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How to Build Trust in a New Job

How to Build Trust in a New Job

Many leaders in transition often do things that damage their career success. Leaders are most vulnerable during this time because they are developing new relationships, trying to affect change, and feeling pressure to meet the high expectations of others.

To put these principles into action, leaders need a six-point agenda:

  • Get an early start. Before starting a new position, learn about the company’s history, culture, strategy, competitors, and learn the names and responsibilities of colleagues.
  • Meet and greet. Meet as many people as possible, especially the informal leaders or influencers. Tools such as email, voice mail, or the company newsletter are helpful, but should not replace face-to-face meetings. Many leaders get too caught up in pleasing the boss, or in solving problems, at the expense of those who will execute the changes. Making time to listen to even the most disgruntled employees will pay off in more trust and connection.
  • Learn the critical success factors. Identify areas where the most impact or improvement can be made. Focus on one or two, ask a lot of questions, get input from key opinion-makers, and when make recommendations, back them up. Also learn what is going well, and how to leverage those areas by building continuity from the old to the new.

Learn the critical success factors.

  • Set clear priorities. At the start of any new role, you need to decipher what is important, and what is not. And then constantly reassess the message. In developing your top priorities and vision, you will gain a dear focus, demonstrate credibility, and establish a clear cause for people below to rally behind. Make sure to involve key people, as they will offer more support for what they helped create.
  • Secure early wins. During the first 100 days, a leader wants people to feel that something is different, something good is happening. Celebrate some early successes to gain the confidence of followers. To secure early wins, first identify problems that can be tackled and solved quickly, and whose solutions will yield highly visible results. These few small wins will also demonstrate competence and consistency that provides the trust for larger initiatives.
  • Plant seeds for the future. The momentum that began with small wins must be leveraged to support your longer-range vision of the future. Small change is easy, but transformational change will require coalitions of support. By including a few key individuals in your planning, you will build “referent trust” that will cascade to a broader audience as you move forward.

Sure distrust is high, leaders need to build trust early in their tenure.

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Career Success Depends on Your Ability to Motivate Individuals and Teams to Get the Right Results

Nothing leaders do is more significant than getting results. But you can’t get many results by yourself—you need people to help you. And the best way to have others help you is by motivating them to accomplish results. The old paradigm, which says revenue growth and shareholder-value growth are interrelated, does not go far enough toward clarifying how the best companies produce value. Try using these three motivation principles.

Principle #1 of Motivation: Motivation is Material Accomplishment

Ways to Increase Employee Motivation “Motivation” has common roots with “motor,” “momentum,” “motion,” and “mobile.” These words represent movement and action. Motivation isn’t about what people think or feel but what they do. When motivating people to get results, challenge them to take those actions that will achieve desired results.

You will be more competitive when your people, instead of being ordered to go from point A to point B, want to go from point A to point B. They will “want to” when they believe in your leadership. This predisposition cannot be helped because of indispensable variances in the program designers’ backgrounds. But eventually, a single approach is too constricted. To design learning experiences that work, leadership training will have to integrate more meritoriously all four approaches into a solitary program. Consequently, leadership training has budged toward teaching managers and executives how to expect what is on their industry skyline and how to mobilize their organization to shape the future.

The first step in conscripting their belief in your leadership is for you believe in them and to value the work they do. Express your belief that they can get the results you are asking of them. Tell them how much you appreciate their hard work. For many companies, leadership training then basically befalls a quick-fix answer to greater problems.

But believing is not enough. Motivation means people take the precise actions they need to take to make happen what you want to have happen. Encourage people to write down three precise things that they need from you to help them get increased results.

Principle #2 of Motivation: Motivation is Propelled by Emotion

The Meaning of Motivation in Management Emotion and motion come from the same Latin root meaning “to move”. When you want to move people to take action, engage their emotions. People need a strong emotional commitment (motivation) to take action and realize the goal. The key is to visualize the future as having numerous possibilities and to develop intuition about relative probability by revealing ourselves to a wide gamut of successes and failures.

When I explained this to the chief marketing officer of a services company, he said, “Now I know why we’re not growing! We (senior leaders) established our marketing strategy in a bunker! He showed me his 40-page strategy document. The points were logical, consistent, and all-inclusive. It made perfect sense—to the senior leaders. But it did not make experiential sense to the people who had to carry it out. Since they had no input into the strategy, they disrupted the implementation in many innovative ways. Only when people are motivated—emotionally committed—to functioning the strategy, does it have a chance to succeed.

Principle #3 of Motivation: Inspiration is What Others Do to Themselves, Not What You Do to Them

You and I can’t motivate anybody to do anything. The people we want to motivate can only motivate themselves. The motivator and motivatee are always the same person. Leaders communicate, but individuals must motivate themselves. So, our “motivating” others to get results really entails our creating an atmosphere in which they can motivate themselves to get those results. On top of that, there is the very important role of setting direction and in communicating that direction.

Create the Right Climate to Motivate Employees For example, one leader almost encountered a mutiny when he presented next year’s goals—numbers much higher than the previous year’s goals. The staff went ballistic. “You expect us to get much higher numbers? No way!” He told me. “I know we can hit those numbers. I just have to get my people motivated!” I recommended that he create an environment in which his people could motivate themselves. So, he had them measure what activities got results. They discovered that they spent 60 percent of their time on work that had nothing to do with getting results. He then had them develop a plan to eliminate the pointless work. Once in charge of their own destiny, they got motivated! They established a great plan and started to get great results.

A good number of leadership programs have a half-life of a few days or weeks after the conferences close. Few have established passable transfer mechanisms to bring leadership skills back alive to the office, and most are captives of a single pedagogic method that imitates the teaching of their instructors.

Create the Right Climate to Motivate Employees

At the moment, there are adequate incentives for people to perform, based on the recognition that they accomplish what we thought they should to achieve. The point is that there are people to talk to who have an in-depth, long-term appreciation of the company and who know what is really going on.

Your career success depends on the ability of managers to motivate individuals and teams to get the results. The best ways to recognize others and celebrate accomplishments is best done by:

# setting high standards,

# discovering people doing things right,

# being innovative with rewards,

# acknowledging others in public, and

# personalizing rewards.

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Bill Gates on Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 Hour Rule

Malcoln Gladwell It’s a tempting proposal: if you practice anything for 10,000 hours, then you will become world class. In 1993, scientist Anders Ericsson learned of a group of psychologists in Berlin who were researching violin players found that, by age 20, the leading performers had averaged in excess of 10,000 hours of practice each. Less able performers, in the meantime, clocked up just 4,000 hours. Malcolm Gladwell popularized the notion further in his book Outliers: The Story of Success.

In study after study, of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice-skaters, concert pianists, chess players, master criminals,” writes the neurologist Daniel Levitin, “this number comes up again and again. Ten thousand hours is equivalent to roughly three hours a day, or 20 hours a week, of practice over 10 years… No one has yet found a case in which true world-class expertise was accomplished in less time. It seems that it takes the brain this long to assimilate all that it needs to know to achieve true mastery.

Gladwell applied the concept to Bill Joy, Bill Gates, and the Beatles, who sharpened their musical know-how in performance at Hamburg’s strip clubs. Gladwell says:

The Beatles ended up travelling to Hamburg five times between 1960 and the end of 1962. On the first trip, they played 106 nights, of five or more hours a night. Their second trip they played 92 times. Their third trip they played 48 times, for a total of 172 hours on stage. The last two Hamburg stints, in November and December 1962, involved another 90 hours of performing. All told, they performed for 270 nights in just over a year and a half. By the time they had their first burst of success in 1964, they had performed live an estimated 1,200 times, which is extraordinary. Most bands today don’t perform 1,200 times in their entire careers. The Hamburg crucible is what set the Beatles apart.

'Outliers' by Malcoln Gladwell (ISBN 0316017922) Coined by Florida State psychologist Anders Ericsson and made famous by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers, the 10,000 hour rule reflects the belief that becoming a superlative athlete or performer rests on a long period of hard work rather than “innate ability” or talent. As stated by Malcolm Gladwell’s famous 10,000-hour rule, genuine success only comes to people who are willing to put in a great many hours to become first-class at something they value. Whether it involves learning a new piece of equipment, a new language, or developing a craft, being able to cope with setbacks and stay focused on goals regardless of how far-flung they seem. And so the importance of resolve and steadiness in success.

Bill Gates did not only have an propensity for creating software, he also had just about exceptional access as a schoolboy to a mainframe computer that the parents’ association of his local school invested in, in 1968. He got to it in eighth grade before just about anyone else in the world. Correspondingly the Beatles’ genius for melody did not come ready made. They developed it while singing in Hamburg in the early Sixties, at all-night strip clubs. In those years they dedicated more time to pop music than any of their peers. The same could be said for Mozart, or Tiger Woods. They had capability, sure enough, but they also had extraordinary family circumstances that allowed them a reasonable advantage at a very early age. They put the hours in first.

Extraordinary success depends on talent, hard work, and being in the right place at the right time, among other things. In Outliers, Gladwell contends that, to truly master any skill, leaning on various pieces of research, requires about 10,000 concentrated hours. If you can get those hours in early, and be in a position to exploit them, then you are an outlier.

When asked, “What do you think of Malcolm Gladwell’s theory that the years 1953 to 1955 were the perfect ones in which to be born for the computer revolution?” by his father William H. Gates Sr., Bill Gates reponds:

His book makes a lot of great points … that is that in all success stories there are significant elements of luck and tiny … I wasn’t the only kid born between 1953 and 1955, but absolutely to be young and open-minded at a time when the microprocessor was invented … in my case have a friend Paul Allen who was more open-minded about hardware type things and literally brought me the obscure article to talk about that first microprocessor and said you know this is going to improve exponentially … what does that mean and I said well at that means it we can do anything we want and then he was … you know … bugging me the rest of the time every time there’d be a new microprocessor he said can we do something yet and when we were in high school that can happen … so he came back to possible good job there and actually the microprocessor that was finally good enough came out in early 1975 and that’s why I i dropped out … so the timing was pretty important you know why didn’t older people see it … they weren’t this open open minded … they didn’t think about software is the key ingredient … now a lot of kids started doing software and … it’s not if somebody reads the book to say that if you spend 10,000 hours doing something you’ll be super good at it I don’t think that’quite as simple as that what you do is you do about 50 hours and ninety percent drop out because they don’t like it or they’re not good … you do another 50 hours and ninety percent drop out … so there’s these constant cycles and you do have to be lucky enough but also fanatical enough to keep going and so the person makes it to 10,000 hours is not just somebody has done it for 10,000 hours there’s somebody who chosen and been chosen in many different times and so all these magical things came together including who I know and that time … and i think you know that’s very important … when you look at somebody who’s good and say could I do it like them … they’ve gone through so many cycles that it may fool you that you know yes yes you could with the with the right luck, imagination, and and some some talent.

Bill Gates responds to Malcolm Gladwell’s theory that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to master a skill. Apart from acknowledging luck, timing and an open mind, Gates suggests that a successful person survives many cycles of attrition to make it to 10,000 hours of experience. “You do have to be lucky enough, but also fanatical enough to keep going,” explains Gates.

Unfortunately, a Princeton study, which analyzed 88 studies, established that practice accounted for just a 12% variation in performance.

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Best Practices for Onboarding New Employees: Maximizing Success

Benefits of Employee Retention Strategies

Guide to Employee Onboarding Best Practices

Often new hires leave too early for an organization to enjoy a return on its recruiting investment. The relationship between manager and new hire is critical to retention and performance. Managers can unleash the energy of their new hires by engaging them in a series of structured, powerful conversations over the first few weeks. By focusing these conversations on six sources of power, managers can connect early and cultivate more productive, motivated, and committed workers. These are: power from relationships, passion, challenges, focus, balance, and intention.

New hires often come fully charged, excited about their new adventure, and filled with energy and potential. By tapping into that energy, knowledge and wisdom right from the start, you can maximize the new hire’s potential, extend the handshake, and fuel that energy well past the beginning of the employment cycle.

While recruitment continues to be one of the most costly human resource processes, its longer-term effectiveness is being eroded by high attrition. Hiring doesn’t stop with the job offer. Today re-recruiting your best people is as critical as hiring them in the first place.

Often new hires leave too early for an organization to enjoy a return on its recruiting investment. And if they stay, are they productive, engaged, loyal, and committed? Have they simply “checked in” or are they “tuned in” and “turned on” as well?

The relationship between manager and new hire is critical to retention and performance. To increase retention and build loyalty during that critical first year, start by building the relationship between new hires and their managers.

Unleashing the Energy: New Employee Onboarding

Unleashing the Energy: New Employee Onboarding Improving first-year retention, decreasing time-to-productivity, and building loyalty and commitment are directly related to how quickly managers develop quality relationships with new hires.

Managers can unleash the energy of their new hires by engaging them in a series of structured, powerful conversations over the first few weeks. By focusing these conversations on six sources of power, managers can connect early and cultivate more productive, motivated, and committed workers.

  • Power from Relationship. There is no greater predictor of retention and engagement than the quality of the relationship between new hires and their managers and colleagues. The closer these bonds, the more new hires trust management, the more they feel cared for and valued, and the greater their focus, productivity, and satisfaction.
  • Power from Passion. People are more passionate about their work when they use their talents and skills to work on tasks and projects that interest them in environments that are consistent with the ways they prefer to work. Managers need to recognize their new hires’ skills, honor their interests, and leverage their strengths.
  • Power from Challenge. People get excited about their jobs (and stay excited) when they learn and grow in ways that have meaning for them. Managers need to become better talent scouts, and recognize potential when they see it. They need to provide for continued development and challenge.
  • Power from Focus. People are more committed when they know what the organization is trying to achieve, and how they can contribute to those outcomes. Managers must help new hires learn to navigate; understand the purpose, mission, and objectives; and appreciate how their efforts serve those goals.
  • Power from Balance. People’s lives extend well beyond the workplace. They have families, friends, lovers, and children to care for. They have finances to manage and households to maintain. They want to stay vibrant and healthy. They want to play and have time for themselves. Managers must make room for new hires and their whole lives.
  • Power from Intention. Managers and their new hires must follow through to earn the commitment and loyalty they both want: What new skills will they develop the first year, and how? What new areas will they explore, and how? What relationships are important to establish? How will the manager or new hire flex to make the relationship work best? What results will new hires be responsible for? How will they be rewarded? What support will the manager provide? It takes more than talk-new hires need to see tangible progress.

Benefits of Employee Retention Strategies

Best Practices for Onboarding New Employees: Maximizing Success What does the organization get in return? Here are a few bottom-line results:

  • Improved first-year retention rates. Engaging new employees early in shaping their jobs, designing their development, and building relationships can decrease first-year attrition.
  • Decreased time-to-productivity. Encouraging managers to be clear about what exactly is expected, and discuss how well new employees are learning their responsibilities can decrease the time required for new hires to get “up to speed.” They will contribute more, and do so more rapidly.
  • Reduced recruiting costs. Convincing new hires that they made the right choice can result in an increase in recruits referred by recent hires. Some organizations attract 70 percent of their new hires from recent hire referrals, reducing recruiting costs significantly.
  • Increased productivity. Making it possible for people to do what they do best, allowing them to pursue their interests, and building meaningful relationships can lead to higher productivity, increased customer satisfaction, and enhanced profitability.
  • Brand development. The more your become known as a great place to work, as an organization that cares about its employees, the more easily you attract the best and the brightest.
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Susan Decker Got an Internship Doing a Magic Card Trick

An noteworthy anecdote on Susan Decker from ‘Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo’ by Nicholas Carlson:

'Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo' by Nicholas Carlson (ISBN 1455556610) During her first year in graduate school at Harward Business School, Decker interviewed at a small investment bank called Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette.

Decker hadn’t held a full-time job between college and graduate school, so, on her resume, she listed some of the odd jobs she’d done for money. One of them was “professional magician.” It was a stretch. Decker had once performed for a bunch of six-year-olds and made a little money.

Of course, the DLJ interviewers asked her about her magic skills.

Decker was one of those shy people who force themselves to dive into uncomfortable situations because they know that’s the only way they are going to get what they want out oflife. Decker dove in. She said to her interviewers: “Would you like to see a trick?”

They took the bait. Decker said she had an invisible deck of cards in her pocket. She made a show of taking it out and handed it to one of the interviewers. She said: “Pick a card, any card.”

She said: “What’s the card?”

The interviewer played along, made up a card, and said, “It was the eight of hearts.”

Decker pulled out a real deck of cards from her pocket. She fanned out the cards-only ene was face down. Decker turned it over: the 8 of hearts.

She got the internship.

Susan Decker Got an Internship Doing a Magic Trick Susan Decker most famously became president of Yahoo! Inc. and was passed over many a time for the role of Yahoo’s CEO. During her stint at Yahoo, while reporting to a revolving door of CEOs, she defended Yahoo’s business model. At a keynote for the 2008 Advertising 2.0 New York conference, Decker remarked on the transformation in the advertising industry as well as the opportunities and solutions for advertisers, ad agencies, and publishers. Decker asserted that new advertising products, technologies and platforms will make it more efficient to reach consumers. Decker also talked about the importance of striking the right balance between monetization and the customer experience:

Yahoo! is helping to accelerate the transformation of how display advertising is both bought and sold … First, we are developing the technology, products and platforms that are designed to help advertisers find the right audiences and publishers find the right advertisers. Second, we are partnering with publishers to secure and monetize inventory that advertisers and agencies find desirable. And third, we are partnering with advertisers and agencies to channel demand to the right consumer.

Susan Decker holds independent directorships at Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, Intel, Costco, and LegalZoom. Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett’s business partner is also on the board of directors at Berkshire Hathaway and Costco. Bill Gates is also on the board at Berkshire Hathaway. His father, William H. Gates Sr., is also on the board at Costco.

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Knowledge is Never Really Acquired

A portrait statue of Socrates The famous statement, “All I know is that I do not know,” is attributed-questionably, according to some scholars-to the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates (c. 470-399 BCE), based on two dialogues written by his disciple Plato (c. 424-c. 348 BCE).

In The Republic (c. 360 BCE), Socrates concludes a discussion with Thrasymachus on “justice” by saying, “the result of the discussion, as far as I’m concerned, is that I know nothing, for when I don’t know what justice is, I’ll hardly know whether it is a kind of virtue or not, or whether a person who has it is happy or unhappy.”

In The Apology (399 BCE), Socrates says of a well-respected politician that “he knows nothing, and thinks that he knows; I neither know nor think that I know.” The resulting slogan was adopted by later thinkers and incorporated into the tradition that became known as “Academic Skepticism.” Rather than believing that it is impossible to know anything, Academic Skeptics actually claim only that we can know very little about reality—namely, truths of logic and mathematics. This contrasts with Pyrrhonian skepticism, which involves an attitude of doubting every positive judgment, including logic and mathematics.

A serious problem with Socrates’s statements is that he seems committed to an incoherent position. If he truly does not know anything, then it is false that he knows that; but if he does know he does not know anything, then it is false that he does not know anything. Thus, the claim “I know that I do not know” is self-defeating (resulting in the statement also being known as the Socratic paradox). In response, many scholars argue that this is an uncharitable reading of Plato. They contend that Socrates’s claims are expressed in a particular context, referring only to specific concepts and not to knowledge generally (“Justice” in The Republic, and “beauty” and “goodness” in The Apology).

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Posted in Education and Career Philosophy and Wisdom

How to Create a Personal Leadership Brand

How to Create a Personal Leadership Brand The pressures of work are constant. In a world of discombobulated messaging, you can communicate with more impact and integrity by engendering a personal leadership brand. Personal branding can increment mindshare among audiences as much as branding for products can increment market share.

What rate of return do your speeches, interviews, and visits with customers and partners generate? What impact do these efforts have on your bottom line? A high Return on Communication means that with every interaction, you meet one or more strategic objectives, deliver clear messages that people understand and remember, and enhance your brand and the company’s brand. Executive branding ensures that the time and money you spend on communication translate into desired business outcomes.

Senior executives often communicate without making much of an impression. Either they don’t say anything memorable, or they are remembered for all the wrong reasons-a bad media quote, poor slides, annoying body language. Worst case: their communication is mistrusted and misinterpreted, achieving exactly the opposite of what they intend. High turnover rates and a paucity of effective leaders suggest either that there’s no correlation between studying leadership and leading or that the scientific approach could benefit from a bit more art.

Personal Branding Building a brand is about creating value for other people. The business reasons for executive branding are pellucid: the CEO’s reputation accounts for about a moiety of the reputation of the company; the CEO’s personal brand impacts employee allegiance and resilience; and a brand is the premium that shareholders are disposed to pay for the stock or the product. No bellwether can leave to chance the way that he or she is perceived.

While many leaders know how to brand companies and products, few know how to brand themselves. Why go to the trouble? Let’s look at what personal branding can do for you:

  • Differentiation: A personal brand differentiates you from others, enabling you to stand out and be memorable.
  • Consistency: A personal brand ensures that you are consistent-reliably the same in situations, which creates trust. People know what to expect of you, and you communicate from the same platform, whether announcing good news or bad news.
  • Clarity: When you have a brand, you stand for something. Your brand leverages the power of clear non-verbal messages, and helps determine the verbal messages you want to convey.
  • Authenticity: Personal branding allows you to speak with authenticity. Your brand communicates who you are. When leaders speak with sincerity, they are much more persuasive than when they speak the party line.

There’s been an increased interest in leadership presence over the last few years, perhaps because simply being present has become one of the chief executive obstacles in our highly distracting 24/7 culture. The spread of highly injuctively authorizing, even invasive, technologies is no doubt partly to inculpate. But many organizational cultures have in effect become toxic, which is a designator of pristinely human failure. If we can’t muster up the presence of mind to recognize this state of affairs, we have little chance of learning better leadership.

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The E-Learning Revolution

10 Advantages of e-Learning

Executives face the challenge of recognizing when and where change is coming and how it will affect their business. The knowledge of employees represents a competitive edge that most companies neglect. Only those who have not succeeded know the secret of success in life.

'Guide to e-Learning' by Michael Allen (ISBN 1119046327) Today, the emerging juggernaut of corporate training and learning is e-learning. E-learning represents a wide range of activities and technologies, including distance education, computer-based training, and web-based training. E-Learning represents the integration of multimedia, instructor-led, and real-time training—all in a collaborative environment.

Today, corporations have three basic concerns: hiring, training, and retention of intellectual capital. It’s difficult to train and retain knowledge workers who are now “free agents” and job hoppers. What they offer is portable knowledge. E-learning offers a simple, long-term solution.

10 Advantages of e-Learning

E-learning is the fastest-growing segment of the training market. Web-based training revenue is projected to reach $32 billion by 2025. I believe e-Learning offers 10 major advantages.

  1. Real-time learning and application of critical knowledge. E-learning is immediate and up-to-date. No comparisons or analogies are possible in this causeless state.
  2. Learner-centric training. E-learning changes the focus of training from instructor to learner. It is tailored to the learner’s responsibilities and capabilities, creating relevant applications.
  3. Attract, train and retain. The number one reason for loss of key employees is that they feel their company has not invested sufficient resources for their professional development.
  4. Personalized training. An effective e-learning system learns about its users and tailors its offerings to their learning style, job requirements, career goals, current knowledge, and preferences.
  5. The E-Learning Revolution Ownership. E-learning empowers people to manage their own learning and development plans. Ownership of learning is crucial for individual growth and retention of employees. Many governments feel that, like the phone network, the Internet should be administered under a multilateral treaty.
  6. Simulation. We learn by doing. E-learning is an innovative way of simulating each learning experience with content provided by top professionals.
  7. Collaboration. This is done through either joint problem-solving or the sharing of ideas and experience among study groups and chat rooms. Collaboration is the path to effective learning and innovative processes.
  8. Anytime and anywhere. Training in a virtual information classroom is now possible anytime, anywhere. And those people are rough people.
  9. Cost effective. Costs can be applied to each learner, and results measured against costs. And, e-learning is less intrusive to daily work duties, saving time and money through less interruption of employees regularly scheduled duties.
  10. Quantifiable. E-learning can be effectively measured in terms of knowledge gain and retention. With e-learning, corporations can track progress, report results, and specify additional subject matter. This is where ROI will be recognized by the employer and employee.

'There is Always Something to Do' by Peter Cundill (ISBN 0773535373) E-learning enables corporations to manage the tasks of hiring, training, and retaining new knowledge workers. This year over 70 million people will receive training and education on the Internet. Soon, training for virtually every job will be available over the Internet. Speed, connectivity, and intangible value have made e-Learning the choice for creating a competitive advantage.

People who can learn from other people’s experiences have a leg up. Most people just learn from their own experiences. As the Canadian value-investor Peter Cundill is quoted in There’s Always Something to Do, “Curiosity is the engine of civilization. If I were to elaborate it would be to say read, read, read, and don’t forget to talk to people, really talk, listening with attention and having conversations, on whatever topic, that are an exchange of thoughts. Keep the reading broad, beyond just the professional. This helps to develop one’s sense of perspective in all matters.”

Success in today’s dynamic world is based less on how much you know than on how quickly you can learn. Be open-minded about e-learning. People often muddle up being open-minded with not having a unyielding position. If truth be told, having firm convictions, anchored in criteria we have decided are important to us, is virtually a prerequisite of being open-minded. Being open-minded means listening carefully and deferentially to the position of another.

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Plato Discusses Compulsory Education in “The Republic”

Compulsory education is a system of education that begins at birth and identifies society’s future leaders.

A second-century relief from a Roman burial monument, depicting a boy reading to his teacher. Schooling was provided for boys only during Roman times. The notion of compulsory education refers to a period of education mandated by law or by some comparable authority. One of the earliest efforts to codify requirements for education is set out in the Talmud, the compendium of Jewish law. The Talmud recommends a form of private education in the family home that emphasizes religious matters in addition to training in whatever the family vocation might be.

Plato (c. 424–c. 348 BCE) was one of the earliest thinkers to draw up the architecture of a full-blown system of public education. In The Republic (c. 360BCE), he describes an education system designed to effect the social stratification that, according to him, is prerequisite for justice to prevail in a state. Plato wrote, “I would teach children music, physics, and philosophy; but most importantly music, for the patterns in music and all the arts are the keys to learning.”

Plato, Philosopher and Mathematician in Classical Greece The education system of his republic begins at birth, when infants are removed from the family and raised by a collective. Educators are tasked with monitoring children in order to identify leadership qualities so that those who have “gold in their souls” (Plato uses this precious metal as a metaphor for leadership potential) can be properly trained to assume elevated offices of state, the highest of which is the office of philosopher king.

In Laws (c. 360 BCE), a later work, Plato presents a more moderate education system, one that more closely resembles contemporary systems. Infants are not removed from their families and there are no philosopher kings. However, proper social stratification is still the objective. Formal schooling begins at the age of six, when the curriculum focuses on literacy and arithmetic. By age thirteen, music is introduced into the curriculum, and at age eighteen the youth begins his terms of military service. By the age of twentyone, those students demonstrating the necessary aptitudes are selected for advanced studies that lead to the highest offices of the state. Education systems surprisingly close in character to this ancient model are now the norm in every developed country.

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The Socratic Method

A 19th Century painting by Gustav Adolph Spangenberg, depicting Socrates and his disciples.

The Socratic Method is a teaching method that relies on continually asking questions.

The Socratic Method is a pedagogical style named after its well-known exemplar. Unlike the great sophist orators of his time and the later Aristotelian and Scholastic teachers, who disseminated information through carefully planned lectures, Socrates (c. 470-399 BCE) engaged his audience individually and personally with a series of questions. These questions were designed to elicit a reflective and mostly skeptical perspective on various philosophical, political, and religious ideas.

In a well-known case, depicted in Plato’s dialogue Meno (c. 380 BCE), Socrates used his method to “teach” an uneducated slave-boy a set of Euclidean propositions, including the Pythagorean theorem. The central assumption underlying Socrates’s approach is that knowledge is innate—we do not acquire new information, instead education reminds us of what we already know.

'Socratic Logic' by Peter Kreeft (ISBN 1587318083) Socrates’s Method was overshadowed in the Middle Ages by the popularity of classical orators such as Aristotle and Cicero, leading to an increase of lecture-centered pedagogy known as the Scholastic Model (also called the “banking model” because it assumes knowledge can be “deposited” in a student as money in a bank.) A further setback came in the seventeenth century with the rise in prominence of empiricism, the view that we come to the world as “blank slates” and must obtain knowledge through experience. Empiricism implies that innatism is mistaken, and thus challenges the pedagogy based on it.

The question of the effectiveness of the Socratic Method still receives attention from education researchers. Some contend that it constrains learning and fosters aggression. Others respond that, as with all teaching styles, the Socratic Method can be abused, but when used well it can be effective. It is still frequently applied in law schools, as memorably portrayed in the movie The Paper Chase (1973).

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