“We are moving toward a Google-fueled, Wikipedia-based collapse of any division between professionals and laypeople.” - wrote Tom Nichols, a professor at the U.S. Naval War College and at the Harvard Extension School, in his article "How America Lost Faith in Expertise". What he talks about is public distrust towards experts in America: lawyers, doctors and scientists. What is interesting to me is that he is not alone. I see this pattern across different domains, industries and geographies.
People confuse information with knowledge. Knowledge entails understanding. Information doesn't. According to a famous blogger Mark Manson, the trigger to confusion was the Internet. He writes that being given the access to the vast amount of information people don't necessarily start looking for the truth, but rather indulge in answers that are pleasant but untrue. Confirmation bias led us to exploring only the things we believe in and emergence of echo chambers. An echo chamber is a metaphorical description of a situation in which information, ideas, or beliefs are amplified or reinforced by communication and repetition inside a defined system. People who are anti-Trump read anti-Trump media, people who are pro-Trump read pro-Trump media: thanks to Internet now everyone has a choice!
Youtube how-to videos and wikiHow have a darker side: they make people blindly trust everything they read on the Internet without seeing the difference between articles on "How to tie your shoes" and "How to treat cancer". Saying that everyone is a media is true, what some people are missing while getting excited about it is that it is also dangerous. The power of the crowd can be effective, but it can also be destructive.
In his book "Trust Me, I'm Lying: Confessions Of A Media Manipulator" Ryan Holiday writes how bloggers are the dominant driver of the news nowadays. He explains how he, as a media manipulator "trades up the chain". First he is fishing the story to bloggers. They pick it up instantly because they don't do any fact checks. The story spreads because it evokes the emotion: of fear, anger or excitement. Doesn't matter if it's true: it's published, so it becomes true. Ryan says that blogs are already the third, lower stage of the evolution of media, which came after yellow papers and journalism.
In it's own time, Adolph S. Ochs, former owner of the New York Times brought about the revolution. “He understood that people bought the yellow papers because they were cheap—and they didn’t have any other options. He felt that if they had a choice, they’d pick something better. He intended to be that option. First, he would match his competitors’ prices, and then he would deliver a paper that far surpassed the value implied by the low price.” He established the standards of journalism.
So, why the value of education?
Because I see patterns that strike me. Let me share those insights.
“The coaching industry will remain fragmented until a few partnerships build a brand, collect stellar people, weed out those who are not so good, and create a reputation for outstanding work. Some coaching groups are evolving in this direction, but most are still boutique firms specialising in, for example, administering and interpreting 360-degree evaluations. To get beyond this level, the industry badly needs a leader who can define the profession and create a serious firm in the way that Marvin Bower did when he invented the modern professional management consultancy in the form of McKinsey & Company.” - writes famous executive coach Ram Charan.
Training and coaching industries are also flooded with information. And they also lack knowledge. They lack the clear industrial standards. For the past century the main training sourcing tool has remained to be references. A friend recommends to a friend. Or we hire someone who is famous. And while that works to a degree, it's not meritocracy, it's populism. Populism is the wisdom of the crowd, not the experts. While the wisdom of the crowd works to such a extent, can we entrust the knowledge management of our organisations to the crowd? In the world, where the number one predictor of success is knowledge management?
The key to the value of education
“Coaches can be very lax in evaluating the impact of their work and communicating results to executives and stakeholders. While 70% of coaches surveyed said they provide qualitative assessment of progress, fewer than one-third ever give feedback in the form of quantitative data on behaviours, and less than one-fourth provide any kind of quantitative data on business outcomes of the coaching engagement. Even this may represent a somewhat optimistic picture, given that this data comes from the coaches themselves.” - says David B. Peterson, a senior vice president at Personnel Decisions International in Minneapolis.
What is the value of education? As a CEO I can tell you my perspective, which is probably aligned with the perspective of many executives around the globe: bottom line still matters. Yes, education can be a long-term investment, but the Return on Investment (ROI) should be clear. Coaching is a time-intensive and expensive engagement, and organisations that hire coaches should insist on getting regular and formal progress reviews, even if they are only qualitative. The value of corporate education is in helping organizations achieve their goals.
While with the emergence of Internet the public's trust in experts and media has declined, it seems to me that the public's trust in education has never really been there. Except of the glimpses of purposeful governmental innovation and education strategies. While we say that the value of education is intangible, when facing the choice we all question it. Why? Because it's abstract and because it's long-term oriented.
According to Harvard Business Review's research, less than 25% of coaches measure the results of their work. I have a strong belief that in modern world value comes from measurement. If we truly value education, we ought to measure it. As only the things that are measured are incentivised. Bringing back the value of corporate education is my dream. The future of education is what I work on, day in and day out with Panda Training.
Want to exchange the thoughts on the topic? Don't hesitate to get in touch.