A Glimpse Into the Future of Learning

HM_LOGOHere is this month’s piece on the changing world of work from furniture maker Herman Miller, a company for which Peter Drucker long consulted and that continues to exemplify his principles of innovation and effectiveness.

Every business wants to anticipate what the market wants tomorrow, but until that day arrives, how can anyone possibly predict those needs?

One clue comes from Peter Drucker, who wrote: “The question . . . is, ‘What do we have to do today to be ready for an uncertain tomorrow?’ The question is not what will happen in the future. It is, ‘What futurity do we have to build into our present thinking and doing . . . and how do we use this information to make a rational decision now?’”

In 2005, Herman Miller convened a series of Leadership Roundtables with representatives from academia and the design world to discuss trends that would affect education over the next 10 years.

Since then, we’ve identified other directions for future growth by participating in academic seminars, conducting focus groups, analyzing current trends, researching and reviewing literature and talking with higher education consumers and providers. Based on these studies, we’ve synthesized five elements of “futurity” that should be built into current thinking.

While not tied to any timeline, these broadly based expectations and attitudes are likely to be experienced at some point by most colleges and universities, with ramifications for businesses of all kinds.

  1. The student-as-consumer mindset will have a major impact on all aspects of higher ed. Students will have more control over their learning experiences; colleges and universities will become more focused on results.
  2. The changing role of the instructor will demand new skills and create new tensions. Collaboration among peers and interaction with students will become more important than ever as faculty roles change.
  3. Colleges and universities will behave more like businesses, which will affect decision-making at all levels. There will be more governance and a focus on success as colleges and universities adopt business disciplines.
  4. A new culture of learning will redefine pedagogy and place. New ways of learning will dictate what spaces look like and where they are located.
  5. Learning will happen at every age, everywhere, all the time. The process of learning—both formal and informal—will be a lifelong journey. After all, as Drucker reminded us, “Knowledge has to be improved, challenged and increased constantly, or it vanishes.”

The three areas that will be most affected by these changes are people, pedagogy and place. To lift the veil on the future and start preparing for where the market will go next, we invite you to read the complete findings of our learning space research.

—Susan Whitmer, Research Lead, Education

Courtesy of Herman Miller
Image courtesy of Herman Miller