Until recently we thought of working, learning, and living as separate experiences. We spent
most of our childhood in school and our adult years working or looking for work, and then we
squeezed our personal lives into whatever brief windows of time were left. We usually “did
education” early in life, stopping when we reached the limits of our resources, whether they
were time, money, or institutional offerings, and at that point were categorized as unskilled,
blue collar, white collar, and professional workers. Such categories, in turn, circumscribed the
kinds of lives to which we could aspire.
Today, an emerging learning economy is changing all that as learning becomes a currency for
everything we do. Unbounded learning resources are creating opportunities for continuous
growth, opening the future to new possibilities and aspirations. Blends of digital and physical
experiences are creating platforms that make it possible to integrate learning into workflows
that are blurring the boundaries between life and work and between learning and living.
These platforms provide continuous actionable feedback that helps us adapt and shape our
environments to our personal needs, passions, and life circumstances. They use computer
algorithms—intelligent programs—to match us to people and opportunities that can help us find
ever more value and meaning. They support collaborative networks that can change the way
we think about the problems we face and help us find workable solutions at work, at home, and
in our communities. In the process, we build our individual working-learning-living brands: the
distinctive roles we’ll play in a fast-paced economy of change.
These flows, resources, platforms, and programs comprise the innovation zones of the future.
How we invest in them and build them out are the keys to a vibrant new economy founded on a
continuous cycle of learning and earning.