Many events contain unseen elements. These can have consequences for you and I, for those dealing with the event and for society in general (eg. Pandemics, terror, financial crises, and natural catastrophes). Our main question is therefore: How can we best prepare ourselves for the unforeseen? Education and training help, but education is traditionally based on a curriculum with specific learning content and detailed learning aims. What if we don't know what should be learned?
There has been increasing interest in dealing with the unforeseen and researchers in Norway have developed a concept of "educating for the unforeseen" (Torgersen et al. 2015). In this project we want to build on the results of this earlier work and continue to develop the concept and develop methods to be used in the workplace. In order to do this, we want of include concepts from research on innovation. Innovation studies have researched the process from creative ideas to implementation of new products and processes. Some of the themes from innovation which might be relevant are the assumption of a relationship between novelty and opportunity, where change is viewed as something positive rather than a threat. More recent studies of innovation have focused on social transitions where new technologies, new ways of working and thinking must be embraced. An example of this is the transition to a sustainable society. We also plan to include new methods related to Future Laboratories based on recent work done at UNESCO. We intend to establish pilot projects in Norwegian workplaces to ensure valuable feedback for the further development of methods and theory.
We hope to contribute to a better understanding of the unforeseen and to the development of practical methods which can be used to help managers and employees to prepare for the unforeseen, thereby reducing the risk of the unforeseen for society in general.
Dealing with the unforeseen, what do we mean by this? We do not mean a planning activity like a typical 20th century strategy process, based on the future we think is coming, not even an exercise to plan for multiple future scenarios. Research on educating for the unforeseen suggests that the best way of dealing with the unforeseen is to develop skills which can be used to manage an emerging situation such as developing new understanding and find new ways of obtaining information. Traditional educational methods are not appropriate for educating for the unforeseen (Torgersen et al. 2015). This is one of our starting points for this project. We have chosen to focus on adults at work and in order to develop educational concepts for this group, we suggest concepts from innovation studies. Since the 1970s innovation research has been dealing with the unforeseen and based on the idea of creative destruction, has been developing methods for turning creativity into new products and services. Innovation studies have focused on creating novelty and developing opportunities, while the few studies on educating for the unforeseen have focused more on dealing with catastrophes. We would like to see if some of the theoretical concepts developed in innovation studies can help us to develop new ways of educating for the unforeseen. Building on the findings of Torgersen et al. this project we will review theoretical concepts from innovation studies to see if they might enrich and develop theories and methods of educating for the unforeseen. We will develop descriptions of skills-sets and methods for taking the first steps to being prepared for the unforeseen and will test some learning programs and models for competence development in workplaces and measure results.
FINNUT-Forskning og innovasjon i utdanningssektoren