Learning Enables Freedom - Independence Day, August 15th Event
On this Independence Day, August 15th, as we approach our 75th year of independence, leaders from organisations, non-profit institutes, government school systems, and youth leaders from our Youth Leaders Program gathered to envision the next 25 years. We explored the role of learning and leadership in the context of organisations for business, education, and community to achieve this vision through the event.
First, what role does learning play in imagining the future? Various challenges in the existing worlds of business and education, as well as the role culture and values play in learning, were discussed. The difficulties that educators or heads of schools face, and the struggle with wellness in today's workplaces. Second, we imagined the next 25 years from the perspectives of the younger and older generations. In discussions about envisioning the future, the older generation felt a sense of meaninglessness, whereas the younger generation felt they required a sense of fearlessness to lead in the coming times. Both, however, hope to adapt to a changing world of climate change and technology. A future that has the potential to transform education and business. We concluded the event with a few questions for the future
In the first key area of the event, we discussed the role of learning in envisioning the future in the environments of public education systems, organisations, and public and private institutions. Jameet Walia (CEO of Creatnet Education), Darshan Bhat (Founder and MD of Creatnet), Ravi Gulati (Founder of Manzil), and Pavan Sood (Principal at Creatnet Learning and Leadership) took part in a small discussion and raised significant challenges that they had seen emerge from their respective work cultures.
Starting with the challenges of learning and freedom faced by school systems and how there is a gap between what students have learned and what they live through. Furthermore, even though an educator or school system leader has a significant influence on students, they frequently struggle to strike a balance due to the yardstick by which academics, success, and performance are measured.
In today's world, the primary role of education is to pave the way for students to fit in; their education should enable them to think, do, and believe differently. Parents' perspectives must shift away from focusing on what their children do differently to make a better living than they can or did. The emphasis should be on what a child can learn to help them live in today's world.
The same is true in the business context as well. What doesn't work in organisations usually manifests itself in a variety of ways. There has been an increase in lifestyle diseases manifesting in young professionals in today's workplaces, such as migraines, blood pressure, diabetes, and so on. Professionals have started prioritising wellness and focusing on how to achieve it. 50-60 year olds have begun to seek their 'ikigai.' The sooner a person discovers their "Ikigai", the sooner they will feel like they are on the right track to wellness, and organisations must play a role in facilitating this for their people.
We concluded from our discussion that exploring the future or the way forward in any field of life requires a collaborative effort between the young and the old. While young adults chart the course for the future, the older generation encourages and supports the growth and development of this new leadership.
In the event's second key area, we discussed how one experiences freedom through learning and what prevents one from experiencing the freedom to do and learn in their various workplaces or organisations. We discussed these two questions in small groups of people from organisations, non-profit institutes, government school systems, and youth leaders from our Youth Leaders Program, as well as younger and older professionals.
The group discussion generated some interesting ideas and points of view. We discovered that for some, freedom is defined as the ability to think creatively or freely, whereas, for others, freedom is understood as the ability to set boundaries for themselves in all aspects of life. Some people believe they feel free when they are challenged or face challenges. Another popular viewpoint that emerged during the discussion was the freedom to choose whether to learn or unlearn. Learning and freedom were also viewed as a continuum, with learning leading to freedom, freedom leading back to learning, and so on.
What prevents people from feeling free in their respective environments was explored through two lenses: one within themselves and one within the system, i.e., the organisation, institution, or place of employment. One concern that came up as a barrier to experiencing freedom through the lens of self was whether or not one is open to learning. Furthermore, one's own biases, or "swabhav", were viewed as a roadblock to learning and freedom. Some people are afraid of freedom, and they must decide whether they are willing to accept freedom as a responsibility.
At the system level, the challenges of freedom include the availability or lack of choice at work. When it comes to freedom, workplace culture can hold people either positively or negatively. Also, when looking at what prevents freedom at the system level, judgement was a popular thought. Judgement can lead to being held back at work, and it can also lead to a lack of freedom and learning. Another intriguing thought was that some people believe that their intentions versus the intentions of their work environment could lead to a loss of freedom and learning.
We learned from these discussions and differing viewpoints that being open to a variety of perspectives can be liberating, as evidenced by group discussions in which everyone shared their individual thoughts and ideas. Freedom can come from being open to various opinions on a personal, interpersonal, and systemic level. Finally, we discovered through discussions that people's understanding of various aspects of learning and freedom has grown, as has their understanding of what they can do to enable it for themselves.
Finally, we come to the third key area of the event, where we discussed the questions we have for the future and what we hope to envision for the next 25 years. The people who attended the event reflected on three specific questions: (1) what worked in the last 25 years; (2) what didn't work in the last 25 years; and (3) what can we do differently in the next 25 years. Even though everyone was from a different demographic, there was a commonality in the reflections that got captured.
It emerged in the sharing that the practice of empathy and compassion are going to play a pivotal role in the coming future. Everyone agreed that the fear of failing to take risks prevents significant progress. In visualising the future, our awareness of the potential impact of technology, climate change, and our ability to learn as well as reform our actions in light of these factors will define the headway we make in the coming years.
At the end of the event, the future looked hopeful. As a community, we hope to cultivate an environment in which no question is too strange to be asked, and in which we can all grow while remaining human. And we can create organisations, systems, and institutions that are fearless and help to restore hope for the future.
We'll leave you with a few reflective questions; feel free to respond in the comments section below:
- How can I be completely secure on the inside and operate without fear or mental compulsion (habits of the body, mind, and social pressures)?
- How can I and we coexist in harmony with all life?
- How can I and we be free of all biases and prejudices (gender, class, or any other form of discrimination)?
- How should I build my instruments (physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, and social)? How do I move off the path of exams and decrease and onto the path of life-long learning?
- How can we be free to rely on the guru or knowledge within us? How can education or educators help us build our own knowledge?
- How can we strengthen families as institutions that foster knowledge expression and emotional maturity? Where there is an emotionally intelligent space that is intimate, where conflicts can be safely resolved, and where all members can freely share their emotions.
This article summarises our August 15th Independence Day event, Learning Enables Freedom. Around 50 people gathered to envision the next 25 years and discuss how learning and leadership in business, education, and community organisations can achieve this vision.