Critical Need to Develop Math and Science Skills in Our Youth
For the past generation, maybe two, we have focused on the critical need to develop math and science skills in our youth and to emphasize technology in developing new businesses.
Business schools have taught systems, equations, and bottom line thinking since their inception. At the elementary and high school levels, No Child Left Behind legislation had the effect of focusing educators on specific learning and meeting test scores in order to maintain federal funding.
The net result of these efforts has been a marked decline in the efficacy of our human capital. What do I mean?
By focusing purely on intellectual and technological advance, we have short-changed the development of character, courage, and resourcefulness. We have diminished our ability to be great as individuals, teams, and organizations.
Think back to the exhilarating days of dot-com entrepreneurialism. Teams of geeks worked round the clock for however long it took to create a finished product, system, or software application. They were challenged intellectually, physically (how long can one survive on pizza shoved under the door and no sleep?) and emotionally. The adrenaline created by the mission and belief that they would succeed kept them going beyond any reasonable expectation of endurance.
The same is true for elite athletes, performers, and explorers of all kinds. We look at such feats and tell ourselves that they are reserved for the special among us. For those rare individuals who are wired differently, built more sturdily, or driven by a passion so extraordinary it only surfaces in one in a million humans.
I wonder how much untapped capacity lives within every person, regardless of place of birth, family circumstances, or current situation? When I ask various individuals and groups, “What is your capacity?” I am often answered with looks of bewilderment. Sometimes the question evokes strong emotion, even tears.
One woman gave an answer that proved an indictment of what we have been doing for too long. Through her tears she said, “I have no idea how to answer your question, except to say that I have a hell of a lot more to offer than anybody knows about or has asked me for.”
It’s time to go on a hunt for capacity and to develop it wherever we find it. Leadership is about calling forth the energy of all workers and channeling it toward productive and profitable goals.
Forcing everyone to learn a narrow set of competencies is a recipe for constriction, not expansion. Yes, it takes big people and great discipline to discover the many talents hidden within a workforce. Further, it takes patience and consistent effort to develop them into true organizational assets.
But it seems to me this would be a wise investment of leadership time, one that promises greater engagement of the workforce and the potential for an enormous expansion of productivity.