Five Minds for the Future

My good friend and colleague, Dianne Renton, is one of the hardest working, and most intelligent women I know.

She’s been working head down and flat out to integrate a number of technologies that will facilitate learning and communications for the work we’re doing to strengthen community leaders. 

She has researched, installed, tested, and pushed the limits of six different kinds of software to make them work together in a way that not only empowers us but will ultimately be sustainable.

As a result of her work, our website runs on a user-friendly, open source platform that allows everyone on our team to edit postings. The site pulls in feeds from our team of bloggers and from other sites as soon as they post it so we will always have fresh content.

We have an area for digital media so we all can upload video and photos, as well as our own google mini search engine that scouts the sites we program it to search. In essence this means we have created our own virtual library.

A CRM (customer relationship management database) means we are able to track individuals with whom we have relationships. In the very near future, they will even be able to update their own data. Yet another online database means we have the capacity for collaborative publishing that has allowed a team across the country to upload research in the same place.

Our intranet means we have productive online meetings, forums and emails for connecting with one another, and an ability to view each other’s calendars from the web.

For Dianne, it has been ridiculously challenging but also incredibly frustrating. Mostly it’s because technology, like the foundation of a house, while understood to be important, is largely underground and not visible. And, while good technology is intuitive to use and enhances one’s workflow, no one really seems to understand how difficult it is to make that happen.

The pain is heightened because this work isn’t what Dianne really wants to be doing. To her credit though, she does see it as a means to an end. She did it because we couldn’t find anyone else who was a generalist. Most in her field seem to be specialists trying to saddle us with one solution when we in fact need ten. Her real passion, and what she is now finally able to focus on, is knowledge transfer.

Dianne’s history and willingness to work hard and steadily improve the knowledge and understanding that has allowed her to master an integrated approach to thinking about technology and knowledge transfer, is an example of the “Disciplined Mind”, described by author Howard Gardner in his book called Five Minds for the Future.

These five minds are what Gardner believes people will need and should develop in order to thrive in the world in the eras to come. In addition to the Disciplined Mind, Gardner’s five also include the Synthesizing Mind, the Creating Mind, the Respectful Mind, and the Ethical Mind.

Gardner believes that if we develop these five minds we will be well-equipped to deal with what is expected, as well as what we cannot anticipate.

Dianne not only represents the Disciplined Mind discussed by Gardner, she has also mastered the Synthesizing Mind. By taking information from a variety of sources she is able to evaluate the information objectively and then put it together in a different and meaningful away.

She’s also used her Creating Mind to break ground with new ideas, new questions and new ways of using existing software.

Her Respectful Mind too has been at play as she’s had to be respectful, welcome differences and preferences, and work effectively with a wide variety of users even though I know it often makes her crazy to have to explain things repeatedly when they are so patently obvious to her!

Dianne has always reflected an Ethical Mind. She has chosen to focus on work that is much more about community development than it has been about making money. Additionally, unlike some working in technology, she refuses to make users dependent on her even though it is that dependency that could generate more revenue for her.

This week as I was celebrating the redesign of our website, a webcast that was viewed by hundreds from their own computers, and the success of a number of online collaborative meetings, Dianne barely broke stride already pushing discussions about how to do more to engage our emerging youth leaders.

Without a doubt an extraordinary woman who reflects the five minds of the future, Dianne Renton also demonstrates an innate knowledge and understanding that education must be lifelong for everyone. Conditions in the world are constantly changing, so too must we.


Posted on 02-01-09

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