Last Friday London was in a strange mood. It couldn’t decide what it wanted its weather to be. By midday we had wind, sunshine, cloud, snow and then sunshine again. I suppose you could say this is very appropriate weather for a city like London: the diversity in the skies matching its ever-changing skyline and the diverse culture of the people walking its streets below.
I was also in a strange mood. Most of the UK had been hit by snow, and where I live outside of London the snow was thick on the ground and the pavements were treacherous with ice. Having nearly slipped over several times the night before, and as I would not be standing in front of any students, I decided to come to college wearing jeans and boots to save my formal clothes. I felt most uncomfortable; it just didn’t feel right.
That’s the thing with change: whether it brings pleasure or pain it does take us out of our comfort zone, and there we stay until a new zone is established. Like the weather we cannot stop it, and the speed of change can be remarkably quick. We are just passive observers; or are we? We may not be able to change the weather but we can dress for it, and we may not be able to change our lives but we can prepare for life changes.
The Economist magazine has a fascinating special report this week on life-long learning, and on its website there is a healthy debate in progress as to how we should envisage the concept. Continuing Professional Development (CPD) has been around in the professions for a long time now, and before that phrase was around we called it ‘keeping up to speed’ or something of that kind; the important point I am making is that CPD is nothing new, and I am sure your grandparents did it under the title of the day.
So why do we need to debate life-long learning? The answer lies in the growing complexity and diversity of the corporate environment, its ever-ambitious strategies requiring ever-ambitious personal development if we are to maintain optimum personal contribution to the achievement of strategic success. Can an institution such as ECBM provide all of this diverse learning? Well yes we can: we simply build another 1,000 floors on top of our present building and recruit 5,000 new lecturers.
Okay, that’s not going to work, but as an education professional I have a burning desire to play my part in meeting the challenges of a changing business world. So what can I do - what can ECBM do - to play its part in the learning challenges we now face? Well just look around you. Every building you see, despite their diversity, despite their ever-changing designs, are all built using mathematical and architectural principles which have been used for hundreds of years. New techniques have been developed, and some new materials, but the core principles remain.
I see it as our role to deliver core business principles, for example well-planned objective research, critical analysis, logistical decision-making, corporate governance, ethical business, and strategic success. We then integrate these disciplines into mainstream business scenarios. These are the kind of tools required to work with corporate and environmental change, to get the best out of change, and to ensure that when change happens we are ready and fully prepared to handle anything which is sent to challenge us.