The 3 E’s to Education
Really! What is Education?
Is it a process of moving along a conveyor belt, of progressing from kindergarten, primary, secondary, and tertiary school? On completing “This Education” an individual is liberated to the world with a trade certificate, diploma, degree, and for those that complete higher education — an MBA or a PhD.
Is that individual well equipped to tackle the world of employment, entrepreneurship or whatever the individual, wants to pursue in life?
Unfortunately, in most cases, the answer is a resounding No. You might ask, why is this the case?
From my experience of coaching and mentoring individuals for over 2 decades, from all echelons, ranging from Campus to Corporate, Senior Management, VPs, and CEOs, I found there was a huge gap between what the individual had studied, and what they could apply in the real world out there.
What is the missing link?
I feel in addition to Education, there are two prime components: Exposure and Experience (learning from a Role Model). When this is combined with mainstream education, the total holistic learning that is embedded with the individual is priceless. The difference is like chalk and cheese — clearly identifiable.
What is exposure in its truest form for Education?
It is opening oneself to learning experiences outside of mainstream education with passion, curiosity, accepting failure, correcting course, and learning more about oneself through constant introspection.
Unfortunately, our mainstream education falls tremendously short in providing this.
Let me illustrate it in the form of a metaphor- Black Forest Cake. The base of a black forest cake is a chocolate cake, which is layered between cream, chocolate icing, strawberries, and plums — usually referred to as the trimmings of the Black Forest cake.
The excited young graduate, after years of education deep dives into a work environment. How do you think they would perform with limited exposure, poor level of Emotional Quotient, minimal experience interacting with others and in most instances, hardly any role models — to “cut, copy-paste” peak performance behaviour, good practices, and daily rituals, embedding a blueprint for excellence — the trimmings to the Black Forest cake? Obviously extremely poor. This stopgap is currently filled by top companies who pump into the continuous development of their employees, and sole proprietors who go out and seek this development on their own. This trimming is not important, but vital for today’s economic growth.
Their prime focus of the mainstream education had been on mastering domain skills basically baking that chocolate cake. What about their skills in acquiring the trimmings for the cake? Sad to say, limited to Minimal or Nonexistent.
The education process should ensure “exposure” out there from the world should be assimilated into the curriculum, particularly work of the future, long before the individual graduates. In addition, rather than continuously top up on education with one degree after another, with minimum or no work experience is valueless. This today is noticed by some universities where they are guided by industry experience to ensure an individual is not allowed entry into an MBA discipline without at least 12 months of work experience. This allows for the individual to appreciate, apply, and acquire a good appreciation of the cases studies, principles, and concepts rather than theoretically memorize them and hopefully try to apply them in the real world.
There should be more collaborative work between industries and the community to better prepare the candidate for real-world exposure. In today’s world, with the internet, it is not difficult to bring the world to the individual, for Exposure and utilize this form of learning to enhance the person.
Another key element of Exposure to the world of work provides an opportunity for these individuals to build connections, network with professionals outside their usual family networks and learn by “doing” and working in real-world contexts. Many miss this value add to a person’s development. In one of my coaching sessions in Jakarta, I worked with a blind journalist who interviews politicians globally. He shared his experience of building a network connection globally. He claimed people connection that he made over the years was his top asset, in lobbying for interviews with other top politicians. As the adage goes it is not what you know, but who knows.
It is also interesting to note good exposure to the right type of connections offers exceptional valuable benefits in enriching the learning, building up employability, and helping in developing specific capabilities, the likes as resilience, problem-solving, collaboration and particular decision making.
I again repeat, these skills referred to here are not important but vital. A simple skill such as miscommunication due to lack of market exposure can cost mid-tier businesses with 100 employees, at least US$500000 per year, whilst it will cost top tier companies with 100000 employees at least US $ 60 Million per year. Industry commonly refers to this as rework. In today’s economy, such add on costs are not tolerated by owners or managers of companies.
Learning from other’s Experiences:
A process of learning through experience, of self and that of others more commonly referred to as “learning through reflection and doing”. Hands-on learning is a form of experiential learning, that is only practised by a few.
This form of learning assists individuals in not fearing mistakes, instead of valuing them. Experiential learning is designed to engage individuals’ emotions as well as enhance their knowledge and skills. It is priceless to learn of others’ experiences which if the individual had to acquire would have taken them years to accumulate.
Another great benefit of this form of learning is the individual is playing an active, participative role in the learning, hence will experience greater gratification and the outcomes would be far superior.
It’s vital to ensure industry mentoring and entrepreneurship are inculcated in the Continuous And Never-ending Improvement (CANI) of an individual. The development of an individual does not stop when a person completes their formal education. Many misinterpret this and feels once they have acquired a piece of paper — “Their Certificate”, education stops. In fact, from experience, we found the reverse applies — on completing one’s formal education, that is when the door opens for true education.
What we learn from others is commonly referred to as Observational learning (also known as vicarious learning, social learning, or modelling). This is a type of learning that occurs as a function of observing, retaining, and replicating novel behaviour executed by others.
The benefits acquired by learning from others help us grow emotionally and more importantly, help us from making mistakes. These individuals from whom we learn have done the “walk the walk before they are doing the talk the talk”. Hence by learning from them and observing their behaviour, the individual can reduce the number of mistakes/failures they might encounter.
Another magnificent prime benefit acquired in learning from others is, that it can and has helped many to skillup their decision-making skills. Poor decision-making skills have been a bottleneck for many in preventing them from moving up in life. Individuals tend to hold back, procrastinate, and hence stay stagnant where they are, rather than move up on account of poor decision-making skills.
Other key areas that we found where people could effectively “live to learn” from others are; how to appear, and behave in a professional manner, how to effectively communicate, how to engage with the audience and build rapport, how to simplify the explanation of complex things, how to ask effective questions, how to network, how to drive and step up the passion of others, how to make people feel valued and respected and countless other areas.
Hence, mainstream education for domain expertise, coupled with social capital education of exposure and experience provides the individual with a truly holistic education and well set for life.