Monday, December 16, 2013

Everyone, seemingly, is in favour of learning - as long as it doesn't mean them and it doesn't mean now

I'm working with Patrick, a young Zimbabwean who decided a few years ago to go out on his own. A courageous choice in our decrepit economic environment.  So that Patrick is struggling to build his business is not surprising.  Patrick, traditionally in the recruitment profession has now built on a training and consulting business which started off as 'etiquette and grooming' because that was where he found a huge demand by individuals he was trying to place in jobs in the market.

Now in December 2013 and with a new government replacing the previous 'Government of National Unity' the economy has sunk even further and jobs, scarce before are almost non-existent as companies go to the wall and new ones fail to get off the ground.  So Patrick has been working at promoting his training business which now includes me on occasions and a couple of others who are experienced managers.

Patrick has unflagging energy and when he is not actually out there earning - which is a lot of the time - he is canvassing his local network for new business.  Frequently he gets a long way down the track until eventually the subject of 'how much is this going to cost?' comes up.

And this is where his leads become in danger of being lost.

There is a wealth of current literature 'out there' that tells us that learning and development of people has become a must-do activity in organisations of the future.  And the present, because if they don't there will be no future.  Lifelong learning has become not just a fad but a necessity as rapid technological, social and organisational change makes massive and unending inroads on the present and the perceived way of doing things.

It doesn't matter whether you are a butcher, a baker, a candlestick maker or even a banker, a miner, a police force or an airline, learning is as much a need to organisations as breathing is to living.  So why does Patrick meet with so many rejections - all of which are excused by potential buyers on 'we don't have any money'.

But they have money to pay the executives salaries and purchase the latest executive cars.  There is money for entertaining their customers (and themselves) on the golf courses, there is money for a first class air fare to London or New York and a weekend in a luxury hotel.

So why not for learning?  

This morning I read an article by Chris Majer, founder and CEO of The Human Potential Project and he writes about the Obstacles to Learning.  Unsurprisingly the first obstacle on his list of ten is 'Being Blind to Your Blindness' which reminds me of a long ago story of my former friend and mentor, Alan Bridgland who was attempting to sell an Executive Development Programme to the Chief Executive of one of Zimbabwe's leading manufacturing businesses in those oh so long ago days when the economy used to function.  Alan was asked by the CEO who the programme was aimed at.  "You", said Alan pointing at the CEO who turned around in his chair to see who was behind him.  There was no-one there of course.

Are you blind to your blindness?  Or are you willing to learn?   There are other dangers to learning but none so great as not learning.