their value decreases as context and certainty decreases).

The Future of Learning and Work

Let’s land this idea of compasses and maps here.

At Transcend Network, we study the future of learning and work across the world. It’s not easy to do, because the contexts change a lot from country to country, sector to sector. We can’t possibly know each country context in depth. And these systems for education and work around the world are changing faster than ever before, which makes it that much harder to predict the future.

We need a compass for the future of learning and work.

We are building (and constantly iterating on) our own future compass – we call it our Open Theses: our updated and open learnings about the main trends in this space.

The Open Theses

Our Open Theses are our future compass.

Our 8 Open Theses (for now) describe the key trends we see around the world of learning and work across regions and sectors, and the main shifts that are causing them (which we call “tectonic shifts”). Continuous publishing in action.

We want to take the most global and long-term view in the room. To do so we need to use our “compass”: we use it every time we interview a founder for the Transcend Fellowship. Every time we learn about a new trend. Every time I write a newsletter post. And update them as often as we can.

These are our 8 Theses today, plus some of our Transcend Fellows as examples.

  1. New Vocational Paths: new ways to teach highly demanded skills more effectively and bridge the skills gap (bootcamps, apprenticeships, vocational schools). (Outscal, Avion School, Laboratoria)
  2. University as a Platform: a more flexible and permeable definition of higher education, defined by the curation of content and experiences + learning networks (Mission Collaborative, Tipscool)
  3. Educator Tools: educators run the world, and we always need to develop better tools, training, and services to serve them better (Doyobi, Reverb, Bansho)
  4. Augmenting Learning: there are no shortcuts for learning or “invisible” learning techniques, but there are ways to augment your mind to improve the quality of that learning (Everydae, Edlyft, Unirise, Foondamate)
  5. Learning through Communities: community was always central to learning and belonging; now it's a core component of the new wave of education (SuperCreative, K20 Educators, Hyperlink, Clustered)
  6. The Future of Work, Remote: distributed teams, training and work are becoming the norm, not the exception (Benji, Soleventure)
  7. Upskilling at Work: an upskilling model for societies where learning happens daily, and is integrated with work + life (CollectiveAcademy, NewCampus)
  8. Hiring Goes Global: the 2010s made work remote, but we still hire and train locally – the 2020s are making work truly global (Skilledd, Stackraft, Contra)

Transcend Fellows

Founders are in the business of making decisions in the face of uncertainty.

We rely on founders to lead us through that uncertainty, help us understand the future they want to create, and to show us what tiny probability of success they’ll explore to get there. We hope to increase that chance.

Using this compass, we select 20 founders every quarter from all over the world for the Transcend Fellowship, a 4-week remote fellowship for top founders in the space. When they graduate, they officially join the Transcend Network (with constant programming, offering, and support).

So far, we’ve supported 60 founders from over 20 countries, and this is how they are mapped out over their primary thesis (without including overlap between theses):

I write this post as we graduate our third cohort of Fellows – 20 awesome founders from 14 countries, building solutions to wide-ranging issues like employment security for freelancers, affordable school support, or siloed communities of creatives and educators.

We want to empower the founders who are building the future of learning and work to impact the lives of 1B people in the next decade.

With every new fellow, our view on the future of learning and work, and our Open Theses, changes slightly. That’s why we are sharing with you today our updated thinking.

Feel free to browse our theses and add your thoughts through comments. If you know founders who may connect to this “compass”, we are always game to talk to them!

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