Inspiring innovation in education

Today’s educators face an enormous challenge staying on top of rapid advances in technology. From developments in mobile applications to the proliferation of social media, technology is changing teaching and the way we learn.

Bringing together leaders from a wide variety of industries and geographies to share their real-world experiences, the Educators’ Summit, partly sponsored by NUS Business School, is designed to help educators enhance the learning experience by staying abreast of these innovations.

The summit, being held for the fifth time in 2013, was originally aimed solely at educators but has since been expanded to include representatives from the public sector as they face similar issues and challenges.

Disney’s Kendal Jolly explains the power of storytellingAmong the speakers was Kendal Jolly, an executive and former singer from the Walt Disney Company, and a passionate advocate of storytelling as a business tool.

Although the entertainment giant is now 90 years old, Jolly said Disney’s mission has remained the same throughout its history – to make magic, whether for guests at its theme parks or the audience at its movies.

His experience has convinced him that storytelling can be applied as a leadership tool in any organisation, for building organisational culture and business growth.

Disney, Jolly explained, uses storytelling not just as a product but to instill its corporate culture on its employees.

Businesses and employers need individuals that can adapt in an environment that is changing in hyper-mode due to forces of globalization and connectivity

Wong Su-yen,
ASEAN managing Director, Mercer

Facts and figures might not always stick, but a well-told story that resonates with the audience can have a much longer-lasting impact, he said.

“What do we do with that story? We tell it to other people, we share it with others and it lives on beyond us.”

Great stories get told and retold, he said, and can be used to teach, share best practices, and getting  people to understand what they should do and – equally important – what they should not do.

For educators, Jolly said, stories grab people’s attention, get them to think more deeply about the lesson, get them excited and ultimately want to do more.

Core competencies

One of the key challengers for educators is that many students entering the education system today will be preparing for jobs we can now barely imagine.

Wong Su-yen, a Senior Partner and ASEAN managing Director at consulting firm Mercer said 10 years ago, jobs like app developer, data miner and social media manager didn’t exist. By 2030, job seekers may be applying for jobs like avatar manager or waste data handler – someone who helps deal with data waste in a responsible way.

classroom280“Businesses and employers need individuals that can adapt in an environment that is changing in hyper-mode due to forces of globalization and connectivity,” said Wong.

Hiring mangers of the future will be looking for core competencies centered on behavior and leadership, so it’s the skills educators are imparting that will be key, Wong told the conference.

“Education then becomes about how do we help people learn how to learn, because things are changing at such a rapid pace.”

With that in mind Vincent Chin, a Senior Partner and Managing Director of the Boston Consulting Group South East Asia made a plea for increased spending on technology in education.

“Technology will unleash productivity and create returns that very few other innovations in the world have,” he said.

He pointed to a massive growth in online educational platforms, such as the Khan Academy initiative, and the surge in massive open online courses, or MOOCs, which are changing the way teachers teach and students learn.

New game

Requiring just a minimal investment on the part of students, platforms like this will be the new game in education, he said.

“This game will develop human capital; human capital that then will become leaders, leaders that will then grow the economy.”

Dr. Low Lee Yong, the founder of managed care company MHC Asia Group, told delegates it was important for educators to entertain students.

Following his own advice, he entertained the audience with a humorous speech that focused on the summit’s theme of “Engaging People, Inspiring Innovation.”

“TGIF,” he said, since the summit took place on a Friday. Usually that stands for “Thank Goodness It’s Friday”. But to Low, TGIF stands for Twitter, Google, iPhone and Facebook, which he said were powerful tools to help us innovate.

“These are the tools that are going to shape the future,” he said.

The next Google or the next Facebook…. is just two people in a garage away

Julian Persaud,
Managing Director for SE Asia Sales and Operations, Google

The accelerating pace of change was underlined by Julian Persaud, Google’s Managing Director for South East Asia Sales and Operations. Persaud said that a mere 15 years ago his own company was just “two people working alone in a garage” – company founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

Now it’s a $60 billion multi-national with dozens of offices and tens of thousands of employees. But he knows that if Google gets complacent, it could go the way of other once-innovative companies that failed to adapt.

“The next Google or the next Facebook…. is just two people in a garage away,” he cautioned. “You can’t become arrogant as a company even though you build scale and become big.”

Those that follow the latter path, he said, risk ending up in a situation like Kodak, the iconic American photography company that filed for bankruptcy protection in 2012.

Ben Lightfoot, the CEO of global advertising and marketing agency McCann World Group, also highlighted the pace of change and the transformative effect of new technologies, particularly the explosion of social media enabled mobile devices from smartphone and tablets to emerging wearable technology.

For his industry, the challenge is to find the best way for brands to use that technology to engage with consumers, because the consumers themselves are using the technology to create an explosion of content.

“People are experimenting with technology outside of the need for a job. They just want to do it because it’s fun,” said Lightfoot. “They’re doing stuff that I used to get paid for for free to show their family how clever they are. And they’re sending it to everyone.”

Brands need to harness that creativity to get consumers involved, he said.

As an example, he showed a video of a Coca-Cola promotion. The company used social media messaging to organize a flash mob, which then used Coca-Cola bottles to create what can best be described as sand art on a Hong Kong beach.

“It’s about how you integrate with these people’s lives, how you get them to build your brand by doing something for you to create content, to build that ongoing relationship,” he said.

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