Learning 2 achieve your potential

Why learning 2 achieve your potential is so important in business.

I recently joined the HR strengths forum on the business networking site LinkedIn and I’ve been following, with interest, some of the discussions about the strengths approach to talent management. Then I saw an entry relating to a TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson, entitled, “Do schools kill creativity?” The HR strengths forum input said that this presentation would be of interest to anyone with children. I disagree. I think this presentation should be watched by every employer of every organisation.

If you think about it, every organisation in every part of the world can only employ people who are the outcome of an education system, whatever that education system may be in whatever country. Please don’t be put off by the length of the video, I was initially but I am so glad that I watched it – and I’m sure you will be too.

It made me reflect on why I called my company Learning 2 Achieve. When coaching senior managers I am still surprised by the way that some have been conditioned to focus on the things they are not good at, rather than their strengths. I spend a lot of my time working with people to recover the creativity and innovation they once had, traits I am convinced that have been repressed by the education system.

For those who suit the academic system of education in this country the target is to leave compulsory education with five GCSEs between A – C grade. A lot of people do not suit the system because they have diverse learning styles – but they need to fit the system. The system is not flexible enough to suit them and, please, do not think I am in any way being critical of teachers here. I have worked with a number of teachers and they regularly tell me how their own creativity in teaching is stifled by ‘the system’. They are buried by a bureaucratic system that forces them into a process of not only what they teach but how they teach it. Therefore, young people are encouraged to comply with the system and this is the pool of potential employees that employers seem to value most.

In the UK there is a skills shortage – and there has been for some years. The government are trying to rectify this by supporting and advertising a much larger apprenticeship scheme, which I suggest is doomed to failure. Why? Because apprenticeships are aimed at people who have a practical style of learning and the government is stuck with the ‘tick-box’ mentality of performance. Many of the new apprenticeships require that candidates have English, science and mathematics GCSE at grade C or above – excluding the very people these apprenticeships are aimed at.

So, why does an education system like ours, with its performance and strategy geared around academic success, fail society? Think about Sir Ken’s story about Gillian Lynne. How many other people are there whose strengths have been overlooked? Have a look at http://www.dyslexiamentor.com/famousdyslexics.php and prepare to be amazed. Notice how many of these celebrities are musicians, actors, athletes, chefs or entrepreneurs. These are the ones who make it. How many thousands don’t?

In 2005 the education white paper, “Higher Standards, Better Schools for All” was talked about for parental choice, successful schools and the measures that would be taken against underperforming schools. All of this is based on league tables and academic success. Buried in amongst this document, section 7 focuses on pupil behaviour, quoting that at the time of publication there were ten thousand permanent exclusions in the UK and three hundred and forty four thousand fixed-period exclusions. The white=paper itself says that the majority of these are caused by ‘low level disruptive behaviour, such as calling out’.

Whilst I acknowledge there young people who are going to behave abysmally, are there really three hundred and forty four thousand? I don’t think there are. I believe that many of the young people excluded from school aren’t disruptive – they’re bored! If you want to know why I think that, consider your own behaviour when you’re at a meeting or presentation where you’re not really interested in what’s going on. Do you find yourself doodling, passing notes to others in the meeting or dealing with the emails and texts on your BlackBerry? Then you will find yourself excluded.

Many of the celebrities who admit to being dyslexic found their strengths in spite of their education, not because of it. As long ago as 1993, in a BBC video called Crazy Ways for Crazy Days, the American evangelical management guru Tom Peters was advocating that employers look for people who can do something different and exciting for their organisations, as opposed to employing the person who has an impeccable academic record.

If we are to make the most of our potential workforce then we must support Sir Ken Robinson and demand a system where the strengths of young people are identified and built upon; not suppressed. We must demand a system that is flexible enough to deal with diverse learning styles, that still encourages people to develop their skills in maths, languages and sciences – but with a method of measuring their performance that does not rely on a piece of paper to waive around?

In any case, what value do qualifications add (and if you look at my website then you’ll see that I think I can say that!) What guarantee is there that the person has kept themselves up to date? Imagine a doctor becoming qualified in the 1970s and not keeping themselves up to date, or a solicitor or your employees. I am more interested in people being up to date and relevant than what pieces of paper adorn their wall. Perhaps that’s why all of mine are in the attic!

Hold on. I hear you asking, “If you’re making such a good living on helping people remove their blockages, why are you so keen to advocate a learning system that would do away with that?” It’s because I’m a bit altruistic. This country is in a bit of a mess at the moment and I think that there are people with really good ideas of how to make things better who are frightened to move or speak out for fear of being undervalued, like they were at school. Who knows, you may be one of them.

Article written by Alan Wingrove