A new dimension to personal and organizational growth"Suppose there was an experience machine that would give you any experience you desired. Superduper neuropsychologists could stimulate your brain so that you would think and feel you were writing a great novel… or closing a million dollar deal… or performing to your personal potential.” In the ‘MATRIX’ movies, the characters are suspended in a free-will world with the capacity to choose to think and feel as they please. They plug into a machine to experience life and are able to pre-program these experiences. This is while they are floating in a tank, with electrodes attached to their brain. But they can never tell which experiences are real and which have been artificially created. While in the tank they are not aware of where they are and what they are going through. Would you enjoy having the opportunity to choose the way you experience the world? Would you plug in? Although we may be attracted to the concept, many people would choose not to participate in such an experience. Why? Because contact with reality in itself is what is most highly valued, independent of any benefits such contact may bring through pleasant sensations: we want to know we are experiencing the real thing. If we are not, we cannot learn and grow. And as hard as the lessons can be, we all need to face reality and grow through it. The problem with the Matrix world is that it is two dimensional. By being attached to this machine, individuals can control their thoughts and feelings – but because these experiences are not integrated with ‘real life’ actions, they lack the depth of experience that leads to learning and growth. Unfortunately, this is the situation many individuals and organisations are facing today.
Below the bottom line…..Even in the best of organizations, learning can easily slip into a two-dimensional procedure or ‘programming’ process that lacks any real depth or ongoing value. There is often a focus on developing skills rather than developing independent and competent decision makers who are in touch with the real issues and can change and adapt to meet their needs. Another problem is that the corporate focus is often on the bottom line of profit, so that any real education ends up being forced into the “low priority” basket, and is usually the first area to be cut when times are tough. But now even “bottom line” companies will need to sit up and take notice. It is now being recognized that there is a more important bottom line: the need for the real development of human potential. A Human Resources manager from one of the top international corporations in Jakarta has identified an increasing concern. “We now have a lack of staff with creative skills that are capable of adequately competing and responding in a challenging new information economy, and who can deal with reality and act accordingly – even from those that have graduated from the very best public schools.” By ignoring the need individuals have for ongoing development, and by failing to recognize that the value of individuals within the organization and the organization itself is undermined when there is no provision for ongoing education, the long-term problems are being exacerbated.
What can organizations do?Smart companies have started taking some responsibility for education, and not just simple skills training. They have begun the first step of appreciating, firstly, that training is not always education. Training is about developing specific skill sets and imparting knowledge and facts in the hope that workers can reproduce this information when called upon to do so. Education is about developing skills for ongoing learning and enquiry. Through appropriate experiential learning grounded in practical experience, individuals become motivated to feel, challenge to think, and ultimately empowered to act in positive ways. Good educational experiences are relevant and engaging. It is a mistake to assume that the participants in corporate training programs want to learn. Adult cynics can provide the greatest resistance to learning. Bad experiences with education often leave people with little desire to learn more, and consequently there can be little tolerance to change or new ideas. When these people end up in management positions, the friction they can create between the way they see the world and the way the world actually is can have far reaching effects – can even grind a company to halt. More and more companies are realizing that they can no longer get away with “knowledge banking” through training skills, ignoring the underlying principles that should shape these experiences and give them value. There is now a push for recognizing social responsibility, empowering people management styles, and positive interpersonal processes. It’s time companies started to invest in the organization’s future through developing individuals on an ongoing basis. There can only be positive change through a dedicated focus on individual and organizational growth.
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