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Mar 30 2015 - 08:00 PM
Matt Taylor
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Matt Taylor is a true renaissance man. With extensive expertise in the fields of organic architecture, creative design, entrepreneurship, engineering, education and sailing, it is hard to select just one area of mastery as his primary domain. Commonalities among these proficiencies point to an emphasis on creating collaborative spaces and processes that foster innovation and encourage groundbreaking knowledge work. Taylor is a self-taught designer who also spent time working with legendary American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright.

EXCLUSIVE NEW LEARNING TIMES INTERVIEW

Question: How did your educational trajectory and past professional experience shape your current work?
Answer: I was an Air Force child in WWII. As a result I went to multiple schools around the world, and even went one year without school. I was diagnosed with Rheumatic fever in 1947 and while in bed for over a year I read the full Encyclopedia Britannica. I learned a lot about world cultures as a result of these travels and my reading. Because I spent the first 18 years of my life on air force bases going to boarding schools, I had a tremendous amount of independence. My mother taught me to read using the The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and this did not jive with "See Dick Run" books. Consequently, I spent the first year learning with the principal.

I first discovered architecture in 1948, but wasn’t able to join a drafting class until high school. I managed to get a job at an architecture firm in my junior year and never left the field or returned to a formal classroom. This showed me that by insisting on a learning process, people are not able to learn what they are truly interested in. I have been a reader to this day; literally many books a week. My education was closer to that a 19th century gentleman’s son might have. I went directly to the sources of the knowledge I was seeking.

Question: How do you hope your work will change the learning landscape?
Answer: We are not teaching for the 21st Century. It’s not that what we are teaching is bad or wrong. It’s adequate. We have a very narrow model of what we think is learning. Students may be brilliant in different ways and the content is way too slow. Also, much of the content in the early years is just propaganda. We are not teaching from the future to the present.

We worked with teachers and students and took a group of students outside of their classroom and into our learning environment and they accelerated their learning. When we work with large corporations and help them solve problems, we are really doing remedial education. Another disturbing thing we found is that most reasonably smart people have a very deep vertical knowledge of their industry and a huge lag in their knowledge of other industries. I was asked by a large consulting company to reinvent actuarial processes. How can these techniques be used in a broader sense? So I brought some of our clients from companies like NASA—all very smart people—and we took a 30 foot wall and had them write a scenario for the future. The whole time there was a stack of papers on a small table from a course I taught called "Redesigning the Future." The participants were tasked with coming up with new ideas around these visions for the future. All the way through either my wife or I could pull out a quote from my past course that was almost the same. A degree of depth of knowledge is required, but this notion of a lone genius is false. Gail and I have done workshops with many generations, from 70-year-olds to 3-year-olds and they all hang in there together. They are inventive and creative. We free them and bring them discipline to be more creative through the learning systems we have developed. Gail and I have a thing we call the Curriculum for the 21st Century and the curriculum is for everyone for their whole life. Teachers should ask questions and then supply information, yet, we do just the opposite.

Question: What broad trends do you think will have the most impact on learning in the years ahead?
Answer: Testing of the product and feedback. Buckminster Fuller made the comment, "every child is born a genius and we de-genius them." What we call cheating in school is called collaboration in business. Why do we assume that if students work together that they are not learning. The worst CEO in the world will make 30 times the salary of a teacher. Our value system is warped. Contribution comes from all of us in different ways. Brilliance is only having the right answer at the right time. To implement an idea takes tens of thousands of people. We should recognize all the levels of contribution that it takes to run a modern society. We are debasing our society to say that the only purpose of getting an education is to get a job.

Question: What are you currently working on & what is your next big project?
Answer: After 40 years the work that we have done is now beginning to take hold. We have built over $80M in value,and there is still more being built around the world. We are creating knowledge centers that will build a way of working based on genuine learning, working, and creativity. We need an operating system for people to quickly come together and collaborate. Our job is to get in place a way of working that would be able to advance when people start to realize that the human race is going through one of the most wonderful and dangerous times in history. We are focused on helping cities and groups of people to be more future ready and resilient. We will bring what we call the whole Value Web together, but, not as separate issues, rather as an interrelated system. We call these the worthy projects and we will help facilitate them. Then there will be the projects for the fun of it, called architecture.

Question: Who are the most interesting people you are following on Twitter?
Answer: Probably more on Facebook than on Twitter, but, on Twitter, Maria Popova (@BrainPicker) and her BrainPickings blog and newsletter.

Image: Courtesy Matt Taylor

|By: Kate Meersschaert|1074 Reads