Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Training and Education

Combine Training Programs with your Education Programs
When I was studying for my NLP Practitioners Certification, I heard an amusing story about the two co-founders of NLP. While they participating in the educational experience at a university in California, word got out that they were also teaching other people how to perform some of the early NLP patterns.

The dean eventually got wind of the dealings, pulled them aside and said:

"We understand that you’ve been teaching people how to do things. Is this true?"

There was no way to hide what they were doing, so they said yes.

The dean then asked them to stop their activities. Perplexed, the two co-founders asked why, to which the dean replied, "…this is an institution where people learn about things, not how to do things."

I don't know if the story is true, but it does underscore a fundamental difference between education and training. Education has traditionally been concerned with assimilating knowledge about the world around us and about ourselves. Training has typically been focused on doing stuff, developing skills and acting on knowledge. Not that one is more important than the other, but society tends to place more of an emphasis on education and downplays training. Both, however, are essential to the learning process.

When I was starting my career and got my first design job, my manager, Rick, told me that there should have been a school to teach young engineers about engineering after they graduated from college. There were many things I didn't learn in school. Some things, however, were essential to being an effective engineer. Things like how to work with a vendor and select a part after the technical specifications were met. Or how to gather information from sales people to select a second source for a part. Or how to work with a difficult CAD designer who is laying the routes for the board you just designed.

We typically learn these kinds of activities by a process called "on the job training". There is no established, formal process for learning these activities like there is for learning physics or mathematics. They don’t correlate directly to gaining knowledge about systems design, creating algorithms or analyzing chemical compositions. Nor do they directly affect a student’s ability to get a degree, so they aren’t emphasized in school. They are, however, essential to operating in the real world.

Just recently, I was reminded of this yet again during a seminar conducted by Lance Tyson. In the Dale Carnegie "Are You Promotable" seminar, he reminded the audience that knowledge by itself is not power. However, in the hands of someone who is willing to act on it, knowledge can indeed be powerful.

Knowledge without action is only potential.

Action without knowledge is unfocused and ineffective.

Action based on knowledge, however, can make a major impact in the life of the individual who is willing to take the risk and move on this combination.

As you move forward in your professional life, ask yourself these questions to maintain perspective:

"Now that I have this knowledge, what can I do with it?"

"How can I use the knowledge that I have?"

"What outcome do I want to have happen?"

"How will having this knowledge help me get what I want?"

Remember that we are only as powerful as the knowledge we are willing to act on. Taking effective action requires a strong skill set. Developing a strong skill set takes effective training and lots of practice. So get some training, take action on your knowledge, and you’ll make an impact on the world around you.

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