Remember the saying, "Give a man a fish, you have fed him for a day; teach a man to fish, and you have fed him for a lifetime"? In a world filled with poverty and the malnourished, these words have deep meaning and challenge us to evaluate our commitment to compassion and charity. The concept can also be seen as a foundational description of the difference between socialism and capitalism. It describes the difference between entitlement and self-improvement. It also can become a pivotal business concept when defining the differences between management and leadership.
Every day we are faced with teaching opportunities, and all of us would agree that there is never enough time for adequate training. So how do you develop a culture of training? How do you stay ahead of the curve, considering the rapid pace of change, and how do you address the new generation of employees who learn differently than those of us from another generation who are in positions of management and leadership?
A training strategy constantly reviewed, revised, and implemented is the only way to stay focused as training opportunities and needs change at an ever-increasing pace. Having the vision to look into the future and determine what training should be done now to be ready for new products, technology, or growth adds another dimension to education efforts. Limiting the number of vendors you represent and understanding the limitations and abilities of your existing staff will help you focus and avoid confusion.
Perhaps most importantly, the question must be answered about how to train the new generation. Someone has labeled those born after 1980 as "Generation Y". The previous generation was called Gen X, so Gen Y is the next logical title. But, Y, also spelled "Why", is a helpful description of this next generation. They're not just interested in knowing what, but they want to know why. When we teach this generation what to do, we need to be prepared to teach them why it's important.
It might be helpful to remember a few things about this generation. They have never had to get up to change the channel on a television. They have never known a world without computers, mobile phones, and videogame consoles. Today they are the most connected generation in history, and they don't relate well to conventional teaching methods dating back to the 19th century. Human knowledge is advancing at an exponential pace that long ago rendered obsolete the teaching practices that are unfortunately still the norm. In the past we tested students on the information they were expected to know, but today it's impossible to put to memory everything necessary for success. Today we should test for the ability to find answers, to collaborate, and to solve puzzles.
More than any past generation, Generation Y knows how to solve problems through collaboration. So what does that mean for our business? It means we need to give them any tools that will allow them to stay in touch with each other, to ask for help from each other, and to solve problems as a group even though they may be far apart. Cell phones, Bluetooth, Windows CE handhelds, laptops, email, and text messaging are not just communication tools, they're collaboration tools, they're problem solving tools, they're portals to the information age that will continue to shorten the learning curve. Instead of sitting our technicians down in a classroom and filling their heads with facts, we're going to have to learn to enable collaborative experiences where they will learn what they need to know on their own and through their peers.
It's an illusion to expect our staff to know everything they need to know. Let's teach them how to find the answers when they need them, and give them the resources to go fishing for solutions.