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Tuesday Insight: Is it time to scrap assertiveness training, negotiation skills training, project management training...?


I got very excited yesterday when I read that Finland is set to become the first country in the world to get rid of all school subjects. From 2020, for children over 16, there’ll be no more science lessons, no more geography, no more history and no more boring maths! 

What!? Have the Finn’s, respected for having one of the best education systems in the world, gone completely mad? 

On the contrary – it could be a stroke of genius. The idea is that in future, instead of studying individual subjects, students will look in detail at a specific event or phenomenon from the perspective of those individual topics. Imagine studying the Second World War from the perspective of geography, economics, maths and history.

I absolutely love this idea, and it reminds me of what was, perhaps, the only really memorable piece of study I completed in school. As I’d been lucky enough to pass my English O levels in the 4th year (yes, I am that old) I was given the opportunity to add an O/A level qualification in my final year before sixth form. The key requirement for this qualification was to write a 3,000-word English literature essay. (I remember, it felt like being asked to write a book!) 

I chose to write mine about First World War poetry and it was, if I say so myself, an inspired choice. Rarely, if ever, have I been more interested in learning. What I started to read felt important because I could see how it linked to other areas of interest; in particular political and social history. The poems I studied reflected, and affected, a gradual change in attitude from patriotic fervour for glorious war, to a growing awareness of the reality of a brutal, bloody and truly horrific conflict. It mapped a growing resentment on the front line for the ‘fat civilians’ and ‘washy verse on England’s need’. It mirrored a deeper change of attitudes about class and status, which would trigger a quiet post-war revolution that undermined the established aristocracy and gave women their first steps towards equality. 

In short, the poetry mattered because I was studying it in the context. It wasn’t just poetry; these were important historical records, which showed the impact political decisions and events outside of their control had on the lives, feelings and emotions of ‘ordinary’ people, (who were often made extraordinary by the things they lived through).

Our training might not have quite this impact, but can’t we use a holistic approach to learning in business training too?

I think we not only can, but that often we should, and it’s what we try to achieve with our team building games. Indeed, I often think it’s difficult when designing training, to isolate assertiveness skills from project management, negotiation skills from leadership, etc. And why should we? Why not immerse learners in activities that require the application of a whole range of behaviours and skills? After all, how often do managers JUST need to be assertive? Or JUST manage their time? Or JUST prioritise? Or JUST negotiate? Most situations require the application of a whole range of different behaviours. 
 
Activities like The Hungry Chick Inn, Murder at Glasstap Grange, Jack Fruggle’s Treasure, Boosting Glasstap’s Future, GamePlay, Hold the Front Page!, Police Chase, Hotel Doldrums and Island of Opportunity are all specifically designed to immerse the learner in an event and apply a whole range of skills and behaviours to it. We think that makes the learning more memorable, more applicable and deeper.

What do you think?

Until next time…

p.s., By a really spooky coincidence, I re-found my essay (or a final draft of it) at the weekend during a major sort out of my office. It mattered enough for me to put it away and keep it for 35 years.

March 29 2018Rod Webb



Rod Webb





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