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The significant problems we face today cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them. – Einstein

For several years now, I’ve been studying the intersection of technology, culture and communication, the impacts of social media, the relationship between creativity, innovation and design, and the potential of various futures.

I’ve had this gnawing sensation at the edges of my mind that all these areas were held together by a common thread, but I couldn’t put my finger on the connection. My intention is that by taking this out of the incubation stage in my head and putting it into words, it will become clarified and provide some value.

First off, let me lay out a framework . My ideas are based on 3 main concepts:

* Social media is fundamentally changing the human experience.
* The world is increasing in complexity.
* We are experiencing accelerating change.

And a brief explanation of each:

Social media is fundamentally changing the human experience.

We can all agree that social media technologies are here to stay. It’s not a fad – it’s a new form of communication. We’re never going to go back to the ‘old way.’ Those of us who actively participate in online environments understand that there is a shift underway, and tomorrow’s leaders will be the ones who know how to leverage the new social ecology:

The businesses are asking: “how do we monetize this?”

The educators are asking: “how do we teach this?”

The youth are asking: “how do we hang out here?”

The nonprofits are asking: “how do we use this for social change?”

The designers are asking: “how do we facilitate interaction?”

Every sector is trying to figure out how to integrate the platforms to serve their particular purposes, but the deeper message is that this is becoming a pervasive social technology that is changing everything about how we live, both in work and in play.

The world is increasing in complexity.

This is not to say “the world is becoming more complicated,” (well, that too), but I’m referring to the evolving role we’re all playing in becoming a node in a complex adaptive system.

The online social networks we form become entities in themselves, a collective, global brain, capable of some pretty tremendous things – we haven’t even scratched the surface of this potential.

We are experiencing accelerating change.

The rate of technological advances is increasing at an exponential rate, meaning that the speed at which ideas and information can be transmitted and shared is also accelerating.

This is creating opportunities for mass collaboration, experimentation, and rapid innovation. It also suggests the need to adopt a non-linear view of the world in order to fully grasp the upcoming implications of technological ‘progress’.

So what?

Based on this information, it seems the most critical skills for success in the 21st century include the ability to anticipate, plan for, and adapt to change.

Because the nature of information is fundamentally different, it will also be necessary to update our frameworks for how we obtain and process information.

We need to develop strategies for using social media tools to access real-time data, crowdsource information, and harness the power of our social networks to data mine the kind of information we need in an economy based on knowledge work and attention.

We also need frameworks for understanding what it means. Now that we can be both consumers and producers, it is increasingly difficult to filter the quantity of incoming information, make sense of it, and contextually organize it into our worldview. The blur between these roles raises questions about how we should decide what information is credible, relevant, and necessary, and who to rely on and collectively trust as our experts and guides.

I’m proposing that this may require a new approach to thinking in general, a new “thought architecture”; to expand thinking to a systems level in order to develop a big-picture understanding of how information is related. I haven’t found a term that accurately describes this concept, so I’ve been referring to it as “metathinking.” My theory is that by implementing this approach, it will cause a reorientation in the relationship we have to information, and cause a paradigm shift that would:

* enable us to develop better strategies for critical thinking
* facilitate creativity and innovation
* equip us to anticipate and rapidly adapt to change

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to roll out a series of posts that will outline potential frameworks for making this happen. Some of the methods are tried and true formulas that I’m just going to repackage via a social media lens, others I’m still experimenting with, so it will be an evolving process. Any feedback, comments, or collaborations are welcome. 🙂

up next: metathinking framework #1: Environmental Scanning

Further reading:
The Law of Accelerating Returns
Accelerating Change
Ephemerization – R. Buckminster Fuller
STEM Compression – John Smart
Gaia theory
Systems theory
Complex Adaptive Systems
Extended Mind
Cognitive Prostheses