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How Lessons From the Beer Industry Can Inspire the Way We Education?

Updated: Feb 24, 2023

Disruption is the New Normal for Education.

Photo by Vasily Koloda on Unsplash

As I reflected on my last blog post describing the craft beer industry transformation, it appeared that the education industry has the opportunity to experience a similar reboot.

Our current education system is built on the Industrial Revolution model and focuses on IQ, in particular memorization and standardization, and a one-size-fits-all model.

The pandemic offers a chance to reflect on habitual, established processes and methodologies and question how we can shape the future of learning in schools and the workplace.

What might the lessons of the craft brewing revolution mean for a learning revolution?


Re-instilling Curiosity

How could a learner craft their learning experience?

The Beer industry was stagnant and bland until craft brewers started questioning new possibilities that unleashed their curiosity.

Each individual learner should own their journey as the craft brewer owns the curiosity and creation of their craft brews. Allowing the learner to design and curate their own curriculum will re-instill curiosity.

Learners would facilitate and maintain their curiosity via an experimental process that pursues learning tied to a key area of interest. Math, science, history, and art would all be relevant to the learner’s area of interest vs. teaching each subject in isolation.

Unlearning the Inertia, Triggers, and Cues of Formal Education

What if teachers became coaches and facilitators?

One possible disruptive idea would be to honor the principle of leaders as coaches of new processes rather than just teachers of historical content.

Like brewers with their out-dated, old-world recipes, the conventional wisdom of formal education is a constant effort to make teachers better at delivering rote memorization of a predetermined curriculum.

Going forward, there is an opportunity for the lead learning role to transition to a facilitation and coaching role for developing and delivering a new model. In this model, the learner takes on the ownership of the subject-matter curriculum he or she chooses to pursue.

At a higher level, traditional terms and labels like “education”, “teacher”, “student”, and “academics” would not be part of the lexicon of the new model for learning. These terms carry a history of inertia that would be difficult for many to unlearn.

Education is stuck in an endless loop of trying to improve upon the past instead of creating the learning experience of the future.

In the end, new models would be laser-focused on helping learners develop a true learning mindset Instead of the rote memorization goals of today’s formal education and work models.

Persevering to Create New Models

What if we viewed learning as the potential for new creation?

One possible model would favor nontraditional, distributed networks over diplomas and degrees from individual institutions. This innovation would pursue learning networks and real-world opportunities out in our communities vs. isolated classroom instruction.

Imagine what learning could feel like in such a model. What new learning educational products would be possible out of such a model?

The craft brewers did not realize it at the time, but by avoiding competition with the existing system, they created the conditions for realizing a brand new model.

Today, there is an entire tourism industry around “local” craft brewing that literally did not exist prior to the craft beer revolution. The US now has more local breweries than it has ever had in the history of the beer brewing industry and they are community-building centers in your town, city, local region, or country.

Could a learning tourism industry emerge?

By reimagining their product, craft brewers created an entirely new model of beer consumerism that the incumbents would never have believed could be possible.

We can assume the same about traditional education incumbents.



Industry change requires the input of fresh ideas in response to high levels of pain.

Around the globe, we are seeing examples of independent, project-based and accelerated educational methods such as phenomenon-based learning.

Starting in 2016 - 2017, Finland began adopting phenomenon-based learning as the leading model for its education system. Tying the subject matter to a learner’s core area of interest is a better way to foster the learner’s curiosity and drive their educational experiences.


Just as the new craft brewer strengthened its relationship with consumers, a new learning model must do the same with future generations of learners.

Not just strengthening human relationships, but also strengthening the relationship people have with the models that drive behaviors and with the information and context within his/her chosen field.

Craft brewers strengthened their relationship with the ingredients, the equipment, and a mix of both historical and new brewing techniques. For example, many brewers have resurrected centuries-old styles and recipes or created entirely new ways of brewing. In fact, improving their relationship with the knowledge within the industry is likely what led to stronger relationships with consumers. Their strengthened relationship with the information created new opportunities to connect with an ever-broadening population of consumers.

Try to imagine how this thinking could vastly transform how we approach learning.

Learning has great untapped relationship-building potential. The current education model is a place void of human relationships where the most important people layers in the system are simply viewed as cogs to pushing through volumes. This belies the fact that learning is a very human endeavor.

We need a model that creates the human relationships that are crucial to meaningful learning.

Today, the relationships that administrators, teachers, and students have with the curriculum is poor at best. Curriculums are viewed and treated as a means-to-an-end. The extent of the relationship is to remember, recall, and regurgitate. Transformation is also needed in our relationship with the information and context with which learning is pursued.

Making an effort on both of these fronts will likely lead to strengthened relationships across the learning experience for all involved.

Local Community

It seems a growing population of learners are becoming ever more curious about other ways to learn, yet the curiosity of education purveyors remains limited.

Similar to craft brewing, which required a set of local purveyors to start experimenting with a new model in order to disrupt an entrenched and stagnant industry, revamping what it means to learn will require the same.


As I reflect back upon the lessons of the craft brewing revolution, I can see the same potentially disruptive opportunities for education and learning.

I believe that the education transformation will begin with those who can let go of what it traditionally means to educate, teach, and acquire knowledge.

A key point in the mindset shift will be to notice the difference between knowledge acquisition tasks and activities and more holistic learning experiences.

I’ve been invited by the AcornOak Studio podcast, Pass The Mic, to continue this topic exploration with an unscripted discussion. A small group of educators and agile thinkers will come together to explore how the pandemic disrupted our education model and the various emerging opportunities causing the world of education to experience a profound shift.

This session of Pass the Mic Podcast will attempt to answer the following questions:

  1. What might the lessons of the pandemic be for a learning revolution?

  2. How do we re-instill curiosity and persevere to create new learning models?

  3. How do we unlearn the inertia, triggers, and cues of our formal education?

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