The next revolution in human empowerment

Power to the people, right on”

Part I of this series provides a context for the human empowerment revolution. To access, use this link:

The central dynamic underlying the human empowerment revolution I am describing and the human empowerment industry that stems from it is the shift in power from institutions to the individual. In our legacy systems of public education, human resource management, certification bodies, corporate training, and professional unions, power is attached to the institution and, consequently, the individual is disempowered.

But we live in an age of discontinuity, shaped not only by disruptive technology, but also by the undermining of legacy business models that underlie institutions like formal education, which until now have been the social gathering place for cultivating human potential. to scale. And this extends to other legacy approaches to cultivating human capital that are now just as ripe for reinvention.

Such legacy models empowered massive, centralized institutions—universities, certification bodies like professional boards, and standardized testing agencies—to develop efficient, linear learning sequences that managed to scale and certify performance on their terms—a version of the ultimate self-licking ice cream. cone and social scale.

Educational institutions as we know them today were a response to the assessment needs of the industrial age. Standardized metrics placed labels on the “good”

and allowed them to move forward, while the “slow” were tracked into alternative employment or received some form of remedial education. Enabling external, “objective” measures of achievement (grades, standardized test scores, diplomas) took precedence over efforts to personalize learning for students’ specific needs and passions. This meant that students once certified by the “system” still had the enormous challenge of figuring out how to make the choices from the buffet of life that best expressed their values ​​and passions.

Certification and accreditation followed this industrial logic. Disproportionate power was vested in legacy institutions due to their ability to award badges of achievement that were the language of representation of a talented person in their efforts to seek opportunity. The fact that many innovators, entrepreneurs, and cultural creatives have rejected this system, abandoned it, and succeeded without its help belies its current legitimacy. They have rejected the information asymmetry and disempowerment that stem from legacy HR and human capital practices. This asymmetry is compounded by the difficulty of finding the right advice, support and services ‘just in time’. Guidance counselors, relocation consultants, coaches, and therapists are a challenge for the average person to find and choose from. The process often resembles the highly subjective “taste” required to select a good bottle of Bordeaux or a great pair of speakers.

But we no longer live in an analog world where seeking standardized career paths is the key to success and where linear learning paths are the gold standard. On the side of the demand for talent, the world of work has changed remarkably. First, the rate of social change has accelerated, and wholesale

the result is the disruption of traditional career paths. New types of runs are emerging like kudzu after a heavy rain. Employers, alarmed by the lack of preparation of new market entrants, are increasingly injecting proprietary learning experiences into the public space, both to screen new hires and to complement inadequate offerings offered by traditional learning institutions. Given the cost of hiring, this also makes economic sense.

The gaps are equally obvious when it comes to social entrepreneurship and the work of NGOs. The Sustainable Development Goals proposed by the UN are an action agenda for the human race. However, those societal and planetary priorities do not translate easily into learning arcs or career paths for young talent to follow. For example, if one is interested in ocean security, it is not at all clear which is the “correct” academic path. Internships and “trial” situations can only be vaguely sought after in today’s inefficient market for opportunities. And academic institutions have been slow to tailor avenues for these new types of demand.

Finally, the situation is equally challenging from the perspective of labor ministries and government officials responsible for cultivating human capital. Many countries, in order to remain economically competitive, have focused on strategic industries. All this is fine. However, the learning paths to serve these critical and emerging economic sectors are random at best. There is also a problem related to unemployment, especially youth unemployment in parts of the world like the Middle East where capital is abundant, but talent must be cultivated. In those countries, getting talent mobilized around the right career paths is a constant challenge.

The situation would not be so serious if those responsible for creating and deploying

basic learning experiences were able to keep up with the pace of change. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Learning is increasingly looking like old wine in new bottles (online learning), new wine in old bottles (the ultimate 500-page entrepreneurship textbook), or learning as entertainment (Masterclass).

The following table of “thought balloons” contrasts the disempowering weight of legacy with a new vision for technology-enabled human empowerment along six critical dimensions:


Disempowerment due to inherited practices and institutions

I depend on others for advice. They may not know enough, they may not have the time or interest to fully empathize with my needs, or they may not have my best interests at heart (unlike institutions). It is difficult for me to know who is the right person to work with me.

The vision of human empowerment

I get advice and support (professional, personal, life planning) just when I need it and in the way that works best for me. This advice is objective, trustworthy, evidence-based, and respectful of my privacy.


Disempowerment due to inherited practices and institutions

My learning must fit into fixed curricular structures defined by institutions and experts without taking into account my particular learning style or personal needs.

The vision of human empowerment

I have ongoing access to personalized learning that takes me on a journey of increasing proficiency. This learning is available when I need it and in the form most compatible with my abilities and needs (both tacit and explicit).


Disempowerment due to inherited practices and institutions

I am at the mercy of institutions beyond my control to certify my knowledge. In addition, they have the right to maintain custody of my information; my transcripts are in your file cabinets.

The vision of human empowerment

I can demonstrate competence in the most efficient way and in terms of what I have really learned and need to advance. I freely own, control and access my own information, which represents my abilities and achievements to the world.


Disempowerment due to inherited practices and institutions

I lack the means and skills to find the opportunities that are right for me, navigate my way, and design my life.

The vision of human empowerment

I am exposed to the widest range of opportunities that fit my needs and I am supported to make optimal decisions at every stage of my life.


Disempowerment due to inherited practices and institutions

It’s hard to find the right resources, sources of guidance, and support for my personal wellness and development journey. I lack the ability to assess what options I have to find the optimal “fit” for my personal needs.

The vision of human empowerment

I have access to knowledge, resources and tools that help me go from “surviving” to “thriving” and living my “best life”. A wide variety of personalized resources are available to me just when I need them.


Disempowerment due to inherited practices and institutions

I worry about the state of the world, but feel powerless to do anything about it. I don’t know where to go to find the learning and guidance to express my values ​​and make a difference in the areas that matter to me.

The vision of human empowerment

I have access to the tools, community, and knowledge that allow me to leverage my competencies to fulfill my sense of purpose

These problems are common to all of us, whatever our situation in life. In a sense, we are all marginalized because our knowledge is imperfect and our access to support is incomplete. However, a coming tsunami of technological innovation and new business models will come to our rescue and is the subject of Part III of this series.

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