EDUCATION & TRAINING A Yearning for Learning – The next 10 years

The contest for executive bums on seats may be fierce at our educational establishments but it’s being matched by hot worldwide demand for management education. That’s the view of Ed Weymes, one of bunch of authors behind the book Peak Performance and former director of executive education at Waikato Management School.
Weymes’ book drew much publicity on its release four years ago for its ability to extract business lessons from the world’s top sports organisations. Now, predicts Weymes, global competition for high-quality and relevant management education and training is on the rise.
That’s partly because many of the European schools are now broadening their appeal by offering programmes in English.
Such competition is bound to drive fresh thinking and new approaches from education providers eager to meet the specific needs of businesses. Weymes notes that while customising course material has been popular in New Zealand for some time now, the practice is just starting to gain traction in Europe.
The concept, says Weymes, is to teach course that both maintains academic integrity and also steers examples and cases to particular organisation and its industry. The approach arose from companies assessing an executive’s individual performance based on their academic results from learning programmes.
The resultant hybrid of academic qualification and company-specific training becomes transportable qualification on an executive’s CV.
NZIM’s policy/projects manager Batch Hales views current academic qualifications as more form of currency than way to obtain skills. To accrue skills, he says, some organisations are setting their sights elsewhere.
As demand for more professionalised management expertise continues to ratchet up the scale, executives are increasingly turning to inhouse training specifically tied to personal goals and action points.
“There are clear indications that current academic programmes have little influence on executive capability,” says Hales.
External providers – whether universities, polytechnics, or other training and education providers – he says, will need to adapt and customise to meet individual needs.
Perhaps more fundamentally, Hales sees change in the nature of what is learnt, whether from an external provider or within an organisation. Management is no longer based around creating stability, he points out, but on stimulating change. There is clearer focus on leadership. Logically, then, it holds that future managers – and leaders – must be trained not just to “do job” but to adapt to different roles and create their own future.
Because of this, Hales says traditional managers may not be best suited to the future. “Indeed many people will be uncomfortable,” he says.
Peter Cammock, Canterbury University lecturer and author of The Dance of Leadership, envisages future in which there will be more substantial focus on the personal side of leadership: on issues such as work-life balance or physical wellbeing. “In sports psychology the mental functioning of the athlete is really important,” he says, “[so expect] some of that material to enter more into mainstream management development.”
Cammock points out that emotional intelligence is already standard offering in tertiary management courses around the country, and management thinkers are beginning to pay attention to the concepts developed by positive psychology thought leader Martin Seligman and others.
Positive psychology, which goes beyond the study of suffering and pain that has characterised psychology in its first century, focuses on how to understand contentment with the past, happiness with the present and hope for the future. One of its goals is to build workplaces that foster satisfaction and high productivity.
“People with full, happy lives,” says Cammock, “are more able to weather the physical, psychological and emotional demands of managerial jobs.”
Cammock also sees growing interest in the unorthodox ideas espoused by Peter Senge and his co-authors in the book Presence, which articulates almost spiritual solutions to management problems.
“The world has got so complex and so dangerously problematic that we can no longer form strategy by projecting the past forward,” says Cammock. “The whole Presence idea is that we need to find ways to allow the future to manifest itself in the present.”
Similarly, expect to see the influence on management education of thought leaders such as Senge, Danah Zohar (Spiritual Capital), Jim Collins and Charles Handy who advocate very personal, passion-led kind of management that doesn’t allow siloed thinking.
“The only way you get [passion] is when there’s fundamental alignment between your core values – who you are and what you want to do in the world – and what you’re actually doing,” says Cammock.
Cammock, who has introduced such concepts into the MBA course that he teaches, has been surprised at the lack of resistance to what some people have considered somewhat unorthodox ideas.
Former NZIM chief Doug Matheson says educators and trainers need to match the accelerating pace of change by getting outside their institutions. “Today, business schools turn out individuals with qualifications,” he says, “but they don’t understand or appreciate the real environment in which they have to lead and manage.”
Matheson advocates continual self-development as an essential part of every chief executive and senior manager’s job. This includes cross-sector work groups, networking, seminars and conferences. He particularly notes learning sets: system developed at Harvard in which group of national and international chief executives address major problems in their individual situations, learning and gaining high level peer support from each other in strictly confidential environment. “The focus is on real-world people and system issues,” says Matheson. “They act as consultancy team or mentor to each other.”
This mentoring system is gaining traction, according to Matheson, and universities will increasingly need to embrace it in order to remain competitive.
Likewise, management and leadership education and training will have to become more international. “The world is moving faster than New Zealand is moving,” says Matheson, “and I don’t see that changing.”
Weymes, who currently heads Waikato Management School’s international programme, notes that New Zealand is still an unknown quantity in international management training. “We have the most ideal location for programmes,” he says, comparing New Zealand with Switzerland and other remote retreat locations, “away from the humdrum and enabling thinking space.”
Hales believes that the focus of training will shift from qualifications towards the provision of adaptable and useful services at reasonable cost. “There may be greater emphasis on human contact and interaction,” he says, “so courses will become guided processes within companies.” In this way, he says, courses are likely to become localised rather than international.
With managers of the future mentoring each other, creating change, letting the future manifest itself, and becoming emotionally-aware spiritual capitalists, one thing is for sure: future managers will be trained as whole people, with view of whole new world.

• Simon Young blogs about leadership at Email: [email protected]

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