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Bees at work (XXIII). Workplace as a school. The new learning organization (Part B)

Yesterday we closed our publication with the promise to return to explain the material that will help us to understand the interesting facts about looking at the workplace like a school. As we cited yesterday, please print the 10 slides “Bees at work episode 22: The workplace as a school”, and keep them next to your screen. Are you ready?  Here we go.

Let´s start with the bees.  We have revealed the unique approach of the bee’s life when working. The bees do have a workplace model: the school learning organization that is put to the test when the most advanced and knowledgeable bees (the scouting ones) look for a new location for the next hive. Bees live from inside out. They do not go out for foraging activities, patroling, or scouting the next hive location unless they have passed all the initial phases of learning inside the hive. This approach of working also applies to many other animal species, who usually stay with their mothers, learning for several years until they are ready to mate and reproduce.

Of course, each species has its unique context and territorial issues, which are being aggravated because of climate change phenomena and the urbanization of humans who have taken their land, little by little.

Now let´s give a step forward. Leave the animals and let´s pass to observe the human milieu and our circumstances. Immediately you will grasp that human workplaces are so diverse. Humans´ workplace is not the same in developed countries in comparison to developing nations. At the same time, if we choose the low-income countries segment of nations, the workplace is different in countries that have been devastated by wars and civil conflicts such as Afghanistan or Syria in contrast to those low-income economies living in peace but suffering from geophysical events as earthquakes (Haiti). Being said, our workplaces vary enormously, because each nation has a series of different contexts which are not comparable in between.

The contextual factors of the country in which we work do influence the workplace. Why? Because each country is unique, the people who are educated within the frontiers of each homeland receive a specific type of training available in that specific land. Particularly in low-income economies, the majority of those who study and get trained internationally can´t remain in their countries of origin, and those who stay, are unable to have a critical mass impact on the workforce. So, each country has an educational and working particular ecosystem in which each individual is influenced by what has existed before our current times, and in a complex contexts network, starting in the family, then the neighborhood, going broadly to the institutional, regulatory, legal, economic, religious, social, political, and cultural contexts. The industry and the economic sector in which a company function is another contextual factor that can influence the workplace.   All these factors are considered at a general largescale macro level.

Then at the particular micro level, once we fragment the companies per each industry/economic sector; we can perceive that each enterprise has its structural characteristics (size, type, age, business owners culture, market conditions, decision-making corporate strategies, social norms, etc). So each workplace is unique and different when we come down into each business firm, regardless of the type of jobs that we perform. If we continue analyzing the individual in each corporation, it is also a danger to treat each employee as equal when it comes to learning, because each of us has a unique response to training, and each of us answers in our own way.

In summary, the macro contextual factors and the micro contextual aspects for each enterprise influence the workplace, and how the workplace can perform as a school.

What is the philosophy of the workplace as a school? As usual, Eleonora Escalante Strategy has a development-oriented oversight, which entails development reflection learning. We do it to help you to be prepared to gather information, analyze, deliberate, and discern upon what we do and why we do it (See slide number 6).

Strategic innovation in the workplace

So our philosophy of looking at the workplace like a school is a shift of paradigm, but not because of the NAIQIS Giga era. It is a shift of paradigm in another sense: From the working philosophy of producing goods and services for increasing shareholder value to a working philosophy of helping people to find integral lifetime learning opportunities for attaining happiness. We have inquired about the nature of the workplace in a different new set-up. We wish to leave the “shareholder value” premise in which people are seen as another resource to manufacture or create something (tangible or intangible). We truly want to glimpse the workplace as the dwelling in which people grow as individuals, not just in their job duties, but also to find lifetime occasions to learn continuously, to reach contentment in their activities, knowing that what they do through learning at the job, is also going to impact positively their whole well-being inside and outside their work responsibilities.

What is a school? According to the American Heritage College Dictionary, a “school is an institution for instruction associated with children, teenagers, university degrees, or vocational education and training”. Nevertheless, a school is not only restricted to these institutions.

For Eleonora Escalante Strategy (see slide number 7) a school is a lifetime process of being educated in three multidimensional directions. The first one is the formal training, that occurs inside a classroom, guided by teachers, with a structured program, that once is finished, typically leads to a diploma or certification. The second direction is semi-formal, work-based, and it is usually identified as on-the-go training that each boss or manager concedes within a participatory workforce. The third direction is informal training, which is non-structured; and it could occur at work, home, travels, friendship interactions, etc. This is the non-certified training that we can access online, through virtual tutors, blogs, or youtube videos.

So schooling is not only the one that we get at the formal schools, but it contemplates the three simultaneous directions: formal, semiformal, and informal.  Learning doesn´t end once we finish our high-school or vocational educational training programs. Schooling in the workplace is to see our working offices or bureaus as if we will go to school to learn, to discover new things, to do DBR (Design-based research), even in the most basic positions.

The workplace as a learning place.

Who participates in the workplace as a school? Dwell slide number 9. The participants of the workplace as a school are interrelated and integrated, weaved in different layers of training. We mention the managers, the employees (peers, subordinators, or the workforce of other business units), the educators or instructors, external stakeholders such as clients, suppliers, distributors, and any outsourced company hired in the company value chain. The workplace as a school also includes each family of the member of staff and the social interactions that each employee has outside the job (these interactions include the foreign people that we talk or share with about our jobs to whom we connect using e-tools).

The view of the workplace as a school is integrative and expansive (slide number 8).

How to ignite a workplace like a school? Building a learning enterprise is not easy. Why? Because the majority of business owners don´t look at their workplaces as a place for learning, but as a place for producing, for manufacturing, for creating and making things or services which are then sold.  These are the CEOs that are expecting universities to build what they need as “ready from the oven” employees´ practical capabilities, skills, and know-how; when in reality is the workplace that has to do it. The university provides the theories and some practical guidance, but not tailor-made for the corporations. The role of the university is to help students to think, to reflect, to cultivate them in such a way that students can find their true vocation in life. The role of superior education is to enable and allow students with all the substantial theoretical background, so these can innovate, create, diversify in their disciplines; and in exchange make a living with their talents and mastery.

If business owners, CEOs, and the Board of Directors do not ignite the commitment for making the workplace a school, in the absence of learning new things, people are seen as machines or robots, not as people. That is why we have said that anyone who mistreats employees as slaves, is usually keen on authoritarian/despotic leadership: giving orders, requesting performance and results, delivering a paycheck at the end of the month. A workforce that doesn´t live as a learning organization or school, is simply getting the work done but is not growing, and people are miserable. Day by day, it is a stressful routine that provokes ordeal and agony inside the heart of each employee. When organizations don´t consider the well-being of their workforce, it is very hard to see the workplace like a school.

If we wish to ignite the spirit of the learning school as a workplace, we first need to change the Board of Directors’ mission of the firm, then the managers’ and bosses’ mentality. It requires that they see themselves as professors, as teachers, as educators, from the inside out.

The main design of a workplace as a school: As a student in a formal classroom, no more than 6.5 working hours a day (130 hours per month)... We will unfold this model once we will release the elements of the new state-of-the-art working paradigm, which is our penultimate chapter.

We will stop here. Our next subject will be “Skills of the halted workforce and consequences of losing them”. This topic is in the context of a remote performance, experienced by many during the pandemic of COVID-19. In addition, we will explore what will happen to the workforce in the middle of a forced wave of technology innovation, led by artificial intelligence, data analytics, and machine learning.

Let´s continue with our musical touch for today.

Why did we pick Il Divo songs in our last publication? By the year 2004, I got to know Il Divo´s songs which were a blend of mixing opera and pop songs of particular genres. The group took over the empty “vide” space in opera taste for our generation X and some millennials. With 160 certified gold and platinum hits in 35 countries, the group will probably need reinvention and reconstruction after one of its members passed away recently. It is hard to lose a key team player, but we expect the remaking of Il-Divo in such a way that they can prolong the desire for opera in teenagers and younger adults.

The songs for today belong to Celine Dion. The first song sung with Peabo Bryson is “Beauty and the Beast”. The second is “Because you loved me”, and the third one is “My heart will go on”.

See you next Friday, blessings, and thank you for reading to me.

See you next Friday.

Sources of reference used for this publication


Disclaimer: Illustrations in Watercolor are painted by Eleonora Escalante. Other types of illustrations or videos (which are not mine) are used for educational purposes ONLY. Nevertheless, most of the pictures, images, or videos shown on this blog are not mine. I do not own any of the lovely photos or images posted unless otherwise stated.

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