Learning, leading, teaching in the 21st century

April 15, 2013

I recently had the opportunity to listen to Tony Wagner talk about the challenges we face in the landscape of higher education. Knowledge is getting commoditized. It is not so much about what you know, but more about what you can do with what you know, or taking initiative. Being able to have a few stretch goals, only some of which are achieved, is a lot better than having goals that are easily achievable.

We need to think of creating a learning environment where participants focus on learning to ask the right questions, not so much on problem solving. As Einstein said, “Formulation of the problem is more important than the solution.” We need to do away with what Tony calls the “sitting and getting” model, and emphasize creating and not getting. We do not talk about failure, rather we talk about iteration.

Today, the skills we need at work and the skills for good citizenship have converged. Discussions and teamwork are becoming more important than ever before, and leading with influence is the key. Do academics have the experience to know this, much less teach it?

Tell me what you think.

More or less?

April 15, 2013

I have been travelling this past week, meeting other business school deans (at the ICAM conference in Chicago), meeting alumni, and corporate stakeholders, and listening to thought-provoking speakers. Sheena Iyengar from Columbia University talks about the art of choosing.

Choice is important because the act of thinking about choices and what you want to do empowers action. At the same time, our culture affects the way we perceive choice. For Americans, choice was positively correlated to performance; for Asians, the reverse is true.

At the same time, too much choice is not optimal. It is not true that 15,000,000 date possibilities on Match.com are necessarily good. Sheena and her colleague find that when buyers at a grocery store were given the option to sample jams at a table with 24 different flavors versus a table with 6 different flavors, people are more likely to sample and taste from the table with 24, but they are more likely to buy when they sample from the table with 6. The more choices we have, the more we stick to status quo, delay in decision making makes us unhappy about the choices we make, and hence, the worse the decisions become. The average person makes 70 different choices in a single day, and 20% of our effort leads to 80% of results.

So, what is the action item here from this research? Or, how do we become choice wise? Choice is an act of invention, and leadership is the ability to see choice where others do not.  Leadership is also the ability to frame and bound the choices.

Tell me what you think – more or less choice?