Recently, I came to appreciate that the very many things I have been able to do and the very many things I am yet to do, are not necessarily because of the academic degrees and other academic qualifications I have accumulated in the fairly short time I have been in the field.
I am not saying this because I don’t respect our education system (much as it has its own challenges), but to stress a rather more important reality that many of us have not paid keen attention to.
In my line of duty, I meet many people. I have until recently, always felt excited to meet some of the big names, and like any other young person, a “selfie” would be a great achievement.
However, I recently changed my approach. When I meet these big names; I endeavour to engage them on some of the ideas I have. I ask them what they think and I get great advice and guidance free of charge. This is what I think makes someone better. The ability to process information from other people who may be better than us in terms of exposure and experience and use it to better oneself and others.
To keep pace with change and avoid disruption, business and community leaders must become infinite learners, those who not only enjoy learning but feel a constant need to acquire new skills.
The leaders and game changers we meet in the corridors of power and on business negotiation tables around the world are distinguished by the speed at which they seize opportunity to learn a new skill or appreciate a new reality. These learners are different from those who become terrified when they suddenly realise the need to learn something new.
The chief executives making headlines and those shaping our society did not obtain much of their competence from the formal classes. If we believe that these individuals are the movers and shakers of this generation, then we must focus on how they get to this level.
Some corporations headed by some of these First Class degree graduates, struggle to keep pace where a company’s environment is constantly changing. These formal education courses do not provide the tools needed to adapt.
I have on several occasions personally interacted with dozens of successful entrepreneurs and chief executives, but none has told me that his formal education played a vital role in their success.
I agree with people who say your network is your net-worth, and I think in this changing world, biting economy, highly polarised society, having the right connections is by far the biggest asset you need in life and business.
I know it is usually easier to build a connection network if you are employed by a well-known institution, have a broad existing network, or have something that will easily persuade people to respond to your request.
It is also high time we appreciated that society is full of people who can inspire greatness or even offer a hand. You can land on a great business deal through a gatekeeper, sweeper, one of the low ranking officers at your company.
It does not have to be these famous business leaders and entrepreneurs we see everyday during the evening news casts, but it may be your colleague who jumped into entrepreneurship two years earlier than you did. Such a person definitely has some valuable insights they will share with you and you will find them helpful.
In this information and networked age, every day is exam day, full of new, unpredictable challenges. The best way to learn how to meet them is to talk to people who have faced similar situations. All you need to do is ask and listen, share what you think and get people to criticise your ideas and give you better views, and you will use these to build a better you, a better career, and better business and in the end, we shall build a better society.
Don’t fear to engage those in big businesses because you think they may not have information for small business. They did small business before they advanced to big business.
The writer is a business consultant, author and speaker at HTB Holdings.