Podcast # 9: An Interview with Len Sweet

In the last episode of the Growing Leaders Podcast, we discussed the benefits of a gap year. In today’s episode, we share an interview with Len Sweet, futurist and author of more than forty books, including Soul Tsunami: Sink or Swim in New Millennium Culture, The Gospel According to Starbucks, Post-Modern Pilgrims and 11 Indispensable Relationships You Can’t Be Without.


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Episode Summary

As you look at the educational institutions today, what seems to be missing?

  • We’ve designed education systems around the Gutenberg model of print and book learning, but digital technology is now prevalent in our culture.
  • Print technology wires the brain differently than digital technology.
  • So, we now have all these digital kids wired for digital technology, but our education models are all patterned after a print technology.

Print culture:

  • The most anti-social activity ever invented was reading a book.
  • This model includes individual desks, don’t look at anyone else’s work, don’t talk to them (silence)

Digital culture:

  • This culture is all about teams, relationships, and collaboration.
  • Our educational leaders are totally unequipped for this new idea.
  • Today’s students are drawn to connection, relationships, and the digital culture.

What schools or organizations seem to be “scratching the itch”? What best practices have you observed?

  • TED is a learning platform that goes across everyone (TED talks, TEDx)
  • Len has used “Metaverse”, “Secondlife”, and now uses “Spoton3D” as a platform for learning.
  • These gaming platforms are normal for today’s kids, so the amount of learning that is taking place in this atmosphere is higher.
  • We need a “play ethic” rather than a work ethic
    • The greatest artistry and achievement comes out of play mentality, not a work mentality.
    • You don’t work a violin, you don’t work basketball; you play those things.
    • Having a “play ethic” carries responsibility. Play requires practice!

What do you think we most need to focus on and even do… as we think about the future of developing students and great future adults?

  • There is a need to rethink the pedagogy and models of learning.
  • Kids need help with the process, not the access.
    • Kid’s need authority to help process all the information that is available to them.
    • Kids need to learn the assessment of information.
    • What is good information? What is bad information?
    • Len doesn’t refer to himself as a teacher, but as an organizer of learning 
    • A Compass or a GPS?”
    • Truth needs to be presented as a narrative


1. National Leadership Forum – Sign up today at nationalleadershipforum.org. This year’s theme is Marching Off the Map: Charting the Course for the Next Decade of Student Development. Len Sweet will be joining and we’d like for you to join us, too. Use the code: NLF30 for $30 off your ticket if used before 3/15/13.

2. Check out Growing Leaders. If you’re new to the podcast or blog, visit our website to learn more about the resources Growing Leaders offers to equip those who lead the next generation.

What topic would you like for us to address on the next episode of the Growing Leaders Podcast? Leave a comment.

Podcast # 9: An Interview with Len Sweet