Monday, 4 January 2010

business and education - bridging the gap

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It’s 2010! Great, let’s get on with it. There’s plenty to do.

Will this be the year that education catches up with the curve? Education in England is renowned for lagging way behind business in terms of operational models. And is it any wonder, for schools hardly get a chance to get their bearings before they are set yet another merry dance by the demon-fiddlers of the political world. (They shoot horses, don’t they?)

This week my friend John sent me a little booklet he’s been working on. He runs a top end business consultancy. His client list reads like a who’s who of the top multi nationals and fortune 500 companies (the 500 biggest US companies). He specialises in helping the C-suite executives of these companies visualise their operations and strategic planning. (The term C-suite refers to chief executives, e.g. CEOs etc.) He also advises government departments here and in the US. Basically, he helps the leaders of our world to visualise and clarify their thinking. Twenty years of this work has given John a good view of how the big wheels turn, and where they tend to catch and wobble.

John’s booklet condenses 20 years of observations about the most common mistakes within large organisations and charts the way ahead for the next decade. Much of what he says can be applied to the field of education and I’m looking at doing just that.

What I’m wondering is does the education world want to use the best thinking of the business world, or are we content to muddle along in third gear behind the leading pack? Do we want operational models at the forefront of 21st Century thinking? Is what is good enough for the CEOs of the world’s biggest companies too good for our schools and our young people too?

The drift of John’s recommendations are completely in line with what I do as an education consultant and storyteller. (Our shared perspective on the need for paradigm shift is the basis of our association, naturally enough.) But, and here's the rub, they are not quite in line with government priorities or with the usual educational consultancy models which tend to follow them to the letter. Governments are more concerned with maintaining control of education than with enabling it to self-define and flourish independently. Thankfully not all schools feel constrained to dance solely to the tunes of political whims, so I get plenty of work.

When I speak to schools their first concern is often where to source funding for the sort of creative learning projects I run. Luckily I am often able to point schools in the direction of funding streams. Sometimes another concern is that doing ‘extra’ things might detract from their main priorities: exam grades etc. But the value of the enrichment I offer shows itself every time, given half the chance.

My aim this year has to be to make more schools aware of latest thinking in the business world, to show them how that relates to education, and to allay fears that funding might be a problem or that dancing more to their own tune might compromise their ability to please their political paymasters.

It’s 2010! Great, let’s get on with it. There’s plenty to do.

(By the way folks, if you want a look at John’s website click here for the link, and yes, you will find me there on his expert network.)

(Also, you might want to check back here in the next week or so. I’m thinking of serialising some of the main points in John’s latest booklet and outlining some of the connections to education. Watch this space.)

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