From Training to Education
By Nido Qubein
Let me make a suggestion that at first may sound strange, coming from a management consultant. If your company has a training department, do away with it. Replace it with a Department of Education and Development.
The reason: The new business environment needs fewer people who are trained to do things a specific way and more people who are educated to find new ways of doing things.
As Stanley Marcus once said, "You don't train people; you train dogs and elephants; you educate people."
What's the difference?
Let me put it this way: Would you want your teenager to have sex education or sex training ? The choice is clear.
The word education comes from the Latin educo, which means to change from within. Training provides an external skill. Education changes the inner person. Training deals only with the doing level. Education teaches people how to think.
Let me give you an example: I once ordered an apple pie and a milk shake at a fast-food restaurant. The server smiled and asked, "Would you like a dessert with that?"
This young woman had been trained to act. She had been conditioned to smile and try to upgrade the sale by reciting her memorized lines. And she rehearsed them to perfection.
But she had not been educated in customer interaction. She hadn't been taught to listen to the customer, to think about what the customer ordered and to acquire a feeling for what might appeal to the customer under the circumstances.
Education deals with the feeling level. The ways you and I act are based on our responses to stimuli. First we think about it, then we begin to feel it, then we act based on that feeling.
Ronald Reagan won a landslide election in 1980 by asking people to think, feel and act. He did it with a penetrating question:
"Are you better off now than you were four years ago?"
The voters thought about it. They felt uncomfortable about the economy. This feeling of discomfort moved them to behave in the way Reagan wanted them to behave. They voted against the incumbent administration.
Training attempts to add on the qualities needed for success. Education builds them in.
Now don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that you should never train people. Training is essential when a specific skill must be learned, or a specific procedure must be followed consistently in a manufacturing process. But training should be part of a broader educational process.
One of my favorite proverbs conveys the wisdom that when you give people fish, they'll be hungry tomorrow; if you teach them to fish, they'll never go hungry. Training gives your employees a fish -- a specific skill applicable to a specific task. Education teaches them to fish.
Corporations have no choice but to invest substantial resources in developing people. So it's best to invest in ways that let people grow; that teach them to think for themselves; that create a pool of solid candidates for promotion to higher positions.
My message to clients is clear:
• Training focuses on teaching people yesterday's skills.
• Education focuses on teaching them to develop tomorrow's skills.
Education without the vision for a better future is only training.
As Charles Kettering said: "You can't have a better tomorrow if you're thinking about yesterday."
We've spent entirely too much time in the past teaching people what to do instead of concentrating on how they think and how they feel and how they behave; far too much time getting a job done instead of producing excellent results; far too much time conforming instead of creating.
Yesterday's thinking looks at the tasks people perform today and asks, "How can we train our future employees to do these things?"
Today's thinking looks at the kind of people needed to fulfill corporate strategy and finds ways to develop them.
A reporter once asked Wayne Gretzky, the great hockey player, why he always seems to be where the puck is. Gretzky replied, "I don't do that at all. I always go to where the puck is going to be."
Executives, too, must go where the action is going to be. We need to look down the road 5 or 10 years and ask "What kind of company do we want to be by then, and what kind of employees will it take to get us there?" Then we can plan educational and development programs to develop such employees.
To carry out such programs, you need behavioral change agents, not trainers. Trainers are easy to find. They are plentiful and inexpensive. Behavioral facilitators are less plentiful, and they're in strong demand. But they nurture lasting qualities that won't become obsolete when the next technological breakthrough occurs.
In our company, Creative Services, Inc., we've dedicated the last two decades to helping clients transform their corporations from mechanistic organizations into thinking organizations. Mechanistic organizations are like machines, doing the same things over and over. Thinking organizations are constantly alert for new concepts and new methods.
Think about your company. Is it a thinking or a mechanistic organization? Some hints that will help you:
In a mechanistic organization:
New ideas and methods are discouraged because they vary from the mechanical norm: "We've never done it that way before."
Managers and supervisors rely solely on their own judgments, backed by the policy manuals, instead of empowering their people to make on-the-spot judgments that might improve quality and service.
Rigid procedures discourage employees from playing with an idea or a solution during its development.
Communication flows "through channels" rather than spreading throughout the business organization.
Some identifying marks of a thinking organization:
People at all levels can talk directly to people in other departments and divisions, and to customers and suppliers.
Teams are formed across departmental lines, including employees at all levels, to execute new projects or to solve common problems.
Line employees are routinely asked for their opinions and rewarded for ideas that work.
Failures at innovative projects are regarded as learning experiences and not as black marks against the person who failed.
Corporate structures are flexible and therefore able to adapt to the stress of innovation.
Educated, thinking organizations aren't made up of people trained only to turn screws and wield levers, although those procedures are certainly essential to some jobs.
They're made up of people educated in such skills as goal-setting, problem-solving and decision-making, communication, conflict management, negotiation, total quality management, time management and teamwork.
Such people, I'm convinced, are not churned out by training departments. They're molded and nurtured by departments of education and development.
Education must replace training in organizations that succeed in the global marketplace. It's a prerequisite for survival.