What books are on your bookshelves that seem to stare at you? What questions do they ask of you? For me, it was a set of books that represented the ages of civilization. I’ve had this collection for over 20 years, and early on some clear questions emerged: Why are some periods of time defined as “ages” and given their own book within the collection, whereas other periods of time were simply “eras” and reduced to the first or last chapter of an age? Is the answer simply that an age is longer than an era, or is the answer related to something deeper like the difference between stable and transitional times?
In studying the fields of Process Engineering and Instructional Design, I realized that the frameworks we teach from and use today in business and education were invented in the Industrial Age, where efficiencies for factories and rapid training for World War II drove the requirements. There was a focus on "instructional" design rather than on "educational" design. Yet, the next age requires more understanding and innovation, even though we still operate from these frameworks from the last age. These frameworks, like Six Sigma DMAIC for process improvement, and Bloom’s Taxonomy for educational objectives, are still the underlying models in use today, even though they are out of touch with the current requirements.
The underlying frameworks from the last age were created by reviewing the "systems" in place. These were factories and classrooms seeking zero defects and maximum efficiency. The frameworks for the next age need to be created by reviewing another system: the system of explanations that humans use, which have a pattern and consistency that can be modeled and managed across organizations.
Now there is a new book on my bookshelf, just to the right of my set of books that represent the ages of civilization. That set of books has finally stopped staring at me, and has finally stopped asking questions of me. The new book on my bookshelf is my first book as an author, called The Explanation Age. When I recently placed it there, it hit me how profoundly I had been affected by the books next to it. Reading not only provides information, it produces questions and even actions, which eventually define who we are. After two decades of researching and writing, as I placed my book on my bookshelf I realized something I wish I had understood better years ago: you are what you read.