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« Open Forum Guru Review: The Leader's Guide to Radical Management by Matt May | Main | 800-CEO-READ publishes my "Change This" Manifesto »

December 08, 2010


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Steve Barnett

I couldn’t agree more Steve about the need to change the way education is managed and operated.

Maybe with criticism of Business Schools breaking into the popular media we have a potential tipping point.

We need education managers and educators to radically change the organisational experience - that learning context - from individualistic to collaborative: to radically re-enact education organisation and process to transform the detail of the way colleagues and students communicate with each other; the way that they generate shared meaning; the way they produce and implement organisational knowledge; their experience of collaboration.

Particularly, they must counter students’ (and colleagues) deeply engrained instrumental approach to their work by radically redesigning tasks and measures to specifically reward collaborative behaviour (as mutually assessed by team members). The aim and effect of this is to motivate teams to move beyond the usual fake-team division of tasks: to produce graduates with exceptional “intuition”; who rapidly become project leaders with exceptionally engaged project teams; who achieve in 6-8 months what conventionally taught graduates take two years to achieve.
For more detail see “Wanted: Communication Educators for Management Revolution” (, prompted by your draft article "The Death and Reinvention of Management".

Steve Barnett

“Wanted: Communication Educators for Management Revolution” (

Monique Hodgkinson

As a parent of two children that attend a small rural high school (graduating class sizes of approximately 24 students), I have had the opportunity to offer assistance in many roles over the years in our town's schools. I've known many of the kids since they were in pre-school, and have watched them grow up.

What I see as a major failing for our schools is that somehow many of the kids have a disconnect about putting in the effort now leads to rewards later. This is not all of the kids, but it seems that the majority don't quite see it. From my perspective most of the teachers have been excellent. However, if the kids don't have the maturity or aren't willing to put the effort in, there isn't much that the teachers can do. One cause may be that we teach academics, but do not necessarily teach children effective study habits. Lack of organizational skills affects many students.

In spite of spending increasing since the 1970s, it is very apparent to me that in our community our schools are grossly underfunded. This may be part of the problem. By not adequately funding public school education, we send the children a subtle message to the children about the value of education. It is not good enough to just talk the talk, you also have to walk the walk.

If we want to improve our educational system, it will take money, involvement, and commitment from students, parents, educators, and governmental agencies

Steve Denning


Thanks for your comment. I agree that it would be wrong to blame the teachers.

I would also hesitate before blaming the kids. No one learns anything if they are bored. So if the kids are bored, we need to rethink the whole approach to education so that they find it interesting, exciting, something they can't do without. I've written about what this would involve in yesterday's post:

There may be individual communities where funding is the problem, but overall, nationwide, the problem is not lack of funding, but different management of existing resources.


Steve Denning

Great post! I've highlighted it on Twitter.

Bruce T. Smith, MD

Character education has been the buzz word for awhile. The Virtue's Project has been an option for fifteen years now with little acknowledgement in the States. Determining best practices is an art in and of itself. Where to go for solutions? Trago

Steve Denning


Thanks for the suggestion on the Virtues Project. Do you know of any schools either in the US or elsewhere that are drawing on this approach?


Nicolae Cuta

Did anybody asked the pupils from Shanghai how happy/satisfied are they about attending school? Because if they aren't happy/satisfied as students, they will stop learning as soon they will finish compulsory school, no matter their actual score. While a student that loves to go to school will come back later as (young) adult to complete his/her education any-time he/she consider necessary/opportune.

Jane Middleton

The failure in US public education is a cultural thing. Americans do not respect education. They just want the diploma. They are not the same thing.

Education requires hard work. Americans do not like to work hard. American high school kids spend so much time on computer games, social activities (chatting, texting, shopping), and part time jobs (to fund their consumerism). Where can they find time to study?

And American parents do not supervise their children's home work. Don't tell me that the parents work 60 hours a week. Before Netflix was available, there was not a single time when I went to a video store that I did not see adults with a stack of rental movies in hand. If they spent so much time watching movies, how could they find time to supervise their children? Now with Netflix, the parents can be glued to TV from 6 pm to midnight and never run out of things to watch.

I was a poor kid. And my parents said, 'Because we are poor, education is your ONLY way to improve your life.' When I ranked number two in my class of 63 students on a monthly test, my mother slapped my face, saying, "How do you dare to come home. You have slipped from number one to number two." I agree, she was too strict. But you can see the high expectation my parents had on me. Being poor was NO excuse for failure to excel on study. Bill Gates recently said so too. But most Americans believe poor kids definitely make poor students. There is no CAN-DO spirit in the US.

Americans believe money can buy everything, especially education and health. They couldn't be more wrong.

Jeff Fessler, 2011 Palm Beach County Teacher of the Year

I was surprised that your example of China as a model of success highlighted an intense focus on academics at the exclusion of everything else. Actually, there is something much more interesting and groundbreaking happening in China and other Asian countries.

While historically they have have produced book-smart students who spent the better part of their waking hours in school or studying for high-stakes tests, they found that their high school and college graduates offered little in the way of creative problem solving or developing innovative ideas. Chinese, Singaporean, and South Korean companies often were forced to hire their R & D people from America, a country known for its creative thinkers.

But starting in 2001, China changed its thinking about education. The government realized that in order to produce creative and innovative thinkers, they had to rethink their education model that focused on national standards, high-stakes tests, and a top down model of management. They retooled their curriculum, which now features far fewer tests, a more holistic approach to educating children, and far more opportunities for students to learn about the arts and culture.

Of course it is extremely ironic that as China makes this exciting transition that will produce students that are ready for the 21st century, the U.S. races backwards to embrace the old system that China abandoned!

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The greatest interest was in a learning event in which participants would acquire techniques and skills

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