Archive for March, 2009

90331 Experts NO – Foxes YES

March 31, 2009

We are all concerned with the challenges in our own life and family as well as our community – country – world. From global warming, to the economy, to the societal demands not being met by our education system, we need answers. Who do we turn to? Why, we turn to the experts.

Nicholas Kristof of the NY Times started a recent article with the line “Ever wonder how financial experts could lead the world over the economic cliff?” He then gave an example of the Dr. Fox effect within a series of psychological experiments. An actor was given a pointless script with no substance of how mathematical game theory applies to education. The actor, as the phony expert “Dr. Fox”, gave this presentation to medical educators with a warm delivery with many jokes. Surveys of the audience mostly thought it was excellent.

For over 20 years Philip Tetlock at UC Berkeley tracked 82,000 predictions by 284 experts. Their results were only a “tiny bit” better than a chimpanzee throwing darts at a board. Their professor or experience made no difference. Fame had in inverse relationship. The media likes strong, black and white views.

These “Hedgehogs” are worldview and ideology based experts who are of no value in predicting the future. Then who can be of value? In Tetlock’s “Expert Political Judgment,” he describes the “Foxes” who trump experts. Foxes are cautious, centrist, pragmatic, prone to self-doubt; can see complexity and nuance and adjust their views to new information.

Our takeaway from these studies is that it is OK to be amused by wild “Cramer” type predictions or Gypsy fortune tellers. But we need attributes of a Fox to guide our path into the future. Three decades ago strategic planners shifted from forecasting to become facilitators who created probable scenarios and ran group processes to determine current strengths and weaknesses and future opportunities and threats. They began using system design and what-if modeling to provide the framework for decision making. This fits us Foxes like a glove since we are creating the future not predicting it.

Our particular arena is education whose technology is captured in the system definition of eLearning. We know the profound impact of all types of technologies on most of the world’s industries including entertainment and communication. From our pragmatic sense of the world we believe that eLearning will transform education. We do not yet know how it will happen, what technologies will be most effective or when it will happen. We hope that this transformation will enable all students to become highly motivated and effective learners within their unique abilities and aspirations. We are flexible because we know that all change has unexpected consequences. The painfully slow transformation is paced by the years needed for teachers to become effective eLearning practitioners, for the multi-tiered eLearning system to be established and the eLearning digital curriculum to move well beyond the legacy curriculum.

Year by year progress is being made. During this economic down cycle we Foxes are studying and creating policy needed to change the legacy financial system to support individualized student eLearning. We are also focused on the broadband Internet and data tools needed for eLearning to be effectively managed with Fox’s data – not Hedgehog ideology.

Stay tuned.

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