Education is what have left after forgotten everything you’ve learned. Today, people must constantly forget things they know.
Product generations often last less than 18 months. Some entire product lines turn over every year, and some in six months. Companies that roll to success are those that develop constant learning capacities and exploit them.
Learning can become a renewable resource. An educated person is like a spring: as a spring replenishes itself when water is withdrawn, so educated individuals replenish their learning when knowledge has served its purpose.
Educated people know how to learn. A person who has been trained in specific tasks but not educated in the art of learning is like a dipper, which gets its water from an external source. When the water’s gone, the dipper can’t refill itself.
In the industrial age, education was not essential to successful job performance. Tasks were broken into small subtasks, which people performed repetitively. Once the worker had learned the mechanical procedure, further learning was unnecessary. A robot could do it.
Well, robots are doing it, which means that something more is required of people. They must learn to become more than repetitive doers; they must become purposeful thinkers.
Today, knowledge must generate more knowledge. Workers must learn to bridge between what they already know and what they need to know to achieve continuous improvement.
This calls for skills in interacting with other people and applying new knowledge to solve new problems. Corporate education should develop these skills.
Knock down walls (bureaucratic barriers that block communication). In many companies, communication flows through narrow channels, chimneys of power, usually from the top down. People walled off from these chimneys are left to work in an information vacuum.
Today’s leaders must demolish the walls that prevent the lateral flow of communication. With the walls gone, information permeates and people find it easier to be focused, flexible, fast and friendly. You can’t focus the efforts of your workforce if your organization is criss-crossed with walls that impede the flow of information. You can’t be flexible if you have a rigid structure in which every division and department is a closed information loop. You can’t be fast if information has to seep slowly through layers of management. And you can’t be friendly if your people don’t talk to other people inside and outside your organization.
If you look around, you may see plenty of boundaries that need to be removed. One may be the door to your office that remains closed to input. Another might be a rigid boundary between hourly and salaried employees. Or it could be a boundary that shuts out ideas that don’t originate in your own organization. Other boundaries might be the lines between divisions. If one division develops a new method or technology, does it share it with other divisions?
Among the toughest boundaries to dismantle are the ones managers erect around the borders of their turf. People who are promoted to their “levels of incompetence” and armed with the word “manager” in their titles, stake out their own turfs and guard them jealously. In a corporation without boundaries, advancement means moving into positions in which expertise is interchanged and knowledge is put to productive use by coaches, advisers, and knowledge workers. In such corporations, advancement for individuals results in advancement for the entire company.