How much of what you do did you learn in a classroom? This is not meant to run down formal education, in fact completely the opposite. We need education to form us into useful, interesting and creative people. But there are some things that are important to know that can never be taught in the classroom.

In the University of Life we experience the ‘why’ of what we see and do; we learn the specialist knowledge that enables us to earn our income. The trick is to learn as quickly as possible which means having to adopt a contradictory status of being: on the one hand, to keep an open mind while at the same time, focusing our mind down to form what we learn into theories that can last and be re-applied in differing situations and applications.

It is hard to imagine that top business executives of multi-nationals could ever have expected to need to learn about being kidnapped while they were working their way up through their organizations. Yet this sadly is a very needed lesson for them and is a good example of one not really suited to a classroom setting. The legendary Kevin Mitnick runs a training program to teach executives how to kidnap someone. The idea is that by studying the topic from the mindset of the perpetrator that, learning becomes, more real, more pragmatic and indeed quicker.

Likewise, I try to help executives guide their companies through change by encouraging them to get into the heads and mindset of the people their plans are going to impact. This technique helps to anticipate ‘resistance’ and thereby allow the formulation of powerful strategies to ensure success. It helps them work and think on both an emotional and tactical level at the same time.

I was wondering how many topics are best learned from the ‘other side’ so to speak. This week my Mother is staying with my wife and me in Belgium. A painter and teacher throughout her life she has learned to look at paintings to a level that most of us are simply unable to do. However to understand how paintings were created she knows that there is only sure fire way of finding out and that is to forge them (not for illicit re-sale you understand). By attempting to literally copy every detail she learns not only the brush and paint techniques, she also finds herself having to overcome the physical and emotional challenges that the painter endured during the original creation process.  This is why top forgers make the best judges for deciding if a painting is genuine or not. Similarly a computer hacker can easily appreciate great computer code or a sophisticated security system. They see the ‘problem’ from the other side…

I am on holiday this week, spending sometime seeing things from the other side and relaxing with family and friends…

Have a good week,