I had a high school teacher who observed that the male students seemed to spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to be male students, and the female students seemed to spend a lot of time trying figure out how to get male students.

As I work with companies implementing both social networking and simulation technology, I have observed a new hierarchy of needs.

1. Learning to Be

People strive to know who they are. What do they like to do, and what do they hate to do? With whom are they most comfortable, or motivated, or depressed? Who are their role models? How can they get satisfaction and sustainability out of life? What are their priorities? What is a good day and what is a bad day? Where do they fall on the issues of the day? Is it better to be directive or participative?

As people figure this out, they want to test this new personality out on the world. They make comments online, and post pictures. They speak up at meetings. They give suggestions and then orders of their co-workers, friends, and subordinates. They strive understanding and validation.

To a large degree, this has been the drive of much of social networking and web 2.0, as well as pop culture, and "Cosmo" and Match.com self-tests. People today strive for self definition increasingly globally, not just defining themselves by where they live, where they work, or as a friend or enemy of the next door neighbor.

2. Learning to Do

People then want to have a impact on the flow of their world - to change the course of activity in a positive way because of what they do.

This is where the big skills, such as leadership, stewardship, project management, and innovation come in. This is where people put forth some blood, sweat, and tears, and experience ownership

This is where simulations play a critical role. Immersive learning simulations, especially practiceware, have the ability to give people ten years of distilled experience in 15 hours.

Sims develop an awareness of the all-critical "active knoweldge" trinity of:

  • actions;
  • results; and
  • the hidden system that too often counter-intuitively connect the two.

3. Learning to Know

At this point comes the learning to know. This might be cultural literacy/history, or organizational history, or trivia. This is where we try to make sense of the world we inherited - to piece together the giant puzzle. This is where books and the History Channel become so interesting. It is around this third category that academics has built both their curricula and their research process, one of the reasons I have so little hope for the role of Ph.d dominated Foundations to add significantly to the first two.

I say again that what we teach is limited by what we can teach. The exciting thing about this new media order is that we have more power at our fingertips for development than ever before.