NACCE Annual Conference Keynote Speaker: Being Clear about Ambiguity

Posted By: Carol Savage NACCE Blog,

It’s critically important to prepare young adults so their mindsets embrace ambiguity – at least that’s the argument that NACCE Annual Conference keynote speaker Ted Dintersmith makes in his book What Schools Could Be. The author, speaker, producer, and entrepreneur, will open NACCE’s 17th annual conference this year in Newport Beach, California to talk about re-imagining education to meet the needs of today’s students – and transform learning as we know it.

“Traditional school approaches make it clear what is needed to get an A or to pass,” says Dintersmith. “This removes ambiguity, and thus students over time begin to fear ambiguity. They go through an education process aimed solely on the end game of grades.”

There’s Learning in Failing

Instead, he poses, what if students go through a process of creating something – even if it ultimately fails – doesn’t learning occur? If you learn to embrace ambiguity, according to Dintersmith, you’re able to shift, adapt, and ultimately succeed.

In his 25-year career as a venture capitalist, Dintersmith was responsible for launching 50 early-stage firms, 44 of which became successful. “The world of innovation demands a degree of agility and flexibility in the approaches taken,” he says. ”We need to teach students how to dynamically shift and change, but most schools don’t foster creative students who thrive on ambiguity. Instead, they produce fragile young adults who crave micro-management and clarity. I call these the ‘go fetch a dog biscuit’ employees, and few companies need this kind of employee anymore.”

As a former general partner (and now partner emeritus) of Charles River Ventures, one of the top venture capital firms in the country, Dintersmith will focus his presentation at NACCE 2019 on his experiences as an industry leader and his new passion of re-awakening innovation and entrepreneurship in education to better help students. He’ll also talk about his newest project, “The Innovation Playlist,” (, a teacher-led educational model comprised of small steps leading to big change, drawing on the best practices from outstanding educators and non-profits throughout the country.

Tune in to NACCE 2019 “Entrepreneurship Explorations” October 13-16 in Newport Beach, California to learn more.