By Frank J. Rich
Fewer than 40 percent of graduating high school seniors have mastered reading and math, making the majority of graduating classes poorly equipped for college and real-world life. This group of students (generally) passes to the next grade—regardless of performance—and is at a serious disadvantage with a higher chance of falling behind and dropping out of college. (National Assessment of Educational Progress [NAEP] 2015)
Programs such as STEM that encourage girls—who usually do better than boys in most subjects—in the study of science, math, and technology helps, but the majority of U.S. graduates are disadvantaged in the workplace in comparison to many other industrialized nations.
The fallout is evident to most business and NFP (Not For Profit) organizations that must routinely choose among candidates that show promise, if not the skills already in place that are necessary to job performance. While poor language skills are among the most obvious deficiencies in job candidates, most lack the discipline of an everyday job, the resourcefulness that fuels growth and opportunity, and the basic nature in risk taking.
Perhaps, as it relates to our educational system, we are asking the wrong questions. A focus on literacy and basic academic skills fails to identify key elements of success in the marketplace, which also encourage the personal growth and development that lead to ultimate fulfillment—the highest level of personal achievement.
The three Rs of Enterprise may be a reasonable place to start. Simply, Resourcefulness, Respect, and Risk may offer the opportunity to address the educational deficit noted above and present a more achievable goal for lazy students, encouraging academic participation. Clearly, 60 percent of high school graduates may be unable to outline the elements of international balance of power today in light of the Monroe Doctrine that defined an era of isolationism in America for 100 years. They would more easily be able to describe the ways they repaired a separated doorknob for mom while dad was at work, or the discovery of ingredients for a first omelet when the fridge offered limited options, or the mental calculation used to judge a skateboard stunt, or the deference paid to a disabled person in helping them. On these foundations—common to all—most any could find their way to greater understanding through an informed approach to learning. I think we call this education.
What’s taught in school? Coursework is the answer, for its focus on academics. Missing is the method common to all learning that resourcefulness, respect for the subject matter (in practical terms) and the risk that raises hands with questions, subordinating natural fears, engenders.
Also missing are the business calisthenics so vital to self-achievement. R1 is first among skills. In the end, some part of all things must be done alone—critical thinking, ideation, planning, “what if” analyses, funding, market analysis, pricing models, competitive analysis, facilities plan, staffing, training and personnel development (leadership), and growth modeling. All come into play for household management; something we all need to learn so as not to model the error in governments that practice deficit spending. If we are successful in raising a nation of people better able to find self-fulfillment, we do well to teach and practice resourcefulness. There is no substitute for this ability to find solutions when none are seemingly available.
Respect calms the process, answers the “why” in what we do and in choosing our life’s path. Significantly, R2 models the organizational attitude in whatever place we find ourselves. Respect for the work, the staff, the process, the customer, the community, the industry, end goals, and individual choice, put all peoples, created equal under God, on an even plane to compete cooperatively. If we are better able to see another through the eyes of hope in us, we reveal the path to the most spoken urging of politics and people—coming together.
Risk Management must become an internal model, wholly respected and resource specific for the incomplete logic in all initiatives that finds optimal outcomes. It’s everyone’s job.
- Assessing coverage risks—cross-functional flow and cross training. What a 3rd baseman does when the shortstop attempts to field a hard grounder; or a friend does in comforting another after tragedy; or a parent does when their fledgling child rents her first apartment with the fear she won’t be able to manage the financial burden of it.
- Raising the quality of customers to serve efficiency and best outcomes, driving prices down, and quality product and service up, which delivers greater profits.
- Staff attrition risk management—A measure of organizational reward (liking where we work and what we do), and opportunity assessments.