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Blog : Everyone has potential – the trick is to unleash it


Everyone has potential – the trick is to unleash it

Jane Sunley, CEO learnpurple

Normally I avoid writing about home stuff however there is an important point to be made for the whole of ‘team UK’… so stick with me. Last weekend I spent most of my time helping a 13 year old struggle with coordinates, transformations, vectors and loci.

 ‘A cow grazing in the field ABCD moves so that it is always a distance of 5m from fence AB. Draw the locus of the cow.’

To remind those of you who’ve forgotten GCSE maths (or never really grasped it in the first place), loci are mathematical formulas that indicate a path. And like all things mathematical there’s a rule which dictates how this works. The rules of locus and loci are possibly not the most important things one will take from their school years.

That said, I do appreciate that learning stuff one might never actually use in real life is mind expanding and develops the capacity to study. However, attempting to explain to a teenager why she’d ever need to know about loci made me wonder how different adult life would be if there was far more emphasis placed on learning real life skills from an early age. For example:

·        problem solving and decision making (with meaningful, relevant everyday examples)

·        empathy and team dynamics (other than on the competitive arena of the sports field)

I could also add confidence and assertiveness, communication and listening skills, organisation, planning and time management to the list and many more.

And how much easier would many people’s lives be if the majority of your average teenager’s homework assignments could be spent on developing these key life skills. Instead they often find themselves struggling with outmoded and unexciting concepts which are very rarely used in the modern business world. This isn’t a rant, I’m just musing here…

The effect of not focusing on these key skills at school age can be witnessed in most organisations across the UK. How many times have you come across people who find it difficult to get things done because they’re poor and unfocused time managers? Or procrastinate and miss the opportunities? Or end up with disengaged teams and colleagues because they don’t know how to listen, communicate, think and act?

Suppose these key skills, which are required to become a successful, responsible, effective and emotionally intelligent adult, were actually treated as a priority; acquired and practiced in school from an early age. Now that would make a difference to ‘team UK’. 

And what of experiential learning? The benefits of which cannot be underestimated. Nowadays, few people learn by hearing and reading, the majority of us learn by seeing and doing. People must be able to experience learning in a real context.

I realise that great advances have been made in education over the years, and I do appreciate that interactive whiteboards and compulsory work experience are the order of the day. However experiential learning means something deeper – something that will leave a lasting impression - a true experience.

The recent media story about the school where pupils have been given individual responsibilities is a great example of this type of learning in action. Pupils undertake jobs such as reading the meters and monitoring energy usage, keeping the gardens tidy, organising and supervising meal times and so on. This is real a commitment to regular responsibility – just like a job. The pupils not only learn the skills required to fulfill the roles they had taken on… they develop and improve them.

Unfortunately, such stories are news because of their rarity value. Until the day our educational establishments routinely turn out such success stories and the Government makes developing real life skills part of the curriculum; it’s down to us, as employers, to kit out all of our people with these essentials. 

Employees need to be presented with challenges to help grow and progress and experiential lifelong learning should be the expectation within every workplace. Everyone has potential – the trick is to unleash it.

What are you doing to grow capability in all of your people?

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