The Promise of Fast Education
In a marketplace where information and connectivity are ubiquitous, a company’s number-one competitive advantage is ideas and the capability to act on them quickly. But while speed is critical, it is also important to take a minute and reflect on how education can add value in this environment.
My hope for education is not a desire for more information but the opportunity to engage more fully in life and work. At its best, the Internet enables us to have fast access to articles, cases, and commentaries. But it can do more. It can engage the community in conversation, connect diverse sectors of large and small enterprises, bring together those with big names and those with big hearts and showcase the beauty of ideas and personal courage in action.
One of the most difficult things students face when they enter the world of work is the need to make decisions quickly in the face of enormous complexity. Frequently, managers must now operate in arenas where they have little guidance, but where their decisions will have a significant impact. Particularly in the new economy, where alliances are pervasive and rules are poorly defined, reputation and trust are essential. Whether students are ready or not, increasingly they will have to make the rules as they move along. Education must prepare students to do so in a manner informed by facts, supported by rigorous thinking, enriched by diverse perspectives, and grounded in principles.
I am also concerned that, through specialization, education may lead us not to the exploration of new horizons but to feeling comfortable within our habitual domains. We risk bringing the same solutions to all problems. Similarly, our culture conditions the way we think, the interpretations we make, and the judgments we form. We consciously need to seek ways to broaden our sense of possibilities, to imagine different approaches to problems, and to raise our penchant for knowing that which we don’t yet know.
I hope that education will also expand our sense of community. There is no question that the lexicon of business is replete with terms describing the groupings of two and more: alliances, coalitions, ensembles, open systems, partnerships, networks, teams, value-added communities. Our economy (old or new) works because of the invisible hand and the invisible handshake. The former is the subject of the core MBA curriculum; the latter remains rather elusive. We need to find a way to build learning communities that are collaborative, curious, passionate, authentic, and affirming.
With knowledge as our most valued asset and the barriers to knowledge falling away, we need to have the courage and imagination to explore all of our options. The most valuable gift of the merger of education and the digital world is that it allows us to dream bigger dreams. Bigger dreams should be part of the mission of fast education.
Carolyn Woo assumed the deanship of the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame in August 1997. From 1995 to 1997, she served as associate executive vice president of academic affairs at Purdue University and, before that, as director of the professional master’s programs in the Krannert School of Management at Purdue University.
In 1998, Woo was chosen as one of 40 Young Leaders of the Academy by Change magazine, a publication of the American Association for Higher Education. In addition, she has consulted for both large and small corporations, and has taught extensively in executive-education programs. She currently serves on the Board’s of three Fortune 500 companies.
At Notre Dame, Woo is developing a game plan for major faculty and curriculum initiatives upon the receipt of a $35 million gift from Tom and Kathy Mendoza of Net Apps (Network Applications). She is also considering a major revision of the school’s not-for-profit management Master’s program. In her efforts to balance work and life, she is striving to reform her life so that she can attend the majority of her sons’ school events and can master the Chopin waltzes.
- The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization
By Thomas L. Friedman
- Synchronicity: The Inner Path of Leadership
By Joseph Jaworski with an introduction by Peter Senge
- Galileo’s Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love
By Dava Sobel