How, Not What

I had another rant planned for today but I went to my younger daughter’s graduation yesterday (Vassar’12 – atta girl!)

Leymah Gbowee

Leymah Gbowee (Photo credit: aktivioslo)

and it got me thinking about education. If you’ve read the screed more than a couple of times you’re probably aware that I’m pretty passionate about the topic. It was one of my majors in college and I had planned to be a high school teacher until I realized the kids were more mature than I was at that point so I went into business.  I know for sure that I’ve used all of the teaching skills along the way.

The speaker yesterday was Leymah Gbowee a nobel Peace Prize winner for her working in founding “Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace” an organization that helped end years of civil war in her homeland of Liberia.  Her topic focused on how passion and the education to activate it can be the greatest weapon of all (my words, not hers) by empowering people to make changes in their own lives and others.  It was an inspiring speech and you can read it all here if you’re interested.

It was something said, however, by the chair of the college trustees that resonated even more deeply and which I want to share with you today:

Clayton Christensen, the well-known Harvard Business School professor and author of the recent book “How Will You Measure Your Life”, says that rather than telling his students and clients what to think, he teaches them how to think, and then he lets them reach correct decisions on their own. He says that “if we knew the future would be exactly the same as the past, simply doing now what has succeeded before would be fine. But if the future is different—and it almost always is—then that would be the wrong thing to do.”

As businesspeople, managers, and mentors, we need to think about that.  Rather than teaching (or learning) the “what” we need to learn how to formulate using the “how” and to act accordingly.  The value of an education isn’t in the financial rewards it can help bring about but in the ability it brings to figure out how to change the world, regardless of what field we’ve chosen.  In Gbowee’s words:

Step into the world and shine. Step into the world and exert yourself. You may encounter bosses who will expect you to act dumb to make them shine. Remember that you have to blossom, not for yourself but for the people you will be serving.

Pretty good stuff with which to start the week!

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1 Comment

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One response to “How, Not What

  1. Good stuff indeed.

    The alternate view to college education was presented by Entrepreneur Peter Thiel on CBS’s 60 minutes last night and he argued that college is usually not worth the cost. Thiel paid some students $100,000 to eschew college and pursue their ideas independently.

    Controversial for sure; Is it correct? I think not.

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