Students Advancing Innovation – Meet the Kairos Society

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I recently discovered the Kairos Society through the Young Entrepreneur Blog (a great blog BTW). The group really impressed me. Here’s what they say about themselves:

The Kairos Society is an international, student-run, not-for-profit foundation based in the United States. Kairos brings together top students from around the world in an effort to foster the next generation of leaders to develop globally impactful innovations.

Sounds interesting, but what does that really mean? The CEO of the group, Dylan Reid agreed to be interviewed. Dylan is a third year student at Cornell’s College of Architecture, Art and Planning. He has some interesting thoughts on the state of education and student entrepreneurship.

Tell us a bit about the Kairos Society and how you got involved with it.

The Kairos Society is a network of top entrepreneurs and innovators from around the world. We work with universities, organizations, big companies and governments to foster high-growth, high-impact entrepreneurship and enterprise creation in key industries and sectors.


What do you look for in a Kairos fellow?


This is a great question because we choose fellows not only to support their  ideas and innovations but to serve as an example of the kinds of entrepreneurs and ventures that we feel will create the most value in the future. In the long run we feel the most successful firms will emerge to solve the most significant global challenges and so we look for fellows who are thinking globally and creating companies around solving problems, be it education, energy, healthcare or transportation. We tend to be less interested in entrepreneurs pursuing short-term trends and over saturated spaces like social web or mobile applications, though many of our startups incorporate both.


What’s your view on the state of education today and where do you think it’s going?


Education is a problem here in the US (especially K-12) that will be a serious drain on our ability to innovate in the future, it’s a race between technology and education and we’re clearly loosing but that’s partially because the skills we’re teaching are exactly those most likely to be automated in the future (i.e. computation rather than critical thinking.)


Do you think students are given enough training in entrepreneurship?

I’m not sure you can get training as an entrepreneur. Certainly there are skills you can learn (accounting, management) but those skills do not make entrepreneurs or great companies. Entrepreneurship is a cultural phenomenon that emerges from any number of incalculable social, political and economic circumstances. If entrepreneurship was easy to foster, they’re be a Silicon Valley in every state of the nation and every country in the world.

What do you think of the role of technology in education?


Technology isn’t an answer, it’s a tool. If implemented intelligently, new technologies could lead to greater efficiencies and better outcomes. One thing the education system is severely lacking are feedback loops — they had lots of data but no way of making sense of it or learning from it, which is something technology can help them do. Of course, as we’re seeing now, there are vested interests that stand to loose ground from those kinds of efficiencies which make their broader implementation politically infeasible. So I’d say a lot of the problems in (at least public) education are political rather than technological.

What are some of the most inspiring ideas or people you’ve come across as part of your work with Kairos?
Because we’ve been talking about education I have to mention my friend Dale Stephens [note: see my interview with Dale] who leads UnCollege, an organization rethinking the role and value of traditional education. He’s been making the rounds these last few weeks arguing for more self-guided, experience-based learning as he makes some really strong points. He recently got a Thiel Fellowship to develop RadMatter, a platform to assess and measure real life experiences (the way someone might compile employment and education experience on a resume), which is going to be very cool!

Thanks so much Dylan. I wish you much success with Kairos society!

So what do you think of this type of organization? Let us know in the comments section.

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Tags: dylan,, kairos, reid, society


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