Well, it’s day four of Work Out Loud Week and this is the next contribution to my posts for this week, where I to try to unravel my thoughts on pursuing, with others, how feasible it might be to commit my time and energies to encouraging people to “sharpen their own shovels” and pursue a quality business education, away from the expense and failings of traditional business offerings
I said yesterday in Reclaiming business education for all that business education is about developing skills, that we already know the quality standards universities in the UK are aiming for, and that those of us outside institutional walls can match and exceed these standards. Why not?
What I have in mind is copying the best of what a traditional business education at its best has to offer, chief among which is the focus on skills, thinking skills and skills related to learning with and from peers. But copying the curriculum, expert-led model that dominates? No thanks.
What follows is a quick collection of thoughts – am writing this in a hurry.
Adopting a kyudo attitude
The alternative approach that I have in mind is what I’m calling Kyudo Learning. What’s that? Let me explain what I mean.
I was recently contributing to a conversation about the future of work and said that it’s the present of work that’s the issue. The future of work emerges from conditions set in the present, continually monitored and adapted to the changing environment.
Thierry De Baillon (@tdebailon) then commented that, yes – “the issue isn’t the goal, but the path, the network of relationships among people and organisational entities that will support work.” He said it reminded him of Kyudo and went on to explain that:
“Kyudo is the Japanese martial art of archery, where archers focus on perfecting their movements, not on reaching the target. When the movement becomes perfect, there is no need to aim, the arrow will find its target.”
The metaphor that Kyudo communicates to me is continuous awareness, through practice, of what we do – and how what we do affects others. It seems very apt to me for describing an alternative approach to business education – self-determined, value-driven, humane, personalised, shared, and based on practice, continuous improvement and adaptation.
Universities are degree-awarding monopolies. While it’s possible outside of universities to do all the things you could do from within the institution, you are unlikely to be able to get formal accreditation.
Although that’s not exactly true. Universities in the UK do offer APEL, which is accreditation of prior learning experience. If you can provide a portfolio of evidence of learning – and that can now include blog posts, videos, contributions to online conversations and so on – then you can claim academic credit for it. But that’s a whole other blog post.
In fact as universities experience pressure to inflate grades (to look good in the league tables), university qualifications lose their gold-standard status. I think there’s scope for thinking more creatively about accreditation.
Everyone likes recognition. What would it take to develop a system of peer recognition that became as widely acceptable as university accreditation?
This is an off the top of my head, random list of reasons why people might commit to an alternative and officially unaccredited route to getting a business education.
It all starts with curiosity, then you discover, seek meaning, do something, and then think about what you think happened – then try something different. And you do it all with other people. Here are a few more thoughts about the alternative approach.
You get to choose your own curriculum. This is like PhDs for all! You think I’m joking? My PhD was the first time I was free to carve out what I wanted to learn about. Once I decided what that was, I set about exploring what other people had said about a range of topics, I tried to make sense of what they were saying, looked at different perspectives and then made up my own mind.
The beauty of choosing your own curriculum, apart from the obvious fact that you are deeply interested in the subject, is that it is right up-to-date. This is just-in-time pull exploration, rather than the often lazy just-in-case curricula that get churned out year in and year out in formal education.
The alternative is playful and experimental. You do it with people who become really good mates. And as camaraderie develops, so does trust. You start to dare to say what you really think in a safe and intimate space, where people know and accept your quirks and foibles. Of course you’ll squabble – but you will learn how to disagree without being disagreeable.
Content is still important in the alternative approach, as fire starter for example – getting a conversation going and bringing a topic to someone’s attention.
I also still think it is important to recognise an existing body of work. Some people might see the high-performance patterns that I see recurring through time as prescribed knowledge – a curriculum if you like (I’ll blog about them later). The difference in the alternative approach is that this knowledge is being offered for discussion and improvement, not regurgitation.
How attractive is it all sounding so far?