Entrepreneurship, Edición 51

Strategic Training

By: Ernesto Gómez
Founding partner of the Instituto de Empresas de Alto Rendimiento

Today’s society demands skills in different areas of expertise and knowledge. Ideally, public and private universities should prepare students for an efficient professional work experience and to know how to fully assume the responsibilities of the position for which they are hired.

Narrowing the Gap

However, the transition from the industrial to the information age, where we are now, has produced noticeable changes, especially if we take as a basis the definition in UNESCO’s report “Learning: The Treasure Within” on “the four pillars that education should aspire to in the 21st century.”

  1. Learning to know. It refers to acquiring the tools of understanding. It involves learning how to understand the world around us in order to know and discover. It is necessary “to learn to learn”, exercising the powers of concentration, memory and thought.
  2. Learning to do. It consists of influencing one’s own environment. It involves training to cope with a large number of interactions and teamwork. It is necessary to strengthen professional skills for the work world.
  3. Learning to live together. It refers to participating, cooperating and living with others. It involves understanding others and their ways of tackling projects and common conflicts, and to honor diversity, tolerance and peace.
  4. Learning to be. It deals with the three previous concepts. It involves developing the personality and autonomy, judgment and personal responsibility.

UNESCO defines well the principles that should govern our current education system, and this change will be gradual and complete.

We have an educational process whose purpose is, or should be, to develop skills in students that will enable them to be productive and that such productivity be remunerated financially. However, continuity and updating theoretical and practical subjects taught in the career are obsolete by the time students are faced with the reality of working life. This has a systematic origin: We are educated for an end, but we are not educated to manage the process and the results that take us closer to that end. Therefore, it is an incomplete, incompetent, absurd and inconsistent system (in addition to extremely expensive). It is like teaching someone to fish, explaining the entire art of fishing, but you do not teach what you should do once you actually go fishing.

Types of Education

There are three types of education, which I will elaborate on below:

  • Formal
  • Non formal
  • Informal

Formal education rests on the foundations we have just seen. To be formal, it must be accredited by the government agency that gives official recognition of the content being taught. It is worth mentioning that the people who decide whether or not to validate the content lack practical experience in the field, even though they are highly competent in the administrative processes that they carry out.

Formally Individualistic

Today we know that individualism leads to failure, while cooperative efforts make nations, businesses, schools and families come out ahead.

The main failure of the formal education system occurs at the time it rejects those who should be the main beneficiaries and supported by the system: the so-called “slow learners.” In other words, if a student is bad in math, he/she does not receive the support or sympathy of the teachers, principals and other educational authorities, which is a major contradiction and constitutes an “anti-democratization” of the education process, because it contradicts the fundamentals of the era of knowledge and the dissemination and democratization of information.

Compete or Cooperate!

Another serious problem of the formal education system is that it does not prepare students to work as a team, that is, to engage in cooperative work, rather quite the contrary: It teaches us to be competitive. Even in the teamwork that is assigned at school, students compete to see who turned in more material, the one who spoke the best, the one who looked for more information – and disqualifies the worst one, the one who did the least. In contrast, for example, Finland has a system of cooperative work in which everyone contributes according to what they do best, regardless of whether it was more or less than the next student, as they are focused on achieving the set result.

The education system prepares us to believe we are in a zero-sum system: for one to win, the other must lose.

Find the Error and Reward It

By basing education on the fear of making mistakes, some students take advantage of others. That is, instead of the strong helping the weak, they take advantage of their strength and harm the less competent in that particular area. Since the main objective is to get the best grade, the values of honesty, loyalty, friendship, etc. are discarded implicitly. Survival is worth more than ethics. To better understand the shortcomings of the education system, let’s take the example of automobile mechanics.

Specialization and Expertise

To illustrate a fundamental flaw of the education system, let’s talk about the skills we need to develop to get a job, which involves specializing in a specific field or area of practice. If my car breaks down, I don’t have the slightest idea how to fix it. My level of knowledge is practically zero in this area. A mechanic who checks the car will tell you what is the problem and resolve it. Does that make me less intelligent? Of course not, it simply is a reflection of knowledge that I do not have and someone else does. So, is specialization bad? No, specialization is good because the mechanic will solve my problem since he/she is specialized in this area. The problem is overspecialization. Blindness that results from overspecialization can be serious if the acquired skill merely depends on another area in which employees cannot grow or cultivate new skills. If we return to the example of the mechanic, suppose that he does not know how to manage the finances in his business, how to sell more, how to improve. Therefore, overspecialization is a problem because it does not allow him to take in the overall picture to solve his problems or propose solutions or innovations. Overspecialization leads to extinction.

Types of Learning

There are three types of learning:

  1. Mental. This is reduced to memorizing facts, which consists of selectively storing data in the brain, such as when information is stored in a computer.
  2. Physical. This is learning by first-hand experience, involving all the senses and most of the nervous system.
  3. Emotional and subconscious. This is learning that occurs through feelings of joy, fear, sorrow, love, compassion or exaltation.

The combination of the three types represents the maximum learning potential of human beings. Unfortunately, the current formal education system focuses on mental learning, so that students function like computers: If no information is entered, no knowledge comes out.

The Error

Education that only deals with mental learning slows down physical and mental development. The biggest objection that can be made about the education system (depending on the conditions in which it is found, Kiyosaki, 2005) is that students are not taught to learn from their mistakes, but they have been conditioned to believe that mistakes are bad. However, in true learning, mistakes are essential. Rarely a person is able to respond well the first time, so that learning is achieved by trial and error. A new educational system that prepares people to be happy and successful in life should be constituted around the mistakes that they make.

To limit students to think in terms of right or wrong removes their capacity, crushes their curiosity, dampens their enthusiasm, and atrophies their creativity. In the long term, the use of this process not only causes boredom, but also teaches students to rely on an external authority figure who will tell them the “right” answers. Ultimately, it prevents students from developing their full potential to succeed in life. [Kiyosaki, 2005]

An example of the importance of making mistakes is in the skills that we have. This theme is universal and can be applied to business, sports, school, interpersonal relationships, etc. First, we will look at general cases and then we will include more concrete examples.

  1. Unconscious Incompetence. You do not know what you do not know. The person has an idea or a challenge that is completely unknown.
  2. Conscious Incompetence. You do not know what you know. The person realizes that he makes mistakes in carrying out an idea or challenge. He realizes how much he does not know and the need to make even more mistakes to continue learning.
  3. Conscious Competence.You know what you know. Now the person is aware of what he should know and put into practice. This is the point in which mistakes are defined, you learn from them and they are repeated with the goal of improving and learning them thoroughly to avoid making them again.
  4. Unconscious Competence. The person already knows everything and does not need to think about the mistakes or the idea or challenge that he had in his mind, since he has mastered them. That is why it is called unconscious competence because it is the point at which the individual is competent in this activity in a natural way.

To illustrate the above, we will use the steps to learn how to ride a bike as an example:

  1. Unconscious Incompetence. A person is excited about the idea of learning how to ride a bike, but since he has never done it, he does not know what he needs to learn.
  2. Conscious Incompetence. The person gets on the bike and starts pedaling. He suddenly falls and realizes that there are things he still does not know yet.
  3. Conscious Competence. Through trial and error, the person corrects the mistakes. He has observed, usually at the unconscious level, what he did and what caused him to fall and, forced to try different movements, he eventually becomes competent.
  4. Unconscious Competence. He no longer thinks about what he does. The person has the necessary knowledge and automatically uses it to ride the bike.

If it is important to make mistakes (when learning to ride a bike) and learn from them, it is the same for business, but this is not taught in school. A direct and greater participation in the education process of the student is required.

Education, as proposed today, is seen as an end – not as a process that lasts a lifetime, by the simple fact that the world, society, is in constant change.

Non Formal or Informal Education

Precisely because of the problems and the gap that exists between the skills acquired at college and the requirements of a specific job, non-formal or informal education arises to complete, update and align competencies with business.

The advantages of this education are that the knowledge is current, practical and can be linked and segmented in each particular case, according to the needs of the company and the employee. In addition, you can generate performance indicators that are better than the now obsolete quantitative rating.

The disadvantage is that they do not have official validation, and, therefore, no professional titles are issued, which seems to be the ultimate goal of studying a career, and not the learning and knowledge.

Non-formal education is flexible, agile and adaptable. It is the solution to the needs of the employees and businesses and can be provided in the form of courses, seminars, workshops, programs, and face-to face or at-a-distance graduate courses.

Business training is expensive, but in a phrase by Derek Bok explaining the importance of the update, he says: “If you think preparation is expensive, check out the price of ignorance.”

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