3 problems, 3 solutions and 3 actions

The education system in Australia, like that of most western countries, might better be called the ‘socialisation system’.

It is not that the system does not educate – it certainly does. The fact is however the overwhelming priority is socialisation – ensuring that people understand and comply with social norms.

The socialisation process begins well before the communication of information begins. Take for example:

  • School uniforms – and associated dress standards.
  • The morning greeting – ‘Good morning Mrs Smith’.
  • Addressing teachers as Mrs Smith – when Mary would suffice.

Further, I would argue that the communication of information is more socialisation than it is education. In this regard I cite:

  • The managed telling of history and teaching of geography
  • The all too common rote approach to learning arithmetic at school
  • The manner in which social issues like sex, ethics, religion and authority are treated

I would argue that education in the 21st century involves:

  • Teaching people what they might need to know and how to address problem solving.
  • Teaching people where to find critical information and how to use it.
  • Teaching people skills for creative, objective and critical thinking.

Leading authorities including Edward de Bono and Ken Robinson have written at length about:

  • The lack of teaching about how to think objectively.
  • The lack of attention to creativity and lateral thinking.
  • The absence of any focus on encouraging innovation.

We have an education system designed for the industrial revolution that actually discourages and makes uncommon, lateral, creative and objective thinking.

The consequences of this for society as a whole are enormous and damaging. The consequences for business are also profound. For business this approach to education, inhibits:

  • True creative and lateral thinking – leading to real innovations.
  • Structured objective decision making – avoiding emotion.
  • The ability to identify and research less than obvious critical issuers.

This also encourages a less that productive view of and or approach to:

  • Academics
  • Training
  • Life education

I would argue that to innovate as we need to and can, businesses have a role to play in countering this socialisation process:

  • Providing a culture that inspires creative and lateral thinking.
  • Providing training and structures to encourage objective decision making.
  • Ensuring that employees have access to tertiary education that is freer.

I would argue that business also has a role to play in changing the system by:

  • Encouraging government to focus on education ahead of socialisation.
  • Supporting and using the work of quality academics – without derision.
  • Encouraging business groups and organisations to support real education.

The costs of not acting so will always ensure that:

  • The number of true innovators will always be limited to those with a gift.
  • Big and established business will continue to dominate the landscape.
  • Staff will continue to deliver returns below that of their innate capabilities.


  1. Understand the power of education and the debilitating nature of socialisation.
  2. Recognise that many of your staff will need support to think laterally and objectively.
  3. Work with colleagues to encourage the changes needed to give priority to education.

This issue will be discussed in more detail on THE D. JOHN CARLSON NETWORK –

D. John Carlson is a behavioural scientist, strategic planner and lateral thinker focusing on branding, marketing and communication. Visit his blog –

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