Second language learning for intercultural communication leads to higher abilities to communicate globally and higher levels of success. The following article will explain why we need to give this gift to our youth.

Whilst walking out of the Dutch Days Smart City conference in Shanghai, one of the delegates rushed up to me and put a book in my hand. I forgot all about it until it fell out of my bag at the train station and the title ‘Concepting’ was staring at me. Concept learning is something that has sparked my interest in the education arena, but here it was in the business world too. Business, education, and community shape and depend on each other, so the connection made sense to me. According to author, Jan Rijkenberg, the reason concepting is necessary is simply because the current systems are exhausted: they no longer provide companies with the growth they want nor do they provide consumers with the products and services they want. Marketing is the context of Jan’s words, but think for a moment how education has become a business and students the consumers.

In this communication-oriented age, consumers are very savvy; they are nobody’s fools and they demand respect. They are also becoming increasingly individualistic, informed and want brands and products that enhance their personal identities. Mass consumption is shifting away from ‘each with the same product’ to ‘each with a self –selected array of concepts’. Relating this to education, it is easy to see why students are less responsive to the idea that there is one pathway to a successful future. Students innately know that studying hard, following authority and regurgitating the formula which may work for examinations, doesn’t quite fit with the world they are living in – even if they are not fully aware of this themselves.

The introduction of 21st Century Learning Capabilities aims to address the problem, but the current structure doesn’t easily support the shift. Much management philosophy today is obsessed with organizing, reorganizing, merging and cutting costs. This leads to corporate anorexia where there is less time and resources to shift to new way of working. Our education institutions are suffering from the same disease. This makes it too easy for the same content driven formula to be used, with 21st century learning being viewed as an add on rather than part of redesign. Yet people who are thriving in the current work environment and who are now in high demand are excellent communicators and highly entrepreneurial generalists, boasting capabilities in a number of fields. They are creative and flourish more in environments where there is less focus on the production process and if we translate that across to education: ‘where content is not the main focus’.

Today’s market demands are not focused on concrete objects or products, instead, they reflect mental needs. Why? Because a personal world built up by the consumer in response to a concept is much more difficult for competitors to replicate. It makes sense then, that for our youth, a built up personal world birthed from authentic experiences will also enable them to stand out in a competitive market more than examination grades. So how do we achieve this? We can start by redesigning learning to be collaborative, based within communicative tasks that investigate global problems and solutions; communication being the vehicle that delivers authenticity, giving the concept substance, and a living culture that we all participate in.

According to Jan, the most difficult feature of concepting is that it deals with emotions, feelings and authenticity, which is ironically also the competitive advantage. Concepts are different to content (or products) in that they do not necessarily claim any improvements in test scores. Instead, they offer visions, attitudes, convictions, and motivations. And with the most successful businesses in today’s environment being those where the tangible product takes a backseat to the intangible one i.e. the concept, it is obvious the shift to concept learning and developing intercultural communication will better prepare our youth for the world they actually live in.

To read more about Jan Rijkenberg and his book Concepting, click here.

Concepts and communication – a competitive advantage.