Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Learning to change; changing to learn

Habit-changing learning happens in the heat of real events, crises even; when the answer can only be achieved by inspired collaboration – the one thing that is not-taught and not-learned by the conventional teaching and learning model that dominates our high schools, colleges, universities board meetings, training sessions, coaching meetings, and management meetings.

In an interview with Jim Collins in Inc Jim argues that we are in the age of entrepreneurship and it can be learned. He points to the proliferation of courses and programmes in Entrepreneurship. Peter Bregman in HBR gives some good basic advice on “How to Counter Resistance to Change”: how to communicate effectively to achieve change.

To me these two articles revolve around the same problem: how to learn to communicate effectively to achieve change.

The problem is that no amount of observational, analytical research and generalisation of entrepreneurship and communication coupled with conventional teaching and learning will produce effective entrepreneurs and communicators. That’s because people in typical education settings learn not-effective communication and not-entrepreneurial behaviours. That’s because the main message is the medium – the way they are taught. Everything about the medium: experts out front armed with whiteboard, PowerPoint and grades in classrooms and, worse still, lecture theatres, is about abstraction, authority, hierarchy, personal expertise and self.

No wonder, despite the inappropriateness of conventional hierarchical bureaucracy to SMEs and MLEs, these models of organisation continue to predominate. It’s because everyone goes to school and everyone is imprinted with this industrial organisational model from the moment they become organisationally conscious until they graduate: with that knowledge refined to absurdity by the university.

This isn’t a crazy rant. I’ve taught in those places. I’ve employed those graduates. I work with SME and LME owners and managers. Listen to Ricardo Semler. He has too.

Every time we stand up front, expert with a whiteboard and PowerPoint, with our clients sitting attentively facing the front, we invoke the ‘magic’ of the classroom: the right-answer oriented, hierarchical, parent/child relationships and concepts of learning and knowledge that produce qualifications at best.

No wonder we typically fail to achieve change.

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