“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” ~ Alvin Toffler

This quote from Alvin Toffler has been a favourite of mine for some time now and the concept of ‘unlearning’ is gaining greater traction, but what does it actually mean?

In a recent conversation with Futurist Frank Diana, he shared his view that the most important unlearning we currently need to do is around mindsets.

Are our mental models are holding us back individually and collectively, and preventing us from bringing about the change we so need in education?

From a School-Centred Design© perspective it appears that the following four mindsets held by many in education may be those that need to be learnt, unlearnt or relearnt if we are to reimagine education to enable students to be future-fit.

Education Mindsets

  1. Important may not be urgent – the ‘busy-ness’ of schools is ever-increasing and so what is important often gets pushed down the priority list over what is urgent. We need to help those in schools to unearth the important problems that might be being
  2. Compassionate Innovation – this mindset has the following interlinked elements which don’t always sit comfortably in the education environment, but are crucial for School Centred Design© to be a success:
    • No ‘right’ answer – what has been labelled as ‘impossible thinking’, ‘out-of- the-box thinking’, or even ‘thinking outside of the dodecahedron!’
    • Safe to Fail – there is a tension between innovation and risk which needs to be reconciled if we are to move forward and solve big
    • Positive Risk – these two words together might appear as an oxymoron but the concept of ‘Dignity of Risk’ reinforces a culture of innovation without sidelining
    • Fail Gracefully – when we FAIL (First Attempt In Learning) it gives us a chance to shift our perspective, not take it personally, identify what went well and what we need to do differently next
    • Evidence-Based Practice and Practice-Based Evidence – good examples of Evidence-Based Practice are usually found in schools that have a culture of continuous improvement. During the School Centred Design© process, we will ensure that products or services developed in The SandBox Lab© will be backed by dependable evidence of their efficacy through a continualPractice-Based approach to collecting Evidence. This will be achieved through collecting evidence on both; Return on Investment (ROI), in terms of money and time, and; Return on Engagement (ROE), how useful the products and services are to the relevant group over time.
  1. Radical Co-Creation – co-creation recognises the value of coopetition (i.e. competitors who collaborate for mutual benefit) and the ecosystem around the school who may provide technical or financial knowledge or partnerships with other schools. A reimagining of a public/private partnership to the benefit of
  2. Financial Rewards for all – schools generally don’t see themselves as ‘businesses’. However, for any solution to be sustainable and impactful in the long-term, there needs to be a financial reward for all involved in its development. This will require some unlearning of current practices around IP ownership from systems and also, from many educators who can see the financial side of things as something not acceptable in

These have been focused on the education stakeholders, but we also believe there needs to be some learning, unlearning and relearning from the external stakeholders.

Education Stakeholder Mindsets

  1. Attending school ≠ Knowing schools – there is a risk as everyone (or nearly) attended school that they know what the problems and solutions are. The School Centred Design© approach flips that thinking. People outside of education most definitely will have a very important role to play but identifying the problems is probably not one of
  2. Radical Co-Creation – as with the schools, the concept of coopetition is what will bring about the best possible solutions, as opposed to closed thinking and creation. Linked to point one, this also means that the developers of the solution see students, teachers and leaders as equal partners in all
  3. Purpose and Profit – there are a growing number of organisations that are acting as well as talking about this approach to business. To be a successful member of the School Centred Design© approach and LearnTech Lab Ecosystem this will need to be fundamental as to how the companies
  4. Financial Rewards for all – linked to the previous point, companies will need to be open and flexible in exploring what rewards are to go those who are not normally recompensed.


Really interested to hear your views on this post as very aware it is written through whatever cognitive biases I carry around with me!

I describe myself as an educator who has and is learning business but recognise, I don’t know what I don’t know and always keen to try and display intellectual humility which Warren Berger eloquently describes in his ‘The Book of Beautiful Questions’ as:

  1. Do I think more like a soldier or a scout?
  2. Would I rather be right, or would I rather understand?
  3. Do I solicit and seek opposing views?
  4. Do I enjoy the pleasant surprise of discovering I am mistaken?


My next post will be unpacking the School-Centred Design© approach and believe this post is foundational in being able to successfully move to this approach.

Leave a Reply