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Information Age

How Information Grows

October 12th, 2010 // 4:00 am @

Information grows differently than industry or agriculture.

Thus hundreds of years of understanding about how to grow Industrial-Age businesses doesn’t really apply to many Information Age endeavors.

Indeed, some of the lessons of how to grow a farm in the Agricultural Age didn’t necessarily translate to Industrial Age corporate growth, although some did.

The key is to think in a new context and apply lessons within the contemporary environment.

Information, and by extension Information-Age organizations and ideas, grow in a certain way.

Instead of the Industrial model of building a foundation, then adding walls, buttresses and finally a roof, informational models grow like waves.

Imagine the ripples caused when a pebble falls into a lake. The waves repeat many times, spreading out and impacting the world around them. Eventually they dissipate and disappear, leaving the world altered, if only a little. Additional pebbles are needed to repeat the process.

And unlike the Industrial Age penchant for building institutions that last forever, information impacts the world and then moves on to something else when enough ripples have accomplished the goal.

The Industrial modus operandi was to build an institution to achieve a goal, and then to focus on the survival and growth of the institution — even if this required abandoning the original purpose for which the institution was established.

In contrast, information sets out to inform, keeps going until this is accomplished, and then moves on to other agendas.

Likewise, where Industrial institutions attempt to control how their work is perceived and utilized, information shares, informs, and leaves (and trusts) those who receive the information to use it as needed and to pass it on.

Good information is naturally improved by various applications, and it is perpetuated by those who receive and utilize it.

There are eight levels of informational waves:

1: At first, information simply is. It exists.

It is in the state and process of being. This is the most important level of informational ideas, institutions and thinkers.

The quality, breadth, depth and wisdom of information matters. Getting it right (right from the beginning) is vital.

Even more important is sharing information for the right reason. If information is shared for the wrong reasons, for example, the information itself is tainted and changed by this fact.

In the Industrial Age, things were considered good information if they were true, but information has a higher standard. Unless informational ideas are shared for the right reasons, the information isn’t reliable.

In short, the first level of information is purity.

Any item of information is a thing, and it has a purpose. In sharing information or building informational institutions or relationships, pure reasons are essential. Without them, the information itself is unreliable.

Note that pure information is one of the most powerful things in the world. It has been called “the power of the word,” “the power of an idea whose time has come,” “resonance,” and a number of other things.

When information is shared by the right person at the right time for the right reasons, it has great and lasting power.

2: Good information that is promoted and shared for the right reasons becomes an interactive wave.

This greatly increases the impact and influence of the information, spreading it to those who need it.

Of course, bad information passed on for the wrong reasons is also interactive and therefore very destructive. Anybody who has ever started a rumor, for example, has probably witnessed how quickly it spreads and how much pain and hurt it can cause.

In the long term, however, tainted information has no lasting power. Information promoters do best when they send out ideas far and wide, openly sharing and personally applying the “new” information they have learned.

3: Next comes the communicative wave.

This occurs where people purposely set out to communicate information to set groups or to everyone.

This wave can be marketed, spun, or twisted for the benefit of various groups and people, but the pure information will shine through and those seeking wisdom will see through the shades of spin and opinion and resonate with what they need to learn.

They will then naturally pass on their contributions and lessons learned and the value of the information will increase.

Synergy kicks in at this point and the value of the information spirals out to many who are seeking it.

4: A linear wave captures much of the information at this level and translates it to specific uses, fields, disciplines, written or spoken or digitized venues and delivers its essence in numerous formats.

Information institutions or thinkers frequently introduce their views to the world in this format. Of course, it existed before they composed, organized or created their specific work, but their creation adds value, quality and even wisdom to the information.

By its nature, information spreads, and those who add to its value without trying to enslave its essence help it spread and increase its ability to serve.

Those who try to control it, in contrast, find that their creation is devalued, their creativity stifled, and their flow of additional information violated.

Unlike land or capital in the Agrarian and Industrial eras, respectively, information is not meant to be owned. The wave of open source programs and wiki media applications harnesses this abundant and cooperative mentality.

Note that I am not arguing here for uncompensated use of copyrighted software, technology, artistic or other proprietary creations.

I believe that original inventions, innovations and creations should benefit those who risked, invested, worked and created. And organizations and governments have every right to keep certain things secret or proprietary.

But pure information in ideas, principles and the flow of wisdom is not the same as one’s proprietary creation–nobody can (or should) lock up or control the flow of pure information.

As long as individuals and institutions own their creation, but without trying to control thought and inspiration, it can benefit them and many others.

5: Eventually information is captured in numerous linear waves which together form a multimedia wave.

In other words, at a certain point pure information is simultaneously delivered in many forms and from numerous sources which reinforce the messages, lessons and value of the original information.

Leaders can help spread this wave by delivering the information multiple times and in manifold ways.

6: The next step occurs when information comes alive.

This happens were the essence of the information is felt.

When I hear a story and it spurs an emotional response, for example, all the earlier waves combine and impact how I receive the information.

In a similar way, waves far from where the pebble dropped are bigger and carry a lot more water than those right where the pebble fell.

A similar level in Industrial institutions was branding–where a given brand, name or logo carried a repeating emotional charge. In the informational world, however, each additional interaction communicates new information value.

7: Psychological waves come next, and are produced by the transfer of information from one mind to another.

Since all such transfers partake of all the earlier levels of waves (e.g. the person shares his feelings, pure or tainted reasons, multimedia use of voice along with facial expressions and nonverbal cues, etc.), learning from others is an advanced way to receive information.

Because of this, the level of advancement of the person delivering the message has some impact on how the information is delivered.

Still, the condition of the receiver is the most important factor in determining the quality of the reception when the information or signal is pure.

In Industrial marketing this was often dominated by testimonials or infomonials, but informational leaders simply open up and share.

The most powerful of this information often comes from word of mouth, personal stories, and genuine interest in helping others.

Any who truly care about others and share ideas, thoughts or anything else as attempts to help others are partners with information in this process.

The true language of this wave is love, which is why true change most often comes when we feel love or loved.

8: At the highest level, the symbolic wave conveys a packet of information that is amazingly multi-layered and teeming with depth, breadth, context, connections and possibilities.

Shakespeare spoke of being bounded in a nutshell of infinite space and science teaches that the DNA code of an entire organism is found in each cell.

The symbolic wave could be called a mustard seed, a small token carrying the potential and key to so much more.

Also, at this highest level, the receiver can often break the information into smaller pieces, analyze each of the waves alone or together, and consider each facet of the idea–from its essence to all its potential consequences.

The possibilities are exponential. The information at this level is only limited by the abilities of the user to consider, discover or imagine.

Those seeking such information are on a quest for inspiration–be it limited to one question, or as broad as a life of searching.

Because the symbolic wave of information is so powerful, those who ask shall receive; the universe is friendly, and when the student is ready the teacher will appear.

(That last paragraph makes me want to be sure everyone knows how important it is to read Free the Beagle by Roy Williams. It’s a fun read, not homework.)

***********************************

Oliver DeMille is the founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

 

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Category : Current Events &Economics &Education &Information Age &Leadership

Great Education in the Internet Age

October 8th, 2010 // 4:00 am @

As the old saying goes, “Leaders are Readers.” This has proven true generation after generation, and is still the reality today.

But there is a significant difference in the leadership value in different types of reading.

For example, few would doubt that there is a difference in benefits between reading the following items:

  • a technical manual
  • your friends’ Facebook entries
  • a work by Plato or Shakespeare
  • a historical, western, science fiction or fantasy novel
  • the prospectus for a financial investment
  • a romance novel
  • The Wall Street Journal
  • a tabloid magazine
  • a business self-help book

The list could go on. One could argue that all of these have some benefits, but the value would depend on what the reader was trying to gain from the reading.

In short, all reading is not the same.

As David Brooks wrote in the New York Times:

“Recently, book publishers got some good news. Researchers gave 852 disadvantaged students 12 books (of their own choosing) to take home at the end of the school year….They found that the students who brought the books home had significantly higher reading scores than other students….In fact, just having those 12 books seemed to have as much positive effect as attending summer school. This study, along with many others, illustrates the tremendous power of books….

“Recently, Internet mavens got some bad news. Jacob Vigdor and Helen Ladd of Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy examined computer use among a half-million 5th through 8th graders in North Carolina. They found that the spread of home computers and high-speed Internet access was associated with significant declines in math and reading scores.”

He concludes his analysis with this:

“Already, more ‘old-fashioned’ outposts are opening up across the web. It could be that the real debate will not be books versus the Internet but how to build an Internet counterculture that will better attract people to serious learning.”

Perhaps the key is to resurrect the word “great.” This word is often used (perhaps overused), in our society, but it is seldom used to mean what it originally meant.

“Great” has several meanings:

  1. huge, immense, grand
  2. distinguished, remarkable, impressive
  3. noble, heroic, majestic
  4. wonderful, fantastic, excellent
  5. complete, profound, utter
  6. unlimited, boundless, abundant
  7. major, momentous, weighty

“Great” can mean any one of these things, or a combination of a few or all of them.

Antonyms of the word “great” include: unimportant, small, minor, lowly, slight, awful, tiny, and ordinary. In academia, business and athletics, the word “mediocre” is also used as an antonym of “great.”

Now, consider some of the ramifications of applying more greatness to education, reading and learning.

What if children and youth were strongly encouraged to read a few of the greats in everything they read. For example:

  • 2 of the greatest technical manuals ever written, things like The Wizard of Ads by Roy H. Williams
  • 2 of the greatest works each by Plato and Shakespeare
  • 2 years of Berkshire Hathaway’s annual report
  • 2 each of the greatest historical, western, science fiction and fantasy novels, titles like The Bridge at Andau, The Virginian, Lord of the Rings, etc.
  • 2 of the greatest romance novels ever, such as Gone With the Wind, Sense and Sensibility, etc.
  • 2 of the best tabloid magazine articles ever written, which have weathered the test of time and proven to be excellent and accurate (just the process of researching this would be a great educational project that would teach many lessons about good versus bad journalism)
  • 2 of the top business self-help books, such as works by Napoleon Hill, Wallace Wattles, Paulo Coelho or Jim Collins
  • Some of the top Wall Street Journal articles ever published, things like “A Separate Peace” by Peggy Noonan
  • 3 of the greatest Facebook entries ever (examples anyone?)

Such readings, be they from books or newspapers or the Internet, are by their nature grand, remarkable, impressive, excellent, profound, momentous and weighty. Some are even abundant, noble, majestic and/or heroic.

In a word, they are great.

None of these would be unimportant, small, minor, lowly, slight, awful, tiny, ordinary or mediocre. Readers may agree or disagree with what they read, but they would at least be reading some of the greats.

This would help them judge the quality of other things they read by simple comparison.

Great readings greatly impact learning. What is an education without Tocqueville, Austen, Newton, Einstein, Aristotle, Virgil, Twain or Mother Teresa?

Unless we read the greats, our education simply cannot be accurately called great.

Beyond this, however, there are a number of great works being produced each year and in many mediums—from books to music, art to theater, cinema to mathematics, accounting to marketing, family relations to philosophy and religion, and from the Internet to all the latest social networking sites.

Great works are more easily found in some of these mediums than others, but all of them offer at least a few greats!

We just need to look for and share them—especially with the youth. Cultivating our taste for greatness, and our ability to detect it, is an important aspect of becoming “educated.”

On a related topic, the only free peoples in history were societies of readers! If we want to be free, we must read. Books matter, and great books matter greatly.

Other kinds of readings also produce some great work, and all of us can do better by simply adding more “great” readings into our lives. As we do this, our children and students will be more likely to follow our example.

Finally, in what ways can each of us help establish and support Internet content that is deeper, more excellent and truly greater reading material? This is a vital mission for many of us.

In one way, the Internet may be more effective at promoting great education than even books: Nearly all Internet content is interactive, meaning that youth naturally want to write about it as well as read it.

Where reading of books and writing of essays are usually separate processes in traditional education, the Internet can bridge the gap by naturally combining great reading with important writing.

If they are reading great works and ideas, learners will be more likely to write about great thoughts.

The problem is that without reading great things, great writing seldom occurs.

When children learn texting (entertainment) before they actively fall in love with and engage great books (learning), their writing won’t usually emphasize great thinking.

The greatly educated naturally use e-media to share and improve their education, while those with shallow education naturally take their shallowness to the keyboard.

In short, we can all benefit from bringing more great readings into our lives—wherever they are found.

But among children and youth, it is much more effective to learn from books first and later take up social networking only when they have something important to say.

When this order is reversed, many youth struggle to do the work of great education when life is dominated by e-entertainment.

In the Internet Age, great education is more available than ever—but only if children fall in love with books. And this is a lot more likely if their parents and teachers set the example.

***********************************

Oliver DeMille is the founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

 

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Category : Education &Information Age

Types of Tribes

October 6th, 2010 // 4:00 am @

NEARLY ALL OF THE WEAKNESSES I listed here are found in many traditional tribal cultures.

In our day new kinds of tribes are emerging with huge potential influence, power and popularity.

Indeed, the 21st Century may be the era where tribes become the most influential institutions in the world.

The trends are already in play, and nearly every major institution, nation and civilization is now made up of many tribes.

In fact, more people may be more loyal to their closest tribes now than to any other entity.

There are many types of tribes in the history of the world. A generic overview will obviously have its flaw and limitations—as will any inductive study, from personality typing to weather forecasting.

But with the necessary disclaimers and apologies, we can still learn much from the generalizations as we seek lessons to apply to ourselves.

There are several significant types of tribes in history, including:

  1. Foraging Tribes
  2. Nomadic Tribes
  3. Horticultural Tribes
  4. Agrarian Tribes (communities)
  5. Industrial Tribes
  6. Informational Tribes

Each is very different, and it is helpful to understand both the similarities and unique features of these types of tribes.

Note that the fundamental connecting factor which kept these tribes together was their means of production and their definition of wealth.

Families usually sacrificed to benefit the means of production. On a spiritual/emotional level, one way to define a tribe is a group of people who are invested in each other and help each other on an ongoing basis.

All these types of tribes meet this definition.

Level One Tribes: Everyone Knows Everyone

First, Foraging Tribes were usually established by family ties—sometimes, small family groupings and in other cases, larger groups with more extended family members. In marriage a person often left the tribe to join a new tribe.

Foraging tribes lived by gathering and hunting together. Their central means of production were legs: the ability to go out and find food for the family.

Children were the greatest source of wealth because they grew and provided more legs to the tribe.

These tribes were often female-centric, and their gods were fertility goddesses and earth goddesses who provided bounty of food.

Nomadic Tribes hunted and gathered, but also pillaged in order to survive and prosper. They traveled, some within a set area and a few more widely ranging.

They were nearly all herding societies, using animals to enhance their ability to hunt, gather and pillage. Their means of production was their speed, provided by great runners or herd animals.

They usually traveled in larger groups than Foragers, and intermarried within the tribe or from spouses taken during raids. Marriage meant joining the tribe of your spouse.

Nomadic Tribes were usually dominated by males and often practiced plural marriages. Herds were the central measure of wealth.

Third, Horticultural Tribes planted with sticks, hoes or hands, and tended crops to supplement food obtained by hunting.

Because hoes and sticks can be wielded equally by men and women, these tribes were often female-centric. Men hunted and women planted and harvested, bringing an equality to production.

Hands were the central means of production, used either in hunting or planting. Children were a measure of wealth, and deity was often a goddess of bounty.

These first three types of tribes make up the first level of tribal cultures, where nearly all tribe members worked each day to feed themselves and the tribe.

In the second level, specialization created free time for many to work on matters that have little to do with sustenance—from education to technology to arts and craftsmanship, and even extending into higher thinking of mathematics, logic and philosophy.

Level 2 Tribes

Agrarian Tribes began, as Ken Wilber describes it, when we stopped planting with sticks and hoes and turned to plows drawn by beasts of burden.

The change is significant in at least two major ways: First, pregnant women can plant, tend and harvest with sticks and hoes, but often not with plows, cattle and horses. That is, in the latter many pregnant women were in greater danger of miscarriage.

In short, in Agrarian society farming became man’s work. This changed nearly everything, since men now had a monopoly on food production and women became valued mostly for reproduction.

This was further influenced by the second major change to the Agrarian Age, which was that plows and animal power produced enough surplus that not everyone had to work to eat.

As a result, tradesmen, artists and scholars arose, as did professional tax-collectors, politicians (tax-spenders), clergymen and warriors.

Before the Agrarian Revolution, clergy and politicians and warriors had nearly all been the citizen-farmers-hunters themselves.

With this change came class systems, lords and ladies, kings and feudal rulers, and larger communities, city-states and nations.

The store of wealth and central means of production was land, and instead of using whatever land was needed, the system changed to professional surveys, deeds, licenses and other government controls.

Family traditions were also altered, as farmers found that food was scarce after lords and kings took their share.

Men were allowed one wife, though the wealthy often kept as many mistresses as their status allowed. Families had fewer children in order to give more land, titles and opportunity to the eldest.

Traditions of Agrarian Tribes, Communities and Nations are surprisingly similar in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and many colonies around the world.

While small Agrarian communities and locales often followed basic tribal traditions, larger cities and nations became truly National rather than tribal.

The fundamental difference between the two is that in tribes nearly all the individuals work together frequently on the same goals and build tight bonds of love and care for each other, while in nations there is much shared history and common goals but few people know each other or work together regularly.

As society nationalized, most people still lived and loved in tribal-sized communities.

Whether the ethnic communities of European cities, the farming villages of the frontier, church units of a few hundred who worshiped but also bonded together throughout the week, or so many other examples, most people during the Agrarian Age were loyal to national government but much more closely bonded with members of a local community.

When life brought difficulties or challenges, it was these community tribal members that could be counted on to help, comfort, commiserate, or just roll up their sleeves and go to work fixing their neighbors’ problems.

Community was also where people turned for fun and entertainment.

For example, one great study compared the way people in mid-century Chicago watched baseball games, attended cookouts and nearly always went bowling in groups, to the 1990s where most Americans were more likely to watch a game on TV, grill alone and go bowling alone or with a non-family friend.

Level 3 Tribes

Indeed, by the 1990s America was deeply into the Industrial Age.

Industrial tribes (no longer really Tribes, but rather tribes, small “t”) were built around career. People left the farms, and the communities which connected them, for economic opportunities in the cities and suburbs.

Some ethnicities, churches and even gangs maintained community-type tribes, but most people joined a different kind of tribe: in the workplace.

The means of production and measure of wealth in Industrial tribes was capital. The more capital you could get invested, the better your tribe fared (at least for a while) versus other tribes.

Competition was the name of the game. Higher capital investment meant better paychecks and perks, more job security, and a brighter future—or so the theory went.

While it lasted, this system was good for those who turned professional education into a lucrative career.

With level three came new rules of tribe membership. For example, individuals in industrial societies were able and even encouraged to join multiple tribes.

Where this had been possible in Agrarian communities, nearly everyone still enjoyed a central or main community connection.

But in the Industrial era, everyone joined long lists of tribes. In addition to your work colleagues, Industrial professionals also had alma-maters, lunch clubs like the Kiwanis or Rotarians, professional associations like the AMA or ABA or one of the many others, and so on.

With your kids in soccer, you became part of a tribe with other team parents; same with the boy scouts and girls clubs.

Your tribes probably included a community fundraiser club, donors to the post office Christmas food drive, PTA or home school co-op (or both), church committees, car pool group, racquetball partners, biking team, local theatre, the kids’ choir, lunch with your friends, Cubs or Yankees fans, and the list goes on and on and on.

In level three, the more tribes the better!

The two major tribes that nearly everybody joined in Industrial society were work tribes and tribes of friends.

Between these two, little time was left for much besides work and entertainment.

But make no mistake, the guiding force in such a society, the central tribe which all the others were required to give way for, was making the paycheck.

Families moved, children’s lives conformed, marriages sacrificed, and friends changed if one’s work demanded it. It was not always so, and this morality defined Industrial Age culture.

One big downside to Paycheck Tribes is that they cared about your work but not so much about you. Indeed, this is one of the main reasons why Industrial tribes weren’t really even tribes.

The other major reason is that you had only a few close friends and most people didn’t truly count on any non-family group or neighborhood or community to really be there for you when you needed it.

That’s why this is called National society, because it’s not really a tribal community of bonded, connected people who truly love you and will take a stand for you.

Of course, there are some who build and maintain fabulous agrarian-type relationships, friendships and communities during Industrial eras.

It is just harder and less naturally occurring than in the other types of tribal periods and places. The main reason for this may be simply that capital is less naturally connective than legs, hands, family, church or a caring neighborhood.

This is not to say that companies can’t care, love and connect. In fact, I think that is exactly what they’ll have to do to truly succeed in the Information Age.

However, during Industrial Ages connecting and caring and building relationships is less valued by many. Those who put family, friends and other vital relationships first find much happiness and community connection during any period of history.

Fortunately, we live in a time when the new e-tribes are growing and increasingly available.

Level 4 Tribes

The sixth type of tribe is the Information-Age Tribe.

We are all still struggling for the perfect name. The term “e-tribe” is too narrow, since many of the new relationships are not online.

I’ll settle for calling them the New Tribes, and let the future show us exactly how they turn out.

The New Tribes appear to be a whole new (fourth) level of tribe, for a number of reasons.

To begin with, people are joining many of them like during Industrial times, but also limiting them somewhat to reflect what is truly important to them.

For example, where in levels one and two people belonged almost exclusively to one tribe and in level 3 they joined dozens of tribes, now most New Tribers are active members of a few, important tribes, usually at least four per person.

In addition, many members of New Tribes want to be leaders in tribes, and many leaders of New Tribes want the members to all lead. That’s a huge improvement on levels 1-3.

Also, members of New Tribes seem to care about each other much more than Industrial tribes but also even more than many ancient-style and agrarian tribes.

I think this is because people had little say about who their tribal and community members and neighbors were down through history, but in the New Tribes you can make your very best friends your daily confidantes.

The interaction is powerful, and it can and does create deep bonds of friendship and caring.

The Future of New Tribes

Few people realize how widespread the New Tribe revolution has become.

The many examples of online New Tribes show how rapidly this trend is growing. But there is even more to it than that.

One cycle of business growth says that all new things go through four levels:

  1. They are ignored.
  2. They are laughed at.
  3. They are opposed.
  4. They are accepted as obvious.

The growth of New Tribes is at the Obvious stage.

For example, tribal currency is now the most widely used money in the world. That may surprise some people who believe that the dollar or the yen or some other national currency is most used.

But try this experiment. Pull out your wallet or planner, and see how much money you have in government-printed currency.

Then see how much you have available in private bank currency (checks or debit cards).

Finally, how much are you carrying in tribal currency (from, say, the Visa or Mastercard tribes, or Discover or American Express)?

While it is true that these private currencies exchange into government money, the truth is that your credit account is most likely a niche or tribal account rather than a government account.

And I dare say that more than a few readers are befuddled by this example, as they transact very few purchases by pulling out their wallet, with the actual plastic in hand; they most often buy over the phone or online—further making the point.

The significance of this is huge. How much wealth are you carrying in sky miles, for example? Or hotel or travel points?

The reason companies issue loyalty cards is to get you to stop being in the traveler niche and instead join the Delta or British Airways tribe.

While you still have your wallet or purse out, look through it to see how many tribal membership cards you carry. Costco? Sam’s Club? Trader Joe’s? An automobile club? What else? Do you carry a church card, or a school card?

The point of all this is that New Tribes are here to stay, and indeed that before the 21st Century ends they may well take over many roles that were traditionally governmental.

For example, the phrase “I’ll fedex it” has replaced “I’ll mail it” in many corporate circles, and toll roads are becoming more popular around the world.

Just like government railways were phased out by private airlines, look for the rise of many more tribally-led industries and services in the years and decades ahead.

For New Tribes to fully achieve their positive potential, it is helpful and perhaps essential for them to learn from the best lessons of the tribes throughout history.

Both leaders and participants of tribes gain much wisdom by studying the best practices and traditions of the world’s tribes.

***********************************

Oliver DeMille is the founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

 

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Category : Community &Economics &History &Information Age &Tribes

Entrepreneurs of the World, Unite!

September 22nd, 2010 // 4:00 am @

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A revolution is needed.

Not just any revolution, mind you, but a specific kind of freedom shift that will make the critical difference.

In order to progress, we need a renaissance of the entrepreneurial mentality and many millions of entrepreneurs in our society.

The recession has already helped increase awareness of this need. The Information Age is naturally offering many improvements over the Industrial Age, but simple access to more information is not enough.

What we do with the increased power of widespread information is the key.

The great benefit of the Nomadic Age was family and community connection and a feeling of true belonging, while the Agrarian Age brought improved learning, science and art, and eventually democratic freedoms.

The Industrial Age allowed more widespread distribution of prosperity and social justice, and many improved lifestyle options through technological advances.

Unfortunately, during the Industrial Age many freedoms were decreased as free nations turned to big institutions and secretive agencies for governance.

The industrial belief in the conveyor belt impacted nearly every major aspect of life, from education and health care to agriculture, industry, business, law, media, family, elder care, groceries, clothing, and on and on.

Whether the end product was goods or services, these all became systemized on assembly lines—from production to delivery and even post-purchase customer service.

At the same time, we widely adopted certain industrial views which became cultural, such as “Bigger is always better,” “It’s just business,” “Perception is reality,” and many others. In truth, all of these are usually more false than true, but they became the cultural norm in nearly all of modern life.

Perhaps the most pervasive and negative mantra promoted by modernism is that success in life is built on becoming an employee and its academic corollary that the purpose of education is to prepare for a job.

Certainly some people want to make a job the focus of their working life, but a truly free and prosperous society is built on a system where a large number of the adult population spends its working days producing as owners, entrepreneurs and social leaders.

Producer vs. Employee Society

A society of producers is more likely to promote freedom than a society of dependents. Indeed, only a society of producers can maintain freedom.

Most nations in history have suffered from a class system where the “haves” enjoyed more rights, opportunities and options than the “have nots.” This has always been a major threat to freedom.

The American framers overcame this by establishing a new system where every person was treated equally before the law.

This led to nearly two centuries of increasing freedoms for all social classes, both genders and all citizens—whatever their race, religion, health, etc.

During the Industrial Age this system changed in at least two major ways.

First, the U.S. commercial code was changed to put limits on who can invest in what.

Rather than simply protecting all investors (rich or poor) against fraud or other criminal activity, in the name of “protecting the unsophisticated,” laws were passed that only allow the highest level of the middle class and the upper classes to invest in the investments with the highest returns.

This created a European-style model where only the rich own the most profitable companies and get richer while the middle and lower classes are stuck where they are.

Second, the schools at all levels were reformed to emphasize job training rather than quality leadership education.

Today, great leadership education is still the staple at many elite private schools, but the middle and lower classes are expected to forego the “luxury” of opportunity-affording, deep leadership education and instead just seek the more “practical” and “relevant” one-size-fits-all job training.

This perpetuates the class system.

This is further exacerbated by the reality that public schools in middle-class zip codes typically perform much higher than lower-class neighborhood schools.

Private elite schools train most of our future upper class and leaders, middle-class public schools train our managerial class and most professionals, and lower-class public schools train our hourly wage workers.

Notable exceptions notwithstanding, the rule still is what it is.

Government reinforces the class system by the way it runs public education, and big business supports it through the investment legal code.

With these two biggest institutions in society promoting the class divide, lower and middle classes have limited power to change things.

The Power of Entrepreneurship

The wooden stake that overcomes the vampire of an inelastic class system is entrepreneurial success.

Becoming a producer and successfully creating new value in society helps the entrepreneur surpass the current class-system matrix, and also weakens the overall caste system itself.

In short, if America is to turn the Information Age into an era of increased freedom and widespread economic opportunity, we need more producers.

How do we accomplish this Freedom Shift?

First of all, we must get past the obvious wish that Congress should simply equalize investment laws and allow everyone to be equal before the law.

Neither government nor big business has a vested interest in this change, and neither, therefore, does either major political party.

Nor does either side see much reason to change the public education system to emphasize entrepreneurial over employee training.

Either of these changes, or both, would be nice, but neither is likely.

What is more realistic is a grassroots return to American initiative, innovation and independence.

Specifically, regular people of all classes need to become producers.

A renaissance of entrepreneurship (building businesses), social entrepreneurship (building private service institutions like schools and hospitals), intrapreneurship (acting like an entrepreneur within an established company), and social leadership (taking entrepreneurial leadership into society and promoting the growth of freedom and prosperity) is needed.

Along with this, parents need to emphasize personalized, individualized educational options for their youth and to prepare them for entrepreneurship and producership, rather than cultivating in them dependence on employeeship.

If these two changes occur, we will see a significant increase in freedom and prosperity.

The opposite is obviously true, as well: The long-anticipated “train wreck” in society and politics is not so difficult to imagine as it was twenty years ago.

The education of the rising generation in self-determination, crisis management, human nature, history, and indeed, the liberal arts and social leadership in general, is the historically-proven best hope for our future liberty and success.

If entrepreneurial and other producer endeavors flourish and grow, it will naturally lead to changes in the commercial code that level the playing field for people from all economic levels and backgrounds.

Until the producer class is growing, there is little incentive to deconstruct the class system.

More than 80 percent of America’s wealth comes from small businesses, and when these grow, so will our national prosperity.

Today there are numerous obstacles to starting and growing small businesses. There will be many who lament that the current climate is not friendly to new enterprises.

Frontiers have ever been thus, and our forebears plunged headlong into greater threats. What choice did they have? What choice do we have? What if they hadn’t? What if we don’t?

The hard reality is that until the producer class is growing there will be little power to change this situation.

As long as the huge majority is waiting for the government to provide more jobs, we will likely continue to see increased regulation on small business that decreases the number of new private-sector jobs and opportunities.

The only realistic solution is for Americans to engage their entrepreneurial initiative and build new value.

This has always been the fundamental source of American prosperity.

The Growing Popularity of Producer Education

Consider what leading thinkers on the needs of American education and business are saying.

In Revolutionary Wealth, renowned futurist Alvin Toffler says that schools must deemphasize outdated industrial-style education with its reliance on rote memorization, the skill of fitting in with class-oriented standards, and “getting the right answers,” and instead infuse schools with creativity, individualization, independent and original thinking skills, and entrepreneurial worldviews.

Harvard’s Howard Gardner argued in Five Minds for the Future that all American students must learn the following entrepreneurial skills: “the ability to integrate ideas from different disciplines or spheres,” and the “capacity to uncover and clarify new problems, questions and phenomena.”

John Naisbitt, bestselling author of Megatrends, wrote in Mind Set! that success in the new economy will require the right leadership mindset much more than Industrial-Age credentials or status.

Tony Wagner wrote in The Global Achievement Gap that the skills needed for success in the new economy include such producer abilities as: critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, leading by influence, agility, adaptability, curiosity, imagination, effective communication, initiative and entrepreneurialism.

Former Al Gore speechwriter Daniel Pink writes in A Whole New Mind that the most useful and marketable skills in the decades ahead will be the entrepreneurial abilities of high-concept thinking and high-touch leading.

Seth Godin makes the same case for the growing need for entrepreneurial-style leaders in his business bestsellers Tribes and Linchpin.

Malcolm Gladwell arrives at similar conclusions in the bestselling book Outliers.

There are many more such offerings, all suggesting that the future of education needs to emphasize training the rising generations to think and act like entrepreneurs.

Indeed, without a producer generation, the Information Age will not be a period of freedom or spreading prosperity. Still, few schools are heeding this research.

CNN’s Fareed Zakaria has shown in The Post-American World that numerous nations around the world are now drastically increasing their influence and national prosperity.

All of them are doing it in a simple way: by incentivizing entrepreneurial behavior and a growing class of producers.

Unlike aristocratic classes, successful entrepreneurs are mostly self-made (with the help of mentors and colleagues) and have a deep faith in free enterprise systems, which allow opportunity to all people regardless of their background or starting level of wealth.

Entrepreneurs and Freedom

History is full of anti-government fads, from the French and Russian revolutionists to tea-party patriots in Boston and anti-establishment protestors at Woodstock, among many others. Some revolutions work, and others fail.

The ones that succeed, the ones that build lasting change and create a better world, are led by entrepreneurial spirit and behavior. As more entrepreneurs succeed, the legal system naturally becomes more free.

As more people take charge of their own education, utilizing the experts as tutors and mentors but refusing to be dependent on the educational establishment, individualized education spreads and more leaders are prepared.

With more leaders, more people succeed as producers, and the cycle strengthens and repeats itself.

Freedom is the result of initiative, ingenuity and tenacity in the producer class. These are also the natural consequences of personalized leadership education and successful entrepreneurial ventures.

For anyone who cares about freedom and wants to pass the blessings of liberty on to our children and grandchildren, we need to get one thing very clear: A revolution of entrepreneurs is needed.

We need more of them, and those who are already entrepreneurs need to become even better social leaders. Without such a revolution, freedom will be lost.

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Oliver DeMille is the founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

 

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Category : Education &Entrepreneurship &Featured &Government &History &Information Age &Liberty &Producers

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