Wednesday, August 3

Schools hate businesses, businesses hate schools

As a gross generalization, schools hate business and businesses hate schools.

Let me defend that:

Schools hate business
1. Many academics view any skills that empowers an individual outside of academics as either "vocational" or "turning students into drones of capitalistic societies." (Yet they have no problem rewarding skills that turn students into drones of academic environments.)

I mention teaching subjects like "project management"and"solutions sales" to teachers and they recoil.

2. Professors are even encouraged to downplay their consulting to corporations. Even in b-school environment, what consulting is done, according the school mythology, is prostitution, a pursuit of lucre at the expense of integrity, unless it is done at the board level of a Fortune 500 company.

3. A lot of academics smile when the stock market dives, vindication of both their world view and their own personal career choice.

Businesses hate schools
1. Businesses rail against classrooms, even their own training classes. Corporate people love to complain about training classes. "Classes don't work!" "Training doesn't teach anything." "No one ever learned anything of important in a classroom." Many training books and training professionals love quoting high profile individuals (such as CEO's or brand-name consultants) hacking at classrooms, thinking "beyond the classroom." If you listened to all of them talk, you would assume that employees are spending half of the lives trapped in basement lectures. Most people spend less time in classes than they spend waiting in line at their organization's cafeteria. It reminds me a bit of the supporters of the a flag burning amendment. I wish people wouldn't burn the American flag as much as anyone, but as far as I can tell, there is just not an epidemic of flag burning. And there sure is no epidemic of too much classroom training. The railing is really just posturing.

2. Business people love talking about academic reform. But when a company is performing sub-par, business people don't talk about Xerox reform or corporate reform. They talk about change management, growth, and re-invention. They talk about "taking a short-term profit hit" to "restructure."

3. Even amonst the corporations that do the most training, I have never seen a business sponsor an internal remedial history class, or art class, or literature class, or any kind of liberal arts experience. They say they respect it on a resume, but if you don't arrive with it, they are sure not going to give it to you.

4. And businesses fight hard for tax breaks, which come out of school pockets.

All with a big smile
But both sides hide their animosity reasonably well. The development side of schools want donations from businesses. They talk to parents about preparing students for the future. Businesses want to appear helpful and benevolent and part of the community.

It is only after the love-fest meetings and PR events do the real feelings emerge.

And I believe the friction, the misalignment, this cold war between these two hurts students, hurts our GDP and standard of living, hurts schools, and hurts business.

The Hope of T+D
In our profession, literally of the people reading this blog, lies either the opportunity to bring these two worlds together, or to create a bigger wedge to push them apart. It is an opportunity (and yes, responsibility) that I hope we all consider as we present our ideas, shape our strategies, postore, define ourselves, and invest in and execute our plans.


Anonymous said...

Wow, I am living right in the middle of this skirmish. I work for a corporation and am completing my masters in Training & Performance Improvement (courtesy of my employer's tuition reimbursement perk). Many of the classes include both academic and corporate students, and the two worlds seem light years apart. Corporate types embrace measurement and ROI in general, while the academics seem solidly offended at the thought of having teacher or student performance measured. (The Economist recently published an article supporting Bush's No Child Left Behind act along with figures that suggest it appears to be working. I wouldn't dare mention this in class for fear of inciting a riot.)

And I recently attended the eLearning Guild's LMS symposium. The final session was a review of a survey about LMS use, and there was a rather heated disagreement in the chat between corporate and an academic attendees about how LMSs are used differently by business and schools. The animosity was barely contained.

I have to admit that I feel uncomfortable with what I see as a tendency for academics to base decisions, opinions, and policy on feelings or "fairness" rather than evidence. For example, I was surprised to learn that that "qualitative research" is a legitimate type of educational research. To me, "qualitative research" is something of an oxymoron.

Maybe those who migrate to education have different personality types than those of us who migrate to corporations? Who knows.


Clark Aldrich said...

Thanks for the comments, TF.

Godfrey Parkin said...

TF, at the risk of steering this thread off course, I must come to the defense of academics (though I am a "business person," not an academic).

I have spent a large chunk of my professional life in the marketing research and consulting field, and can assure you of two things:

1) The majority of business decisions are based on opinions and feelings rather than empirical evidence; and
2) "qualitative research" IS a legitimate type of research, and it is used in business a lot more often than quantitative research.

Far from being an oxymoron, qualitative research pretty much drives most marketing decisions, because much of what you need to know cannot be adequately answered by quantitative research, and its cost and time taken is rarely warranted. There's many a multi-million dollar launch that has hinged on a few well-run focus groups. Besides, after spending a fortune on empirical research, companies opt to go with the design that the CEO's spouse likes best...

In my experience, academics are far more rigorous and dogmatic about research methodologies than most business people. annoyingly so :-)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the food for thought!


Alan said...

I am struggling to believe these words are written seriously. On what information are these gross and broadly brushed generalizations made? Here I thought business folks operated on hard data and its just not there ;-)

There is no value in bantying back on forth third hand stories and perpetuating baseless sterotypes. It's just noise.

I can speakly mostly about our organization, but if we really "hated" businesses would we run a Workforce Development Office that provides training for local businesses?

If we lived in such an ivory tower and lobbed spitballs at suits, would we operate the local Small Business Development Office?

If we'd rather be lounging around the faculty club, why would we bother develop specialized curriculum to meet the needs of local Health Care Providers?

Plus on behalf of the hundreds of dedicated faculty I know who go way beyond a 40 hour time clock, using their own funds for supplies, re-inveting their craft, to truly reach and help students better themselves, I am disappointed they would be painted as lazy ivy sniffers. You are wrong about teachers, and suggest that you step away from the keyboard and step inside a real classroom.

What is dismissed here without any backing is far from the education world I see on a daily basis.

Rob Reynolds said...

I agree with Alan. While my experiences may not be representative of everyone, I have found that this is a false stereotype. I have spent more than two decades as a faculty member in the humanities and my colleagues and I have been invloved in many partnerships with for-profit groups. In addition, while I have heard and delivered my share of prideful utterances about academia being "better," I have never encountered a serious person who thought business was not important.

As a business person, I have worked with many non-educational companies and they have always been interested in real partnership with the education community. Would they like to make money? Absolutely! Is the academic community sometimes suspicious of the corproate world? Of course! Do they hate each other? Absurd!

Anonymous said...

I was in the same eLearning Guild's LMS symposium with anonymous above and was involved in the "heated discussion."

I don't think I got that heated, but the academic in the chat wasn't pleased at all with my comments, which amounted to saying that colleges/universities don't have to make a profit and that affected the way they viewed and selected an LMS. The academic shot back with something like, "We most certainly do need to make a profit."

As I've often tried to explain to people, university education and corporate training have different goals in mind. Academics teach a more rounded curriculum than do corporate trainers. Trainers exist to improve the skills of the workers---skills that directly relate to the specific job of the workers in our companies. The goal of professors and schools is a 4-5 year investment in the student; most trainers are happy to get a 4-5 month opportunity to show ROI.

That's all I meant. I wasn't trying to talk down at universities (good grief, I've spent enough time and money at them). Unfortunately, university professors---even those with outside practices---cannot be involved in the working world to the degree of a fulltime corporate trainer, and I think that some academics don't believe that fact.

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Anonymous said...

have you seen on the internet how to deal with your teen if they dont like school! all ya have to do is educate your teen at home. or get a tutor or commit suicide cause life sucks yeah it does. the reason why most people hate school is CAUSE ITS SO DAM GOD FORESAKEN BORING ARGH THERE GIVING US A PLACE WEN WE LEAVE SCHOOL RIGHT FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE YOUR GONNA BE A CLEANER ITS AGAINST HUMAN RIGHTS YOU CANT CONTROL ONES LIFE ITS WRONG. i uSED TO GET BULLIED AT SCHOOL THE TEACHERS COULD SEE IT HAPPENING AND THEY NEVA DID ANYTHING ABOUT IT I WAS SCARED. ASS HOLES HOPE THEY GO THROUGH PAIN IN HELL!