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Educationally Speaking

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

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No matter your circumstances, married/involved/single, there are probably kids somewhere in your world.

I read a lot of articles about education, but three about kids really stood out for me and I believe will be of value to you.

The first looks at the unpleasant fact that our so-called modern education is producing workers more fit for 19th and early 20th Century jobs than those that will be available when they enter the workforce. In other words, acing standardized tests does not prepare you for anything more than functioning in rote.

In the future, if you want a job, you must be as unlike a machine as possible: creative, critical and socially skilled. So why are children being taught to behave like machines?

Speaking of behind-the-times teaching.

The only thing that can be said for the traditional approach to math, which, along with critical thinking, is one of the most critical skills needed in the future, is that it stinks.

Whether you look at the results by age (including adults), race or gender math skills are sadly lacking in the US and many other countries.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

John Mighton, a Canadian playwright, author, and math tutor who struggled with math himself, has designed a teaching program that has some of the worst-performing math students performing well and actually enjoying math. There’s mounting evidence that the method works for all kids of all abilities.

Finally, or maybe foremost, is culture.

Just as in companies, the culture in a school is the determining factor on whether kids learn — or not.

The prevailing culture of many schools, especially the vaunted charter schools, has been one “no excuses.” A culture focused on regimentation and inflicted mostly on poor children of color.

But as any idiot knows, regimentation is not going to produce the next Marc Benioff or Larry Elison, So what does?

Ascend Public Charter Schools network began to retrain teachers to focus on social and emotional development. This provided the framework for creative problem solving to help prevent conflicts between students, or between teachers and students, from escalating.

Does it work? Is it making a measurable difference? Short answer is a resounding ‘yes’.

Around the same time that Ascend was transforming its culture, it put in place a new curriculum, more closely aligned with progressive schools, that focuses on intellectual inquiry rather than received knowledge. At Ascend’s lower and middle schools in Brownsville, passing grades on the annual state English test increased to 39 percent in 2016, from 22 percent in 2014, while the rate on the math test increased to 37 percent, from 29 percent. It’s hard to isolate the cause for the improvement, but it is likely to be a combination of both the academic and cultural changes, which makes Ascend a bold testing ground for the theory that children from low-income homes can be educated the same way as children from affluent families.

Finally, what about adult education, specifically the much ballyhooed MBA? Does it provide the education that provides the skills to climb the corporate ladder?

Not really, according to Henry Mintzberg, Cleghorn Professorship of Management Studies at McGill University, who looked at CEOs from what is considered the most elite university on the planet: Harvard.

Joseph Lampel and I studied the post-1990 records of all 19. How did they do? In a word, badly. A majority, 10, seemed clearly to have failed, meaning that their company went bankrupt, they were forced out of the CEO chair, a major merger backfired, and so on. The performance of another 4 we found to be questionable.

I sent the article to another Harvard-educated CEO I know. His reaction?

Excellent  article. Very true. It took me years to unlearn what I’d been taught at business school…

The article is well worth your time, especially if you, or someone you know, are considering spending the money/going into debt for your MBA.

One more irreverent note, compliments of CB Insights, that is oh, so, true.

Hack: How to hire MBAs
My co-founder Jon stumbled upon this hack to get lots of MBA resumes which I’m going to let you in on.
Whatever the job title, throw the word “strategic” in front of it.

Image credit: .waldec

More About Henry Mintzberg

Monday, August 24th, 2009

Friday I quoted Henry Mintzberg, the man Tom Peters called the world’s premier management thinker. I hope you clicked and read the short opinion piece in Business Week.

Here is a link to an interview in the Wall Street Journal that will give you more substance on his new book, Managing.

Mintzberg says that, “Basically, managing is about influencing action. … One step removed, they manage people. Managers deal with people who take the action… And two steps removed from that, managers manage information to drive people to take action… too much managing through information—what I call “deeming,” and says his four year old daughter can do that.

“The alternative is to give more attention to the people plane and the action plane. Even when you’re managing information, you can manage in a much more nuanced way than just shooting a bunch of figures around.”

You can check out more about Managing at Amazon. I just ordered my copy (it’s available now, not September) and I recommend that you do the same.

I honestly believe that this will be one of the most valuable business books to be published in a long time.

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Just one more week in which to share your favorite business OMG moments for the chance to win a copy of Jason Jenning’s Hit The Ground Running.

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The Downfall Of Leadership

Friday, August 21st, 2009

At some point in the rise of the modern leadership movement, and the ensuing profit-making industry, leadership and management were set on divergent courses, with leadership presented as the brilliant star and management as the subservient drudges.

The results of this extreme focus on vision and influence are being felt globally in the form of the economic meltdown led by the Wall Street leadership who were above the mundane and wouldn’t dirty their hands with the gritty details of management.

In a brilliant opinion piece, Henry Mintzberg, Cleghorn Professor of Management Studies at McGill University, founding partner of Coaching Ourselves and author of numerous, says, “U.S. businesses now have too many leaders who are detached from the messy process of managing. So they don’t know what’s going on. … Unfortunately, detached leaders tend to be more concerned with impressing outsiders than managing within. “

The current rise in advanced degrees in leadership can do nothing more than exacerbate the already dangerous attitude that so-called leaders are different/unique/special and, therefore, entitled.

And it is that sense of entitlement, exemplified so well by John Thain, that got us into this mess.

Those who want only to lead should become consultants and stay out of line positions, executive or not, where they can do so much damage.

Consultants are paid for visions, excel at influencing and then walk away bearing absolutely no responsibility for the results.

When will we stop this nonsense and accept that, depending on circumstances anyone can lead, anyone can follow, the positions aren’t cast in stone forever and the whole shebang needs to be managed along the way.

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