Wednesday, December 9, 2009

What's the deal with the "business vs. education" dichotomy?

flickr CC image via bobaliciouslondon

Why do those of us in education seemingly vilify the "business" model of leadership and management? I understand that the business world has its entirely negative examples of bonus and incentive-driven motivational methods, but there is no shortage of this paradigm in education either... so what is it about the business world that educators despise so much?

Perhaps we in education don't want to understand how the business world runs because we're anxious about the possibility that we can learn something from it. This insecurity about what we do and how we do it manifests in the rather arrogant perspective that we do things better; more principled and with a heightened sense of ethics in education. I don't agree.

One thing the business world has going for it is the degree to which it is scrutinized by the consuming public it serves. Consumers have a right to demand strong value, excellent service and quality products. The maximum bottom-line profit depends on the degree to which a business can provide this to consumers. A heightened sense of self-protective vigilance of behalf of consumers has resulted in a sort of contemporary "conscience" that hasn't been prevalent up unitl now. Concepts like the "triple bottom line" (aka 'people, planet, profit') are a welcome sign of the times... the fact is, in order for business to make money in today's world, business must be sensitive to not only the purchasing needs of its consuming customers, but their social perspectives and concerns too; the profit margin is at stake.

So the way I see it, the business world needs to do whatever it takes to make sure it makes money, and these days, a heightened awareness of the consumer perespective and willingness to think outside the box to serve that perspective seems to be what it takes. If in fact this is what the business world is doing, I believe we in the education world should not only be applauding the effort, but emulating it as well.

There is no time in the world today for polarity. The debate over who is right and who is wrong often, if not always, fogs our view over what is best, and what is best can come from anywhere... the key in every aspect of our society is to look at everything from the perspective of what makes sense AND produces results. This "thinking outside the box" mentality, or integrative thinking is what will win the day as we move forward into uncharted progress... we shouldn't care where the idea comes from, but rather exploit the fact that it's a good one and make use of it to optimize our bottom-line, no matter what field we find ourselves working within.
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