Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Analyze, evaluate and solve problems and communicate effectively

Sadly that ability, even in the Western educational system, is taken for granted. “Assessing skills is tough, but not impossible.  The Collegiate Learning Assessment and its new version, CLA+, are already in use by over 700 institutions around the world.  What these instruments do is assess the effectiveness of college courses in developing not discipline-based knowledge, but the ability to “analyze and evaluate information, solve problems, and communicate effectively.” The results often shock faculty, who are more comfortable in teaching content than in developing their students’ critical thinking and communication skills.” [Alan Kantrow, How Business Can Help Measure Education Outcomes that Matter, Harvard Business Review, 9th Jan 2014]

“To link education to meaningful outcomes, what’s needed is the ability in colleges to assess — in detail and at scale — the development of real world-relevant skills. That’s an area ripe for collaboration between the educational and corporate worlds. Because companies have a lot of experience in assessing such skills, managers can be valuable discussion partners for leaders of colleges as they move to build learning experiences that link skill-related outcomes with programs and curricula.” [ibid.]

“Fewer than half of youth and employers, for example, believe that new graduates are adequately prepared for entry-level positions. Education providers, however, are much more optimistic: 72 per cent of them believe new graduates are ready to work.” [McKinsey & Company, McKinsey survey, Aug-Sept 2012]

Educators by definition must be optimistic. To be optimistic is to be hopeful and confident. Wrote Rosabeth Moss Kanter in Overcome the Eight Barriers to Confidence, Harvard Business Review, 3rd Jan 2014: “Confidence is an expectation of a positive outcome. It is not a personality trait; it is an assessment of a situation that sparks motivation. If you have confidence, you’re motivated to put in the effort, to invest the time and resources, and to persist in reaching the goal. It’s not confidence itself that produces success; it’s the investment and the effort. Without enough confidence, it’s too easy to give up prematurely or not get started at all. Hopelessness and despair prevent positive action.”

“To muster the confidence to work toward your goals, avoid these eight traps: (1) Self-defeating assumptions; (2) Goals that are too big or too distant; (3) Declaring victory too soon; (4) Do-it-yourself-ing; (5) Blaming someone else; (6) Defensiveness; (7) Neglecting to anticipate setbacks; (8) Over-confidence.”

Disclosure: My old MNC company had a group of us back in 1984 listen to Dr. Kanter discuss her then new book that became a bestseller, The Change Masters. [“She likens the present business climate to the game of croquet played in Alice in Wonderland “…a game in which nothing is stable for very long, and everything is changing around the players.” Today’s businesses are faced with the same climate of sudden and unexpected changes, and, according to Dr. Kanter the only way to stay ahead of change is to be first with innovation. She calls the people and companies that anticipate and lead “change masters.”]

And Dr. Kanter has since championed “positive reinforcement” to encourage teams and overcome the barriers to confidence. Yet, she simultaneously preached leaders to be proactive thus counseled against self-defeating assumptions, declaring victory too soon, neglecting to anticipate setbacks and being overconfident, among others.

But what do they have to do about PHL? We're proud of our educational system and equally proud that Juan de la Cruz has “the ability to analyze and evaluate information, solve problems, and communicate effectively”? And not surprisingly, we have no qualms to declaring victory either too soon or too often; and we sincerely believe that we would be the next Asian tiger especially because of OFW remittances and the BPO industry? 

Have we in the process made self-defeating assumptions and neglected to anticipate setbacks in our energy or power crisis as well as doleful levels of investment, including FDIs, while being defensive and blaming others? Even the church, including the ecumenical sector, would reinforce our decades-old posture, yet given PHL foreign-equity restrictions it is easy to figure out which Philippine vested interests are able to take advantage of the hypocrisy – thus the pathetic levels of FDIs that accrue to the benefit of the few. Contrast that to how our neighbors are able to optimize FDIs – to the benefit of the common good – being less hypocritical than we are? Yet we believe we're more upright? “He who has the gold rules,” is how an American friend would self-deprecatingly explain the golden rule.

As we now know, even GDP growth in the 7% range over the recent past hasn't moved the needle. Do we want to declare victory yet again if not too soon over competitiveness, FDIs or export receipts – where in more ways than one their ecosystems are suspect? But “pa-pogi” always rules like vanity? It is not about setting goals that are too distant or too big but recognizing the need to revisit our thought processes as we “analyze and evaluate information, solve problems and communicate” to Juan de la Cruz.

For example, would our values (especially hierarchy that is reinforced and expressed in political dynasty and political patronage and oligopoly) explain why we (especially one family considered a political dynasty) would justify dole outs as virtuous – that come from the controversial pork barrel, where transparency is assumed but not a given? We don't have to be economists to figure out that if we distribute PHL average income to every Filipino that it would simply articulate our impoverished state? Which is how crab mentality has kept us stuck in underdevelopment? How do we learn what nation-building is? What’s happening to the country – the late Vice President Emmanuel Pelaez could only sigh?

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