The world we live in is rarely black and white, rarely cut and dry, and rarely easily navigated with simple, obvious answers. Yet, in the world of education we sometimes teach students to expect a world where everything is clearly black and white. If they do their work, study, and get good grades, they’ll be successful in school, career, and life – right? Well, not always.
There are so many factors when it comes to succeeding in the real world, and one of the main factors is being able to navigate the gray space. That space where there is no specific right or wrong answer, the space where you need to rely on your ability to problem solve and accept and integrate differing opinions with ease. This is life, and it’s present in every part of life really; everything is often gray, not black and white.
But what are we doing to prepare them for that? Certainly not giving them tests with set correct responses or asking them to draft a paper that argues a specific outcome.
There are a few things we think those in higher ed can do to help prep the next generation of the workforce to be a little more open to operating in the gray space in life.
Place Focus on a Growth Mindset
A growth mindset is something that the education world isn’t always set up to reward. It’s all about earning the A when you follow “the process.” Praising the effort put in to achieving a specific grade that was a reach or the unique thought process behind a creative but not necessarily “correct” project outcome hasn’t traditionally been a focus for educators. Often, students find comfort in the black and white world of education because they are primed to know what to expect, they know what comes next, and they feel confident they’ll succeed because of this knowledge – there is less fear of failure with these set expectations. But adopting a growth mindset will rid a student of this fear.
Fear is what holds us back, and giving up on that fear is liberating. A growth mindset helps students view failure as a learning opportunity. Can you imagine all the things your students will chase and achieve if they consciously decide to frame failure as a learning opportunity and a chance to grow?
Once a growth mindset is adopted, curiosity and seeking out new experiences is a side effect that typically leads to success, growth, and personal and professional fulfillment!
Teach Intentional Learning
With that growth mindset comes the opportunity to teach intentional learning. Intentional learning is defined as taking each opportunity you get as a chance to learn something new. This practice is so important that large corporations like McKinsey & Company have deemed it one of the most important skills of the 21st century workplace.
Living in a world where we’re engaging with messy topics, you want young professionals to be able to face difficult discussions head on without getting stressed they’re going to say or do something wrong, and instead embrace every new situation as a chance to grow.
Working in a world where there are often multiple viable solutions to a problem, young professionals must be able to navigate all the different options to determine which is most appropriate given the current circumstances. You don’t want them to get overwhelmed; you want them to think critically about all the possible opportunities this situation may bring them and the company.
This starts with engaging with these ambiguous situations in the classroom and working through them to create solutions utilizing an intentional learning mindset. It is vital to lead them to the realization that they can learn something from every little interaction or task they’re assigned, no matter how mundane or complex it may seem. When they realize this, they’ll take their new mindset and skills to the real world — and that’s where true success lies.
The Future is Uncertain, Preparation is Key to Success
We are on the verge of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which is characterized by rapid changes and advancements in technology that lead to constant shifts and transformations in the world of work. With this revolution, it’s estimated that over 130 million jobs in new areas like automation will be generated in just two short years. Those students and employees who seek challenging situations in which to learn, those who are curious about the world around them, and those who are able to adapt quickly and embrace each new experience as an opportunity are the ones who will succeed and thrive during this revolution. All these transformations and changes on the horizon will lead to gray space in our world, lives, and work. Are you ready to adequately prepare your students for what is to come?
NimblyWise helps corporations learn how to reskill, upskill, and inspire their teams to adopt growth mindsets each and every day. If you want to learn more about how we can help your team grow, let’s chat!