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What I Learned About Business from Going to School, Part 3

 

The 11 O-Levels I gained from my compulsory education were English language, English literature, maths, additional maths, physics, chemistry, Latin, history, AST, general studies and computer studies.

 

The necessary skills and traits for business listed last time were: delegation, communication, negotiation, strategic planning, leadership, team building, analytical skills, sales and marketing, general management, cash flow management, financial management, time management, passion, self-motivation, optimism, creativity, risk-taking, bravery, transparency, enthusiasm and accountability.

 

In English language and English literature, I learned some communication skills, though often in the form of accepted templates for letters and essays. History, maths, physics and AST involved some analytical skills, but reviewing the list now, and recalling my studies from memory, my state-required education covered nothing else in the list.

 

Instead, we learned proven formulae and accepted facts which we regurgitated in the required from or memorised and applied to closed data sets.

 

We carried out tried and tested but did no new experiments. The only project I was assessed on, the wind-powered generator, was designed and built on my own, working only with the teacher, not in a group or a team.

 

In the working and business world, the majority, if not all, of the skills listed will be used in teams, the latter individual traits to be encouraged and nurtured both before and then ongoing in the working environment.

 

My schooling seemed to do the opposite. Individualism was frowned upon; tests and assignments seemed set up to make us fail, not succeed.

 

We learned nothing about finance, for either home or work, and certainly nothing about cash flow or budgets. There was no negotiation, only requirements.

 

Passion, self-motivation, optimism, creativity and risk-taking were stamped out early on, and in middle school we risked being beaten for breaking the most stupid of rules, like sitting still.

 

The ban on corporal punishment came into force in 1986 in British state schools, the year after I left.

 

Things may have been different if I had chosen different subjects. From memory, the others available at O-Level were art, German, French, music, classical studies, religious studies, home economics and biology. I am sure there were others. I am sure they would have been of equally little use to me now.

 

I did teach myself some strategic planning and time management. My chosen strategy was to spend as little time on my schooling as possible, and I chose subjects which required the minimum amount of work on my part to pass. It was far easier to remember formulae and apply them to data, rather than read through lots of literature, only to have to regurgitate it in handwriting so appalling I’d be marked down for it.

 

My time management was so good that if I couldn’t do homework in lessons or afternoon registration, I simply didn’t bother. I certainly didn’t do any at home.

 

In the following blogs we’ll look at further exceptions, other ways to acquire skills for business and how things have changed.

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