By Neil Richardson & Rick Smyre

Traditional learning has been focused on standard answers and linear thinking. What is “it” is usually the way someone asks for answers. In a society and economy in which advanced communication and “complex adaptive systems” are the norm, everything is connected. There is rarely an “it” for an answer and it is certainly only “its” for issues of complexity.

We don’t know what we don’t know:  When knowledge explodes, it is all around us, but no one individual has the ability to keep up. If we recognize that we cannot know enough knowledge, then we will begin to connect with others in interlocking networks of learning.

We don’t know that we know: This emphasizes the need to develop new filters of how we see the world because sometimes the answers are right in front of us and we don’t know it. If our way of thinking is obsolete, then we will not be able to see newly emerging patterns. It is very important to the future vitality and sustainability of our society and local areas that citizens learn how to look at the future with a “transformational filter” and not a rear view mirror.

We know that we don’t know: This is the stage when openness to new ideas begins to dominate our thinking and transformational learning can really begin. Too many people operate from a foundation of already “having the truth,” and, therefore, they resist change.

We know that we know what we don’t know: Another way to say this is that we see the gaps in our knowledge and know we need to fill them. In this stage of knowledge, we realize how much there is to learn about an emerging future and that the principles, methods and concepts of the 21st century will be very different from the past.