There’s a television programme in the UK that I find utterly fascinating, not because of its intended purpose, which is to find ideas to invest in but more because of the whole interaction between those who have capital, experience and commercial ‘nous’, and those who have passion, zest and an unerring focus on what they are trying to do. It’s too easy to describe this as marrying money with ideas…and does a disservice to both sets of protagonists. I am referring to Dragons Den, very much a global franchise these days but with its roots in the UK.
The episode this week featured two young entrepreneurs (Kia aged 14 and her sister Skye, aged 12) who had invented a device to assist in teaching children how to ride a bike (attached a link – 35 minutes into the programme). The invention was not particularly remarkable although it did have the combination of practicality, affordability and market relevance.
What was far more interesting however, was the breadth of learning and capability that the sisters displayed in describing their journey from a nascent idea to a commercial product. There was confidence and an understanding of product development and design, supply chain, the finances of a small business, marketing / sales and the development of key relationships. The pitch itself was well rehearsed and their ability to answer challenging questions honestly and calmly, managing the delicate combination of confidence / defence of the product whilst not damaging any potential relationship with an investor was exceptional. It would be fair to say that their level of engagement and passion was, as often is the case, infectious!
- These are skills which do not come naturally to most people…they need to be practised and through a series of experiences, carefully honed.
- These are skills that are critical in the world of work which these sisters will enter soon…and yet it appears to me that this was a happy accident of fate rather than some part of a broad curriculum as taught in schools around the world.
- These are skills which most corporates find difficult to develop internally…as their training and development and indeed selection process drives them in directions which are often no longer relevant to the market that they inhabit.
This blog is not an attack on the teaching profession or indeed school systems in general…nor is it an attack on the earnest endeavours of corporates to develop their people effectively. Rather it is a plea! What we saw in a very short video clip was the embodiment of what the world of work needs in spades. We need to make this the rule and not the exception.
Here’s a thought…perhaps the challenge of engaging with employees is not dissimilar to the engagement of school children. The key messages from the above example can be captured neatly in the mantra which Daniel Pink espoused a few years ago (see attached link to a TED talk which describes the concept).
- Purpose…being involved in an activity where the context and benefit is clear and aligned with one’s values.
- Autonomy…having the licence to make decisions for one’s area of responsibility.
- Mastery…constantly honing one’s skills to improve and ultimately master a skill/capability.
From my experience, these are as relevant at the top of organisations as they are in the earliest years of education.