Can We Develop Students Through Artificial Intelligence?

Perhaps you heard the announcement. The president and CEO of Toshiba, Satoshi Tsunakawa, warned recently that the 142-year-old Japanese electronics giant may fold soon. They’re finding it hard to keep the company afloat.

Let me remind you of why this is such incredible news.

For decades, Toshiba was at the forefront of the tech revolution. They introduced Americans to high-end televisions and portable computers. You likely owned a Toshiba product when you were younger. They led the industry and were the company that competitors emulated and attempted to catch. They were among the first technology companies in the world, launching when Ulysses S. Grant was president of the United States.

But today? It’s a different story. They project a $9.2 billion loss this fiscal year.


Columbia Business School professor Rita McGrath says they failed to update the way they do business. This is an understatement. Let me summarize what we can learn from Toshiba as we work with students today:

photo credit: J. Paxon Reyes Computer lab via photopin (license)

1. They still operated in a conglomerate fashion.

A conglomerate is the combination of two or more corporations engaged in entirely different businesses that fall under one corporate group. It’s usually a parent company and many subsidiaries. Often, the parent company doesn’t understand the industries underneath; they only understand the bottom line. Toshiba fell into this category and eventually it caught up with them. Those in charge didn’t really comprehend the offerings nor how to upgrade or update when needed.

As we work with students, we must make sure our senior leaders are kept abreast of current trends and are updated on the students they are serving. These students are the end users and the culture they live in today is different than it was a decade ago. Recognizing how life and culture is evolving can enable improvements in teaching style, student engagement and even inform the strategic goals you set.

I believe that while executive level leaders must lead with the big picture in mind, they cannot operate in a vacuum. Their decisions will be better if they spend some time “in the trenches” or receive updates from those in direct contact with students.

2. They don’t invent much, but only improve what others have done.

Over time, Toshiba became known only for taking products that others created and attempting to improve them. There’s nothing wrong with this, but eventually, you can’t keep up with the upgrades. Change happens so rapidly, stealers cannot beat creators. In the 1980s, imitation and improvement worked fine. Over the last fifteen years, however, innovative companies in the U.S., China and Korea have whipped Toshiba and the other Japanese companies in the “Big Six.” They lacked ideas and cultural diversity and it ruined them.

Similarly, we can’t be satisfied with merely emulating others. We must welcome diversity (ethnic, gender and generational diversity) if we’re going to be able to see where the world is going. People who are different offer a unique and perhaps wider perspective than we currently have. This has led me, as president of Growing Leaders, to welcome onto our team both men and women; people from different races and from three (and soon four) generations. We are better for it.

3. They don’t refresh with the times.

This is the big one. It is very easy to fall in love with the past. The past is settled. It is comfortable. It is familiar. But living in the past is like driving our car down the freeway while staring at the rearview mirror. We are bound to have an accident. While we may not know precisely what lies in the future, it is where we will spend the rest of our lives. We must welcome it. And, adjust to the changes it brings.

Toshiba exchanged their experience of winning awards at trade shows in the 1980s, for having a safe and predictable set of products. But they didn’t win an award in ten years, which could have offset its downward spiral. No one looked to them as leaders. For us, this may mean we have to evaluate what we must teach our students, but update our lesson plans and pedagogy. What if we traded in the “good old days” for “great new days?” What if we got excited about the adventure ahead of us, attempting to prepare students for a very different tomorrow?

Why This Is Necessary For Us Who Work with Students

Allow me to illustrate just one reason why this is essential for us. Over the next five to seven years, artificial intelligence will play a larger role in education. According to a March 27, 2017 report from Education Dive, called: Artificial Intelligence Market in the U.S. Education Sector 2017-2021:

“…it could have a big impact on teaching and learning during the next decade — particularly as adaptive and personalized learning takes off in more schools. Software is already capable of tailoring instruction to students and identifying knowledge gaps based on interaction.

Students learn on their own time, away from teachers, by turning to sophisticated chatbots, which can respond to questions in real time, based on deep analysis. Work is also being done, by tech giants like Google, to create more sophisticated AI that recognizes users over longer periods of time to advance learning based on patterns, interests and previous experiences.

  • Artificial intelligence is expected to grow rapidly in the U.S. education sector between 2017 and 2021. The artificial intelligence (AI) market in the United States education sector is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 47.5 percent during the period 2017-2021, according to a new report by market research firm Research and Markets.
  • One area of interest is AI-powered gaming, where AI provides students with a guided or adaptive learning experience, making learning more challenging for students as they play through.
  • One trend in the market is artificial intelligence-empowered educational games. These games provide teachers a useful medium to teach educational concepts in an interactive and engaging manner. Such a method not only generates curiosity but also motivates through points, badges and levels. Vendors are incorporating features of artificial intelligence in games to enhance the interactivity element.”

For our children, artificial intelligence will be normal. Soon, it will be part of our weekly conversation. Within several years, it will be daily. My question is, have we developed our students in ways that they can manage artificial and even higher intelligence within technology than they possess as humans? In this new world of artificial intelligence, how will we develop student’s:

  • Emotional Intelligence? (The management of their emotions / appetites)
  • Moral Intelligence? (The development of their ethics and moral values)
  • Social Intelligence? (The cultivation of their interpersonal skills)

These are the kinds of issues I attempt to guide you through in my new book, “Marching Off the Map.” I am excited to start conversations among educators, parents, coaches, youth workers and employers that will prepare us for this new world and prevent us from taking the path of Toshiba.

New Book: Marching Off the Map

Our new book is now available for preorder! Leading today’s students often feels like being in a new country with old maps that don’t work. Understanding and connecting with the generation in this land is often times frustrating and draining. We need new strategies on how to march off our old maps and create new ones.

This new resource collates decades of research and experiences into one practical guide that helps adults:

  • Inspire students to own their education and their future
  • Lead students from an attitude of apathy to one of passion through metacognition
  • Enable students to push back from the constant digital distractions and practice mindfulness
  • Raise kids who make healthy progress, both emotionally and intellectually, through their teenage years
  • Give students the tools to handle the complexities of an ever-changing world
  • Understand and practically apply the latest research on Generation Z

Pre-Order Here

Can We Develop Students Through Artificial Intelligence?