Famed columnist Thomas Friedman holds forth at Global Education and Skills Forum


KUALA LUMPUR: In the “age of acceleration”, as New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman calls it, the young generation needs to be equipped with skill sets required to survive in the digital age, or risk being left behind.

Friedman said gone were the days when an education was about stocking up on ideas at school and college and then ‘spending’ that knowledge over a career.

“Now you want your students to be in touch with the flow. That’s where ideas and energy will come from,” he said during a session at the Global Education and Skills Forum (GESF) 2017 in Dubai on Sunday.

Friedman, who is also a Pulitzer Prize winning author, stressed on the need for today’s young generation to be “flexible, passionate and always being willing to change.”

“When I grew up, I got to find a job. When you grow up, you’ll have to invent a job,” he said.

Friedman listed five survival tips for being “future-proof”.

He said firstly, you have to “live like a newly-arrived immigrant”.

“New immigrants are paranoid optimists. They‘re optimists because they left somewhere bad to come to somewhere they think will be better, but they are always paranoid that it can be taken away from them in a second.

“We are all new immigrants to the age of acceleration,” he explained.

Friedman called on the younger generation to “think like an artisan”, who ensure that everything they produce is unique in some way.

“(Artisans) carve their initials into their products. Pour your heart into whatever you make – that human touch is something that cannot be automated or digitised.”

One should also “think like a Silicon Valley start-up”, always being in a state of learning, relearning reengineering, retooling, lifelong learning, he said.

“Always think you’re in beta mode. Never think of yourself as finished, because if you do, I promise you, you are really finished,” he said.

Friedman also pointed out the “PQ + CQ > IQ” formula, in which he said passion and curiosity will always be of greater value than intelligence in a world which is always changing quickly.

The columnist added that one should “think like the waitress at Perkins Pancake House in Minneapolis”.

He shared a personal story of a time when he ordered pancakes at Perkins. The job of the waitress there was simply to collect the order from the kitchen, add a spoonful of fruit on the side and take it to the table.

“What she does, though, is add extra fruit every time. She does the only thing she can do to enhance the customer experience. She thinks like an entrepreneur all the time. She works out how to make things even better.

“Always look for the extra spoonful of fruit,” he shared.

GESF 2017, a Varkey Foundation initiative, was held at The Atlantis, Dubai, from March 18 to 19, with leading figures from the public, private and social sectors in attendance.

The fifth annual GESF, held under the patronage of Sheikh Mohammed Rashid al-Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, focused on the theme of “How to make real global citizens”.

Among the key speakers spearheading the sessions were Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, world-renowned yogi, author and thought-leader; Julia Gillard, 27th Prime Minister of Australia; Irina Bokova, director-general of Unesco; Andreas Schleicher, director for the Directorate of Education and Skills, OECD; Tariq Al Gurg, CEO of Dubai Cares; and Jim Ryan, 11th Dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Widely referred to as ‘the Davos of Education’, the GESF debates new ways for education to transform our world.