This is the question that B., a former student, asked me last week. Of course, there are as many answers to it as there are different situations or people. Nevertheless, the conversation we had that day helped me reflect on our mindsets when we talk about training or education in the workplace.
Anyone would interpret this question as a “time management” question. Isn’t there a risk of a burnout – tackling at the same time the challenges of a new job with the demands of an MBA program ?
But this is a “How” type of question. Not a “Why” question. And in the case of B., the why questions would be phrased more or less like this : why did you apply for the MBA in the first place ? and why did you apply for the new job ? The answer to these questions is pretty simple : B. wanted to have a more satisfying job (challenges, responsability, learning opportunities). MBA or new job are just means for this objective to be fullfilled.
Now, what gets into our way when we have such a clear objective. We get trapped into the constraints that others put on us. Who said that you should go to an MBA program in order to comply with each and every proposition being made by the B-School ? Who said that taking a new job necessarily means long hours and overload of work ? Aren’t you the master here – the client on one side, and the new leader on the other ? What if doing both were precisely an opportunity to learn how to help others grow instead of doing everything for your team, to learn how to focus on meaning, on the larger view, instead of micro-managing, etc. ?
Learning and performance have always been sort of separated. In the times of our fathers, you would train and then use the knowledge you got for the rest of your life. Maybe in your forties you would have an Executive Program to refresh some of this knowledge. But today, in the “brain industry” economy, half-life of knowledge is getting shorter and shorter. So learning is not something you can afford just once in a while. It has to be part of your daily tasks, just like checking your email. This is why I believe that “learning embedded in life” will become more and more common practice. Tim Gallway, the legendary coach, reminds us in his Inner Game books that there is a strong connection between three dimensions of work : performance, learning and enjoyment. If we separate these, we don’t get all the fruits of each of them. While the focus on performance is reigning in our organizations, it seems that learning is a sort of “obligation” – “yes, people have to go to training…” – not a powerful driver. And, of course, in many workplaces, one can wonder where enjoyment has gone (if it was ever present) ?
The conversation with B. made me reflect : “Couldn’t we dream of a workplace where we could start each day as if we were on day 1 of both an MBA and a new job. This would be really enjoyable, no ?”