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Trends Shaping Development in the 21st Century

Responding to the changing needs, and today the world is changing faster than at any other time in human history, we need to re-evaluate the methods of training delivery to ensure that it meets the aims of the 21st century learning.  During the time of rapid change, it is important that professional development and training are focused on developing sustainable learning skills for continued development.   Therefore effective professional development should be focused on principled learning, where the emphasis is on flexible understanding and skills (application of knowledge to new situations).  Also, encouraging employees to take greater personal responsibility for their professional development, leads to improved self-regulation (independence to manage and monitor own development), which is at the heart of professionalism.

In “21 Trends for the 21st Century”, Gary Marx discusses different trends shaping society today.  Marx provides strategies for developing leaders by building adaptability and resilience at work or through engaging staff in active learning and problem solving, for example.  Regarding trends for the digital age, the author’s focus is on continuous improvement, ingenuity, diversity, technology, sustainability and personalisation just to name some of the trends.  Inevitably, the trends are inter-dependent and sustainability needs to be considered in a broader sense of adaptability and developing resilience in a rapidly changing world.

In the context of complex institutional learning and change, where continuous progress is crucial to successful organisational development, maintaining innovation is even more important in the 21st century than ever before.  Hence leaders’ capacities to deal with change and learn from it will be instrumental for the development of organizations, and society.  Especially when introducing innovation, the significance of effective collaborative practices between leaders, employees and other partners should not be underestimated with regard to impact on organizational outcomes.  Thus the importance of changing individuals through professional development and attending to processes as well as to content are important considerations to the successful organizational development.

Striving for sustainability in the wider sense, investment in developing an autonomous work force with a pro-active attitude to change and managing own growth should be on the agenda of forward looking organizations.  Developing learning sustainability is of outmost importance as during fast changing world people will have to be prepared for jobs and careers that currently do not exist and interactive technologies will shape how people learn and relate to the world.


With regard to other 21st century trends, Marx asserts also the importance of diversity and how it is managed.  In his view, diversity, if not managed well, can become a dividing force rather than unifying one, creating challenges to social cohesion rather than enrichment.  Another trend consideration is the impact of continuous improvement and work-life balance as people will seek personal solace in response to fast technological advancements and the blurring of work/home boundaries in a fast-paced society.

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