Pillar 2: Encouraging the right attitude

By Professor Alwyn Louw; President: Monash South Africa

Given the levels of super-complexity that will be ushered in by The Fourth Industrial Revolution, a fundamental change in the way humans think and work is non-negotiable – and universities need to lead the charge. For Monash South Africa, delivering on this responsibility begins with a fundamental shift in macro curriculum to ensure that the learning delivered to students aligns with the key drivers of this fourth revolution, namely technology, innovation-based problem solving, manufacturing-driven thinking, resource management, and the ability to establish and manage new systems and processes.

At Monash South Africa, we believe that effectively preparing the employee of tomorrow to thrive and, more importantly, lead in this challenging and fast-changing world of work requires learning interventions built on the following four pillars:

  1. Appropriate skills to leverage dynamic knowledge
  2. The right attitude towards constant change
  3. Awareness of, and sensitivity to, the greater social context
  4. Orientation towards systems and networks thinking

In the previous article we looked at the ‘skills pillar’. In this this article, we explore the importance of inculcating the right attitude in students to prepare them to embrace and drive constant change.

Ensuring that graduates leave their tertiary institutions with the skills they need to source, assimilate and leverage information is only the first requirement of effective education in modern times. If we assume that we have been successful in imparting these vital skills to the next generation of employees, managers and leaders, we then need to ensure that they also have the correct attitude to maximise the impact they can and should deliver by using those skills.

Given the stellar pace of change that will increasingly characterise the fourth industrial revolution, a willingness to take risks will become an essential part of career success and possibly more importantly, a vital cornerstone of any professional’s ability to have a positive impact on his or her business, industry and community.

One of the key risks that the successful employee or entrepreneur of tomorrow will have to be willing to take is to challenge the way things have always been done, challenge the status quo and change the parameters within which business and society operate.

The only way to encourage these young professionals to take those risks is to ensure they complete their studies with a positive attitude towards change and an understanding and acceptance of the possible impacts and consequences that such change may have on them – even if they facilitated that change in the first place.

Of course, prioritising the right attitude to risk as an education outcome is really only half the battle. While many forward thinking organisations today may say that they embrace risk as an opportunity, there are still a great many more that still fear risk and see it as endangering their potential for continued success.

In the short term, this risk aversion by many employers obviously poses something of a conundrum for graduates who leaves university with the right attitude towards risk and a willingness to take them in order to maximise their impact. But that should certainly not deter educators from prioritising positive attitudes to risk as a primary learning outcome.

After all, universities are not (or at least should not be) here to churn out employees. They should be focused on raising up the next generation of CEOs, industry leaders, innovators and visionaries. And if our tertiary institutions acknowledge this to be one of their key responsibilities, then ensuring their graduates have the attitude required to stand strong on their principles, embrace change, challenge the status quo and take risks in the name of progress must be central to everything they teach.

Part 3 of this four-part series explores the importance of contextual awareness as a vital education outcome.