A colleague hard at work on a proposal turned to me for assistance. ‘What does the H stand for in H2O?’ The look in their eye suggested this was a serious question. It turned out they had a really good degree, plenty of high grade A levels and 10 GCSEs including a B in Chemistry. When I asked how it was possible to be so educated and not know the chemical symbol for Hydrogen they revealed that they learned the information to pass an exam and then cast it from their mind – especially as it was a subject they had no real interest in.
On the other side of the equation many University lecturers I have worked with complain that all their students want them to do is to train them to pass the exam. They don’t have a real interest in what they are learning their interest is in the qualification at the end.
How many managers read about their subject, not for the purpose of passing an exam or getting a qualification but because they want to bring out their potential? Maybe I’m naive but being a manager or supervisor or leader requires a special set of skills. There are a huge number of books on leadership and management ready and waiting to assist. Some are complex academic tomes, other short, simple, entertaining ‘how to’ guides. There is something for everyone.
When does the need to learn change to a personal desire to learn? When do we develop an interest in the learning and start looking for ideas that will help us develop in our roles?
Perhaps this comes when there are no more exams to pass; a time when we don’t need any more qualifications; when we are driven by interest, curiosity and a desire to succeed. Then a visit to WH Smiths means half an hour in the business section scanning through the latest management thinking or an hour lost to Amazon seeking the best selling pearls of wisdom. It is when getting to the next level becomes a passion.
Or maybe it is at the point where you read your son’s GCSE Chemistry text book out of interest and you realise despite two years studying it you have forgotten it all – except, luckily, the H2O bit.