This was the question I asked over 2 000 of South Africa’s top school graduates, as their keynote speaker at the Gibs Business School’s Annual Career Expo 2017.

They quickly quietened down when I shared their future reality:

  • If you think you can choose a career, the trouble is that the top jobs in demand today were not even in existence 5 years ago.
  • If you study a technical degree today, and at the rate technology is evolving, the information you learn today will already be outdated in 3 years’ time, leaving you with useless information.
  • By the age of 34, you will have had more than 15 different jobs.
  • In 5 years’ time less than 9% of you will have jobs relating to your degrees and studies.
  • By the age of 35 over half of you with all these fancy degrees will most likely be working for a company owned and run by a someone less smart than you who just made it through school.
  • Studies over the last 20 years show there is no correlation between success at school and success in business.
  • Ask any successful business person if they believed their school experience gave them the key to their success and over 94% of them they will quickly answer “No!”
  • To find out what is required to be successful in business, I spoke to some of the top recruitment agencies. I asked them for a short list of the criteria needed for business success.
  • Adaptability and the ability to un-learn and re-learn
  • Communication
  • Conflict-handling
  • Integrity
  • Initiative-taking
  • Entrepreneurial-thinking

Businesses are not interested in the information you have already learnt. They want to know if you are able to un-learn the outdated information you have acquired, then re-learn their systems and processes as they keep evolving.

They are not interested in your school test grades, because to be successful in business you will have to work with others in a team, as opposed to writing a test all by yourself in an exam room.

Being the smartest in a team can also create conflict if you don’t know how to communicate your ideas to those who can’t follow your thinking. Are you able to manage the conflict that arises due to this convergence of different thinking styles and personalities?

To be an entrepreneur you need serious abilities to take initiative and be proactive. You have to constantly be thinking ahead, and with vision.

So how can we align our schooling programmes to give us what we need to be successful in business and in life?

The general rule of thumb is that current schooling provides a learner with what was required twenty years ago. So although our education process may seem to be evolving slowly, the twenty-year time lag does not equip our learners for our current times, let alone for what the future holds.

To be better able to predict where our education is going (or should be going) it can be useful to reflect on where it has come from.

The first major expansion of schooling arose out of the growth of the industrial era. With both parents going off to work in the factories, two problems arose. The first is that someone needed to look after the children, and secondly, that these children needed to be taught the skills needed to enter the work force in the factories at a later stage. Solution: schooling for all children.

During the industrial age schooling was about learning specific skills where the emphasis was on what was taught, opposed to what the children actual learnt. As long as a teacher covered all the material, if a child did not succeed, it was the fault of the learner, not the school. Out of this era of schooling, the famous adage sprung: “Go to school so you can get a job”.

With the advance of technology and widespread access to information in the early 1980’s, we entered the information age. Information could be readily accessed through printed media, and more so through the Internet. The emphasis of schooling shifted to the learning of as much information as possible and it didn’t seem to matter that you just as easily forgot it all soon after.

Terms like “Intellectual capital” and “Life- long learning” became the buzz words as the explosion of the Internet meant that you did not have to go back to school to learn but could now learn on demand, and at any stage in your life.

Out of the information age, the belief arose that the more you knew (measured as your academic grades), the more successful you would be in business. “You need to get good marks to get a good job!” was the standard refrain.

But the statistics out there don’t agree with this statement. It seems there is no correlation between success at school and success in business. The number of millionaires who were school dropouts nearly out number any other category. But you already knew this, right?

Robert Kiosaki (author of Rich Dad Poor Dad) so cleverly tells the story of comparison between his highly-acclaimed academic father who failed at business, and his friend’s rich dad who had dropped out of school and then built numerous multimillion dollar businesses.

It seems clear that we have already entered a different era, and our education needs to catch up.
We have entered into the age of empowerment. Schooling has evolved from the industrial age of people learning technical skills for factory work, to the information age of people knowing things, to the age of empowerment where people, themselves, are the commodity of value.

In the age of empowerment, we see that the internal qualities of attitude, passion and levels of emotional intelligence become the values brought to business. Success is defined by your self-motivation, your ability to multi-task and the value you bring to the team. Gone are the days where you could be successful just on your own.

In my interviews with successful business people from around the world, these successful people shared two points about their experience of school. School did not teach them how to make money. School did not teach them how to work in a team.

Take a look at the success of JT Foxx. I have had the privilege of spending time with him at his house in Florida, as well as traveling with him on some of his tours. Foxx tells his story of being unsuccessful at school and being broke for most of his life. And through determination and having the right attitude, he is now an immense success being rated as the No.1 World’s Wealth Coach and the highest paid platform speaker worldwide.

Foxx says that it’s not your fault that you may be born broke, but it is your fault if you die broke. That can be quite a tough statement to accept, but what he’s really saying is that the recipe for what is needed for success lies within us, as opposed to depending on external criteria.

Foxx further goes on to state that “success is a choice”. You are either the factor that is limiting your own growth to success, or you are also the solution for reaching that goal.

Schools teach us that making mistakes is wrong. But life gives us continuous opportunities to make mistakes and then learn from them. Mistakes are just the stepping stones to success.

My personal belief is that the schooling of the future will include core skills that emphasise communication, relationship learning, team building, conf lict resolution and personal mastery. And although many teachers today will quickly claim they are doing this, you will soon see why doing a once-a-year project called “entrepreneur’s day” is just not what it takes.

But don’t get me wrong; the core academic skills will not be side-lined for these other skills, but they will not dominate the school curriculum either. Core academic skills will be seen as one of the tools to develop and support people in their own growth, as opposed to just being the priority of a school day.

Schooling will be a place to experience, grapple with and integrate our ability to work with others, leverage off each other’s strength, work with (and not be threatened by) each other’s differences, manage our own social and emotional well- being and know who we are as individuals and who we are in relation to each other.

On top of this is the scaffold of the academic content and conceptual skills that support children to create empowered lives and contribute to society in extremely useful ways.

“But how do we do this?” you may ask. To be a successful athlete, you use a coach. To take your business to the next level, you employ a business coach.

To get good grades and succeed at school we employ teachers. But the problem is they are currently trained in teaching content and information. We need them to also be skilled at developing and empowering our learners from the inside out, rather than cramming them full of information.

At the school I started in 2004, all of my teachers were trained as professional life and team coaches. These teachers became highly skilled at being able to empower and transform the learner’s experience of schooling from the inside out.

A learner who believes they are stupid and can’t succeed is not going to be motivated to explore and learn. But a teacher who knows how to transform that learner’s belief from “I can’t” into “I can” will open up a world of possibility and success.

Today teachers spend more time trying to discipline and get cooperation from a class full of learners, than on actual academic learning. At my school, because the teachers had learnt the skills of team dynamics and effective conflict resolution, working together as a class became deeply motivating and satisfying. The result was that the academics that took three weeks to learn in a traditional school took only a day in ours.

The teachers in my school spent as much time on academics as on building positive mind-sets and the skills of resourcefulness. This resulted in a single teacher being able to teach larger numbers, as the learner’s themselves saw each other as a resource, as opposed to just having to wait for their turn with the teacher.

Mistakes and conflict were not seen as wrong but more as opportunities to work on things that were not working and to find solutions to make things work better. Hence the results were people who could solve problems efficiently, independently and successfully.

In the business world we can see a similar shift happening. Human resource departments are shifting from no longer just being “employment recruiters” but now also “human developers”. More and more programmes are being introduced to empower, motivate and develop the potential of employees.

I think back to the 2 000 top school students I was speaking to at their career expo earlier this year. It was not my job to tell them about career choices opening up before them. Each year I get invited back to speak to a new group of top students because I challenge their belief systems and get them to change their mind-sets.

My role as a business coach is to get results and to leave these young leaders of our country with the deep motivation and belief that “I can!”

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