Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Good and the Bad - what can be learned from both.

German education system is getting under the microscope. A few weeks ago The New York Times brought an article about the excellence title of TU Dresden (one of 11 universities that gathered this title last year, with the prestigious title is coming along a massive public funding for some years to go for them). It is not often that the German education system makes its way into the North Americas despite the fact that the origins of the the education system there is based in large part by the public upper education (university) initiated by Wilhelm von Humboldt.
Back in mid-January news spread via Twitter, and by the yearly "Unternehmerfrühstück" at Messe Dresden GmbH organized by the City of Dresden (cc Dresden News) where the Rector of the TU Dresden, Prof. Hans Müller-Steinhagen gave a speech (more about it, though in German, here)

Yesterday's notice about the resignation of former Minister of Education Prof. Dr. Annette Schavan spread again, and made it into The New York Times. The story that has been ongoing for about a year now over her dissertation and possible misquoting in large part of it has hit a high yesterday.

However, leaving all deeper inquiries into the matter to others at this point, it is an interesting point that news are spreading nowadays across continents in almost no time, and yet there is a big difference in both.

1. TU Dresden: it got the title back in mid-2012, and made its way into the New York Times about six months later
2. Resignation of Prof. Dr. Annette Schavan happened yesterday, 2013-02-09, and made it into New York Times (online) a day later

1. happened on the edge in Dresden
2. happened in the center of political gravity in Berlin

A major question that arises from that:

Information technology, and the ability to spread news across continents is somewhat lacking an essential ingredient to make stories move across the globe. What could it possibly be?

Sidenote: to my knowledge there are no Dresden-based journalists writing about the ongoings in the region in English. Or should I be wrong at this point? Lot's is happening here on the "edge" of the country especially in research, innovation, and working on shifting the education context to run at similar top level with the hotspots of the world and to a certain point this knowledge tends to be staying locally. Back 80 years and more Dresden has been acknowledged as one of the innovation centers of Europe, and the world alike, and then suddenly the social fabric changed, and made flow of knowledge somewhat dark. Still in some sort of recover time information technology, and English as a first boundary object to accelerate the knowledge flows could spark extraordinary changes we might not have considered yet as a society.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Design for the 21st Century Management & Education Institution

Back in 1989, "The Wall" had not yet come down yet, and first tectonic shifts of the social fabric in Europe were already under way, Jay W. Forrester gave a Banquet Talk at the international meeting of the System Dynamics Society. It was July 13, 1989, in Stuttgart.
As Jay W. Forrester pointed out on how he had become to create the field of system dynamics over the course of his life, on how he and his team managed the development of the first automate air-defense system, and how his work on Urban Dynamics led to the contact with Aurelio Peccei, founder of the Club of Rome  from which Limits to Growth later came up.

At the end of his talk he points out "A rather small number of relatively simple structures will be found repeatedly in different businesses, professions, and real-life settings. One of Draper's junior high school students, working with bacteria in a culture and in computer simulation, looked up and observed, "This is the world population problem, isn't it?" Such transfer of insights from one setting to another will help to break down the barriers between disciplines. It means that learning in one field becomes applicable to to other fields. There is now a promise of reversing the trend of the last century that has been moving away from the "Renaissance man" toward fragmented specialization. We can now work toward an integrated, systemic, educational process that is more efficient, more appropriate to a world increasing complexity, and more compatible with a unity in life."

Almost 24 years later, what is the evidence that this is true? Personally I very well remember a job interview in Stuttgart for a position as a lean consultant (which when filled out properly goes very much in tune with the words above) back in early 2008. I still recall the drop of my heart beat when the CEO of the company told me, "You are the right person we are looking for at the moment. Your knowledge and expertise in the field is exactly what we need. - Yet, we can't hire you: you would be the first non-engineer (note: economist) in the team of 14!"

If such behavior of business leader is still the prevalent mode of action, where shall we establish the spaces, and institutions that build on Jay W. Forrester's vision of 1989?