Bite Size Thoughts
Maps guide us to our destination, so why not use them to guide our students?
The Case of Holistic Process Diagrams (HPD) or “Flowcharts”' in professional training
Bite Size thoughts by Dr. Constantine “Dino” Kiritsis
We have all been educated in different ways, on different topics and by different people. We would probably all agree that we have our favorite educators. Someone who made the difference in a classroom (or a webinar/on-line course) for a specific reason such as being motivational, inspirational, simple, open, knowledgeable, personal or any other reason.
The importance of the trainer & the methodology;
In professional training especially, HR practitioners, Training & Development experts and professionals being trained around the world would also – in most cases - agree that the trainer makes the difference. It is not the material usually or the setting. It is the trainer; and trainers also need tools. Methods to make the training more interesting, valuable, user-friendly and worth the time spent, especially in a fast paced world. As I have stated in another bitesize thought®of mine, a great curriculum cannot survive a bad trainer but a great trainer can make a bad curriculum look good.Within this framework, if the learning methodology or the instructional design is useful and innovative, and the trainer is above average, the result can be either good or great. Therefore, educators can boost their delivery if they can find their own competitive advantage; their own niche. They need to stand out and standing out does not imply just “good or great slides”; or “lots of slides”. There may not be “any slides” at all. Standing out may mean facilitating more and delivering less. It may also mean group work in class, a competition, pre-course work or innovative techniques and gamification of your training. This point becomes more important in the era of excess free knowledge on the internet. Remember, we need to synthesize more and become agile when we become professionals, not just ‘learn’ something given that we can find anything we want online through an e-book, an article, or a video.
Innovating in education
Despite the amazing resources available, we are still not seeing anything really different (with minor exceptions) and there seem to be a number of failed approaches. Learning Management Systems in corporate settings have not been able to make a difference and the statistics concerning completion of on-line training programmes as well as effectiveness have been extremely challenging. I honestly feel that there is room for tremendous development in professional training in every area. My personal innovation came somewhat by chance about 15 years ago with the development of my first ‘flowchart’in class. I did not think about making a flowchart, it just happened in class in one of my strategic planning sessions. I wanted to show the process of strategic thinking and I started making arrows on how students can probably think in a linear way and every session from then on I continued to reinforce my class flowchart developing it more and more until I felt that it was ‘good enough’ for showing around. I always used to draw it on the white board before classes to have it ready and aformer partner of mine always used to ask me “why do you always draw on the whiteboard before classes? Is it always needed?”Well, it was, as it became an extremely effective tool for professionals to understand the ‘whole’ picture around strategy and strategic planning and where we were in the sequence. The flowcharting idea became more extensive covering more areas and was fine-tuned as time went by and a whole class/topic would eventually have its own flowchart demonstrating a more ‘holistic’ approach and covering all areas of the curriculum taught in a more ‘process – diagram’ manner. Holistic, in essence relates to the ‘whole’, not just its parts. It became somewhat clear to me that professionals always liked going back to the wider picture; they always liked to see where the ‘are’ in a sequence, especially when it came to business training and also understand which other areas a certain activity affected or was dependent on. Project Managers used to do this all the time, but why not incorporate such techniques into training? Not just one process area, but the whole area…
One of my flowcharts eventually became a whole programme called “Mini MBA” addressed to business professionals. When the consulting firm PwC had a look at it, they were interested to make it a PwC Academy product. The Mini MBA is based on the flowchart methodology helping trainees understand the interrelationships and links among business theories and models. It is currently delivered by PwC Academies globally (since 2010) with great success. The programme’s flowchart provides a ‘holistic’ approach for business acumen. It helps with business planning and helps candidates on their thinking process as they can always refer to it and see the relevant areas while understanding their role in their organization. Imagine a google map of an area where you can see all the streets and landmarks where you can zoom in and out of. Above all, it provides a one page pictureof what goes on in a business and assists in grouping business models that could be useful when evaluating certain areas.
More flowcharts were developed on specific exam papers for ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, UK) and CIMA (Chartered Institute for Management Accounting) such as Governance (since 2007) and Business Analysis (since 2007, but I had already been using a different version since 1999 & 2004), for SHRM’s (Society for Human Resource Management) designation, corporate accounts on Ethics, Strategy, Business Growth, Compliance, Internal Audit. Eventually, a a number of invitations to conferences to talk about innovation in education, around the world were received. The ACCA itself became interested in working with me on the development of a new flowchart for its new exam, Strategic Business Leader (SBL) and the feedback on this has been overwhelming. A new interactive version is expected soon and I am extremely happy for its success. My ‘hunch’ was right. If innovation is defined as ideas being implemented and commercialized, I guess I can – humbly- call myself an innovator…
Trainers can be assisted by preparing a process diagram or a flowchart (Holistic Process Diagram or HPD) for their class/webinar as it provides a number of important benefits to the trainees. It may seem like a simple tool, but who said simplicity does not add value? Map your thoughts, try to present how theories and business issues are linked. Maps guide us to our destination, so why not use them to guide our students?
Are we abusing our customer power?
Why and how customers are becoming spoiled.
Bite Size Management Thoughts by Dr. Constantine Kiritsis
(with Dr. Antony Michail)
Almost every successful organization is focusing more on what they call “customer centricity”, or “customer experience”. In essence, organizations are putting the customer at the center of everything they do. We all have heard of the classic quote “the customer is always right”. It’s great to put the customer at the center of everything. After all, they are the people who pay, so we need to respect and appreciate that. Today's customers read 6 - 12 reviews prior to deciding whether or not to buy a product or service online (or ask friends and family to get a second opinion). However, it may be that customers are getting a bit spoiled, as they are ‘aware’ of this exceptional focus, the awards that companies try to receive by independent organizations, the increased transparency on social media, the ‘haters’ online and in some cases they may take advantage of it. This new era of openness and transparency have the companies on guard and they need to protect themselves. A bad review online may create negative reputation while a video posted online of an unfortunate incident (like for example the famous United Airways video) can not only damage reputation but also affect the stock price(!).
As customers, we have the most power we ever had historically. We need to use it the best way always taking into consideration how our acts and comments might damage the organizations we purchase from. As the ancient philosopher, Plato argued, “pan metron ariston’ which means “all in good measure”. Let's make sure we use our tremendous power ethically and logically. Having power does not mean abusing it. It means that we can also help the organizations we like to get better. Marketing professionals know that Marketing has changed in the sense that it has become a ‘service’ to customers. Constructive criticism and feedback are good and must be praised and dealt with.
Finally, customers must also be aware of the importance of a negative review vs. cyberbullying. The former is about reporting a bad experience. In this case, customers seek to inform others and receive a response from that company. The latter is about attacking a business in an abusive or blatantly false manner (which you may be prosecuted for). Therefore, next time we feel we need to make a negative comment...let's do with the purpose of helping companies and customers alike!
Why and How Universities are using Professional Associations and Professional Qualifications to “sell” their degrees in business related disciplines.
Why Universities need to get their act together…soon
Bite size thoughts by Dr. Constantine “Dino” Kiritsis
In 2002, I had made a prediction relating to the value of professional qualifications. I noted that there will be a day when Universities would actually advertise their courses by stating that they ‘base’ their curriculums and programmes on the body of knowledge of professional associations and institutes.
There are Universities that offer Finance degrees at Bachelors or Masters level stating that they ‘prepare candidates for the CFA – Chartered Financial Analyst designation” or “our course is based on the SHRM – Society for Human Resource Management competency model”. Other Universities have actually partnered with associations like the ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) or the ICAEW (Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales). The trend was becoming evident as was the value. At this point, many Universities – mainly in the business area - are actually ‘selling” their programmes by stating that they will help the candidates achieve their ultimate goal, which is not just to get a degree, but to get professionally certified. The examples are numerous. Not only that, parents who are in the business world are actually coaching their children and asking advice from educational counselors on what programme they should enroll to eventually either receive exemptions from a professional qualification or the best preparation to opt for a qualification that would enhance chances of employment.
The education industry is changing and there are new players in the market. Corporations have – in the past 15 years – started to take on the responsibility to train their people AND their markets by creating so-called Academies, or Universities. As the former Head of PwC’s Academy in Greece and an acting advisor and curriculum expert for PwC in Serbia and the Middle East for close to a decade, I can come up with numerous examples and reasons why a corporation would take the responsibility to educate but also invest a considerable amount of money in doing so: Quality control, practical approach, cherry picking, motivation of employees, knowledge management, cross-selling and many more.
In the past 15 years, the distance between the University and the Corporation has grown and Universities are having a tough time keeping up with the fast pace of the markets. This is a global reality. If a certain change is announced by the European Central Bank, corporations attack it the next day. Universities take time to assess and evaluate and then decide on how to handle, maybe embed it into a curriculum, write a book or an article. Time is money and corporations cant wait. They (corporations) need to comply with the new regulation, assess and interpret a new IFRS, a new accounting treatment on leases, a new tax law, a new business model applicable in the digital world, and have cases to showcase with their clients. The market forces them to move fast and to respond. Of course, to be fair, the role of the University is to provide the basis, the foundations required for students to be able to conduct analysis etc.; however, even in this case, their focus is purely based on ‘knowledge’ (in many cases with outdated material) when the problem is ‘evaluation’, ‘synthesis’ and application (I have written about the topic in previous posts).
Don’t get me wrong. This reality does not apply to all Universities as I am sure there are some stars out there. Universities need to get their act together and start thinking of real change as they may be risking their existence soon ad face competition from accelerators, intermediaries, corporate Universities and Academies…
Critical vs Important: Are you focusing on what matters or what you think matters?
Why it is crucial to ensure you succeed in what’s critical for your business, not just important…
Bite Size thoughts by Dr. Constantine “Dino” Kiritsis, Founder, StudySmart
Arguably, every business has a small number (usually 3 – 4) of critical elements that it has to do well in, order to succeed. I do not mean ‘important’. I mean cri-ti-cal. Critical Success Factors may therefore be defined as those elements that a company must do well in order to succeed. The question is whether businesses are doing well in these areas and if they know what is critical. From my experience, it seems that SME’s (Small and Medium sized Enterprises) may have a problem in this area. For example, a coffee shop – arguably – or a restaurant, would need to focus on 3 – 4 CRITICAL elements to succeed such as hygiene (being clean), customer service and quality (among other) of food, coffee or whatever you are offering. Ok, quality is something subjective; but customer service and cleanliness are not.
When you think of the restaurants and the coffee shops you have visited, you would most probably agree that many of them have a filthy toilet or their customer service was bad. Come on, let’s be honest. Do you need a training course to actually realize how critical these things are in the industry you are in? You can get away with ‘bad lighting’ or less ‘parking space’, but you can’t get away with bad customer service. The critical elements always need to be measured through Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s), since ‘what is measured can be managed’ as the great Management guru Peter Drucker used to say.
Undoubtedly, there is a huge difference between important and critical. Critical is a must. Important is good to have and will certainly help your business overall. Let’s take another example from the professional training industry. What’s critical? The trainers and the passing rates in case candidates are taking an exam. What is important? The training room, the catering and the manuals (among other). It goes without saying that the trainer is more important than the catering. However, many owners of small training businesses fail to focus on what is CRITICAL for their business. They may actually focus on what they FEEL is critical, which actually may be important. What they feel as ‘critical’ may be a great training room, renting the best hotel and having great coffee or great slides or gaining a ‘certificate’ at the end. All are useful, but the critical issue is the delivery of knowledge, development of skill, understanding a theory and building soft skills with others, so it may be a good idea to work with the best educators and stop negotiating for less and less trainer fees as you are actually hurting your business.
The balanced scorecard by Kaplan and Norton (1991) was actually developed for this reason. The authors of the model suggest that when evaluating the performance of an organization, the critical areas for success for any business may source from 4 areas: Financial, Quality, People and Customer. Therefore, there is no need to look hard for them and quantify them in order to measure their performance. The point is to find them, check if you have capabilities in this area, ensure that you measure your business against your own (or industry) standards, and you have nothing to be afraid about. Lets start focusing on what really matters, so ask yourself: Are you focusing on important or critical things? There is a big difference…
If we agree that being a politician is a profession and requires a certain skillset, it may be a good idea to get politicians certified…
I had a great discussion with a great professional and a former student of mine in Belgrade, Aleksandar Molosavljevic, who should receive the credit for this bite size thought, as he stimulated me to take the certification issue slightly further. In essence, I was trying to explain why educators and trainers require a certification and continuing professional development and the fact that numerous countries globally had not been able to tackle the problem effectively (some have better than others). In a number of previous articles of mine I have stressed this fact. Aleksandar then raised the argument that politicians should also be competent to represent citizens and therefore, in a certain way need to have certain skills and abilities. I tend to agree with this assumption.
If one checks the definition of a politician, it may be defined as a person engaged in party politics as a profession; or a person experienced in the art or science of government; or, one actively engaged in conducting the business of a government. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 2017). Mattozzi and Merlo (2007), argue that there are two main career paths which are typically followed by politicians in modern democracies. First come the career politicians. They are politicians who work in the political sector until retirement. Second are the "political careerists". These are politicians who gain reputation for expertise in controlling certain bureaucracies, then leave politics for a well-paid career in the private sector making use of their political contacts (National Bureau of Economic Research - Working paper, 02/2007).
Politicians need to understand governance as a framework, the specifics of how governmental institutions operate, the basics of compliance, what representation implies, public finance, have basic communication skills, understand conflict of interest, realize their role within a wider supranational institutional framework, preferably a second language capability, ethics and other knowledge and skill areas. Doesn’t this sound logical?
As we become “parents” when our child is born (it’s automatic!), we become educators if we have a degree (in most cases), the same way we may become politicians if we get elected. The question that was raised between Aleksandar and myself was whether there should be a set of competencies and skills for politicians that could guarantee some sort of basic educational standard for them. Ok, there are a few degrees that ‘count’ for being certified. For example, studying politics, or law, or sociology can most probably make one clear the ‘bar’. The question is how many members of parliament have such degrees? The point I am making is NOT to rule out anyone who does not have a relevant degree, but to actually make sure that those without a relevant degree HAVE the minimum requirements to represent us fairly, ethically and rightly by having the necessary skillset. Many countries around the world by the way do not ask for a degree or qualification as a requirement to become an elected member of parliament. If we value education, I feel our politicians should be educated. I would feel somewhat safer wouldn’t you?
Some basic research reveals that there have been discussions to create a designation certifying politicians. As Thomas Stanley (2012) states, there are two areas that are crucial for politicians to be competent in: First, they should be required to complete successfully courses in basic business finance and accounting as well as public finance. They should also be required to complete courses in basic mathematical statistics, probability theory and sampling methods.
I feel that being an elected member of any state brings accountability, responsibility, transparency and – above all – integrity in dealings. If a managerial job at entry level for a company has – as a requirement – a degree (or any sort of qualification), shouldn’t our parliament members be required to get qualified?
Entrepreneurship without true personal risk is not entrepreneurship
Are you focusing on funding or the idea? Why the culture of start-ups globally is sending the wrong message.
Bite Size thoughts by Dr. Constantine “Dino” Kiritsis, Founder StudySmart
Everyone around the world is talking about entrepreneurship and Start ups. Everywhere I travel to, there is a conference, an event, funding opportunities and great hype. I have participated as a speaker and panelist in many of these in a number of countries. However, it seems that we have too many activities and events, but not any real entrepreneurs. Most “startupers” are thinking about the funding and a start without really investing in their own idea (and with their own funds). There are great stories from the “valley” where someone made loads of cash really fast and prospective “startupers” are losing focus. I have the impression that most aspiring entrepreneurs are trying to learn on ‘how to pitch’ to a venture capital instead of actually creating some value first.
There are different types of funding and it is imperative that the funding one receives helps the idea itself and it makes it workable. OK, I do understand that to move forward in some instances funding is a critical factor. However, in most cases, especially when the concept has to do with a service, an app, young entrepreneurs need to invest more time and effort to make the idea reliable and valid. This can take time and entrepreneurs take their eyes off the ball as they focus on VC’s when they should take it to the market to check feasibility. The risk is therefore “short-term” rather than “whatever it takes”. Stats also reinforce the above point. In a recent talk by Bill Gross, funding was ‘last’ among the reasons why start – ups fail. There are more important things like team, timing and the business model that need to be mastered and actually do NOT require funding. Especially in this day and age.
Cameron Herord, an American Entrepreneur suggests that we should teach our children how to become entrepreneurs from a very young age. We should try to stimulate their thinking, try to make them be creative, find solutions and as he states “let them catch the fish…not just eat it”. I totally agree with him. It’s all about taking the risk that makes one feel that something has been accomplished. But please take the risk first, as entrepreneurs do: They take risk (as most definitions would suggest), and they do not necessarily go for the profit from day 1, and this is probably why those who do so, actually succeed. I do feel unfortunately that the whole start up ecosystem is focusing more on funding when they should be focusing on sharpening business models, attracting the right talent and testing their ideas. But there are no conferences on “sharpening your business model” or “testing ideas”…
To those who are looking for “funding” only: You need to produce something first and invest YOURSELF. You will have more chances if you invest your own cash. You need to feel that pressure. It’s part of the learning process when you take risks. Entrepreneurs take risks, not with other people’s money, but also investing some of their own, in whatever shape and form…
What we actually need to succeed in the world can be taught by our mothers
Why we need to apply our BA in Employability we received at “Mothers University” (MU)
Bite Size thoughts by Dr. Constantine “Dino” Kiritsis, Founder, StudySmart
In one of my earlier articles in 2016 I had noted that degrees or qualifications can land us our first job, or ‘a’ job, but competencies make us stay. Most businesses appraise us on capabilities that are ‘softer’ rather than ‘harder’, for example, how well do we communicate? How well do we listen? How “open” are we? How “social”? Can we work well with others? Do we have good manners? Do we appreciate others? Can we inspire others? Are we polite? I can go on and on with questions like these. I actually used to joke in class stating that I never took a course in customer service as my mother taught me to be polite, helpful and appreciate people. It’s simply common sense – which seems to be uncommon these days.
If you already related these questions & points to the title of this short article, a striking, yet common sense discovery emerges: That what we actually need to succeed in the world can partly be taught by our mothers (note: no offence to fathers around the world, it’s a joint effort – I am actually one of the them – but mothers usually spend more time with children in most families).
We therefore need to go back and remind ourselves what our mothers taught us, refresh our knowledge on these softer areas and we may actually make our world a better place and perform better in the workplace.
I came up with a mother’s curriculum which is taught from the day we are born which provides us with the ‘employability’ skills we actually need (and eventually spend so much money on through corporate budgets). If we could only make this a degree…!
Bachelor of Arts in “Employability” offered by Mother’s University (MU)
The degree is also taught in a personalized way, 1:1 approach offered in a personalized campus (sounds innovative? It’s been around for ages!)
E101: Manners & good behavior (Companies call this “Customer experience”)
E102: Be honest – say the truth (Companies call this “transparency”)
E103: Don’t hurt people, be mean, get into conflict, or be arrogant (Companies call this being ethical)
E104: Be responsible for your actions (Companies call this Accountability)
E105: Treat everyone the same (Companies call this fairness)
E106: Listen, Learn & then decide (Companies call this critical evaluation)
E107: Share (Companies call this Knowledge Transfer)
E108: Work hard to succeed and you will be rewarded (Companies call this fiduciary duty & performance related pay)
E109: Study hard (Companies call this professional competency)
E110: Create a good name for yourself (Companies call this reputation)
E111: Be yourself, try to be the best and create (Companies call this creating the benchmark and innovating)
Of course we can go on and on and on with more classic courses and add the “stream” in terms of technical capabilities.
Basically, if we apply the above – given that almost everyone has graduated from Mother’s University – I am sure the world would be a better place. Ok, maybe some of us failed and that’s a fact. But most graduated. So there’s a problem: Organizations develop a code of ethics, deliver trainings, produce manuals etc. and despite going through Mother’s University and all these corporate trainings, it seems that we still can’t get it right. Let’s face it; arrogance is evident, fairness does not exist, politics are everywhere as selfishness, cliques are formed etc.
Some advice to those who act in an unethical way: Are you teaching your children to act the same way you have? Remember it is a small world and what goes around comes around. Ask your mother. She definitely knows. She taught you years ago during one of your classes on Mother’s campus…
Practice what you preach.
Why it’s important to lead, manage and practice what you preach ethically.
Bite size management thoughts by Dr. Constantine “Dino” Kiritsis, Founder, StudySmart
Almost all corporate and business leaders I have met talk about fairness, accountability, integrity, being ethical, leading by example and a number of other values and policies that their organizations have come up with. The question is, are these leaders fair, ethical, accountable, responsible and practice what they actually tell the others? To take this argument a bit further, are those that are ‘teaching’ or ‘preaching’ something in line with what they are saying? Do they have any experience in what they are asking others to do?
I have a number of examples in which professors teach a theory they have never applied in the real world; I have a number of examples where politicians have stated one thing before elections and acted the other way after elections. I have a number of examples where leaders promised something and changed their mind. I have a number of examples where fairness was not evident in a certain promotion and numerous examples where people lied, backstabbed, had hidden agendas – at the same time – were ‘preaching’ values, consistency and integrity. Welcome to the real world…
Ask yourself if you have your own cases and if you have been a protagonist in such an example. Being ethical, consistent, fair and accountable seems not to be as easy as people think. Sometimes, these individuals get caught into the politics involved in a company, but that does not justify their behaviour. Consequentialist approaches usually favor the organization, not the individual.
Corporate governance can also help an organization to direct and lead an organization and its people through arrangements that safeguard assets and deter behaviour. Plato however states that “good people do not need laws to make them act responsibly while bad people will find a way around the laws”.
Remember it pays off in the long run to be consistent, ethical, keep your promises, apologize if you had to change your mind after promising something and to actually “do” what you preach. It is simply doing the right thing. It is simply being OK with yourself and leading by example. We need to set the tone at the top. It also helps you sleep at night and make your children responsible citizens. At least we have a responsibility to them.
Are you hiding behind the brand you work for?
Why & how corporate arrogance may be dangerous for you…
Bite size thoughts by Dr. Constantine “Dino” Kiritsis, Founder, StudySmart
The definition of arrogant in the Cambridge University Dictionary is unpleasantly proud and behaving as if you are more important than, or know more than, other people. This is an interesting definition that is quite evident in the corporate world, especially when it comes to corporate professionals being arrogant and using their company’s brand name as an extension of their own confidence. This leads to some professionals that work for powerful organizations to use their company’s brand power in an abusive way to customers and suppliers. It is assumed that powerful organizations in terms of brand value can decrease buyer power and supplier power even more, especially for example when the supplier is ‘small’ in a business sense.
Let’s take an example where you are a supplier of a service or product for company X. All of us in business transact with a number of arrogant professionals and – unfortunately – for small companies interacting with them, this can be a challenge. You know that the individual has corporate arrogance when (examples) they do not answer their emails or calls, contact you only when they need you, use abusive and unprofessional language, never say thank you and never give you the benefit of the doubt in case of a problem.
Arrogance is often an attempt by someone with low self-esteem to gain praise from others through false confidence. This confidence can source from the company’s brand, especially when you lack self esteem and respect for others. You can be arrogant when you are Jose Mourinho but its not easy when you’re not. Many of these ‘professionals’ may have a serious problem when and if they depart from such brands to start (for example) something on their own, are fired and can’t find a job or start working for a lesser brand name. This happened to a number of professionals in a number of countries struck by a financial crisis, Greece being one of these countries.
I have a way of assessing such individuals that have corporate arrogance: I ask myself, would this person being arrogant be able to do this if he/she were working for a different brand? is this person actually ‘hiding’ behind their company’s brand name? Would I actually sit down and listen to this person within a different context if the tables were reversed? Would I actually have a drink with this person? (Tony Hsieh, Zappos CEO actually uses this question in his selection process to sustain his company’s culture).
The problem is that there are many of these individuals that have benefited extensively by working for such corporations, as a great percentage of them got recruited politically (private and public sector), moved up the corporate ladder “politically”, were at the right place at the right time, had the right passport or contact and are benefiting for a long time.
Try to make sure you are professional in every sense. Respect the work of others, say thank you, be competent and represent the company you work for in a way that praises the brand. Arrogant individuals need to enjoy it while it lasts, as they are in great danger when and if they need to move into the ‘real’ world…
Dr. Constantine “Dino” Kiritsis
BA, MA, PhD, DipCG, FRSA, FIBC, HRMP, SHRM-SCP, ICA Cert.
Founder & CEO
54 Aigialeias Street, Marousi
15125, Athens, Greece
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From ‘customer service’ to ‘competitor service’?
Why your customers are actually always …competitors and there is no such thing as a customer for life…
Bite Size thoughts by Dr. Constantine Kiritsis, Founder, StudySmart
In a free market economy, customers have numerous options. There are always a few exceptions to the rule, but I think that we would all agree that 90 – 95% of the time we have numerous options in buying any service or product. This applies to almost every industry out there. If you want a phone, there is Apple and Samsung and others. If you want clothes, you can go to a mall with hundreds of options in almost every category. If you want a computer, you have 5 – 10 different companies which in turn have over 500 different models to offer. If you want training or consulting, or education, or coffee, or wine, or an events planner you have hundreds of options. Arguably, there are a few organizations that have created some sort if monopolistic competition such as Amazon, or Google or e-baby and some others. My point is that customers have options and switching costs are low, especially in the era of technology and disruption.
This is why organizations are focusing on customer service and differentiation. They are aware that their customers can easily – in most cases – move to a different provider / supplier or product without any real penalties even in the case where there is an agreement present. Breaking an agreement has become an easy task through legal clauses protecting consumers more than ever and the duration of agreements are becoming shorter thus allowing customers to manoeuver.
In such an environment, it is safe to say that your customers are not necessarily customers, but always competitors. Or at least this is the context in which they need to be seen. Let’s say you sign a contract with a client to deliver a service. You need to service this client in the best possible way from day one as you know that if there is a problem, you cannot “lock” your client in any agreement. Clients have more rights than ever, while even if you do have an agreement and the customer is dissatisfied, other prospective customers can find out as we are living in the era of transparency (i.e. social media) and this may backfire.
The point is that as customers we are spoilt in this area. Every company is trying to offer excellent customer service, or a unique customer experience while extending offers and “locking” customers by creating a ‘web’ of services like Apple is using its inter-connectivity. So if you have an apple phone, you would be interested in an ipod or a macbook as you can save everything on the cloud and stream devices etc. Service companies need to understand this strategy as well. If you are a school, maybe you can create your own “cloud” of services in such a way to ‘lock’ in clients (sports, community events, extra programmes, material, on-line etc.). Whatever the case, clients are clients only for a moment and this is how sales forces should think. Creating loyalty requires ‘locking in’ a customer not through agreements, but through the creation of true relationships and excellent customer service.
You need to feel as if you only have customers for a day as they are your ….competitors (in a certain sense). This assumption is based on the fact that you are always “competing” for them and they do affect your profitability if they switch sides. They are spoilt and they will retaliate if something goes wrong. I think we should change the term ‘customer service’ to ‘competitor service’. It may actually make organizations give more attention to loyalty, quality and the creation of relationships and even help them in finding more ‘ideas’ to create a bundle of services as a necessary prerequisite in making switching costs higher…
Why educational systems need to change…FAST!
Bite Size thoughts on challenging the existing status quo on how schools and colleges operate
Dr. Constantine “Dino” Kiritsis, Founder, StudySmart
I guess I am not the only person challenging and questioning the educational systems available globally. The more research I do, the more momentum seems to be building on this topic. Since 1999 I have been questioning the real value of the academic degree in the real world that is changing on a daily basis. A number of my articles actually focused on such issues like the one questioning the duration of the PhD in the 21stcentury based on the assumption that research and surveys can be conducted in seconds compared to the 20th century thus limiting the time required to complete the degree. Furthermore, Peter Thiel’s book “from zero to one” also questions the duration of each class session in school. Why should all classes last for an hour? Is this logical? Are all classes the same? Jeff Selingo (2016) also has questioned the duration of the bachelors degree. Why should it be 4 years? And why should it be 4 years for all degrees? This is a point that I have always raised during my educational talks around the world, also comparing the American degree with the UK degree of 3 years. “More” does not mean “better”. A chartered accountant in Greece some years ago required 30+ courses and 8 years of experience while a CPA or an ACCA could complete the training requirements in 4 parts (CPA) or 14 papers (ACCA) with 3 years of experience. We should never judge merely through quantity in such cases and blanket policies are not necessarily right. They do save time and make things easier though…
The fact is that the corporate world is moving faster than ever and changing dramatically, especially due to the automation of jobs, but schools and Universities are actually stable. Stability is not as :good” as it once was. In the era of change, we need to embrace change. Schools and Universities have not seemed to understand this.
Research studies by a number of consulting firms (i.e. McKinsey, 2014) has suggested that employers feel that graduates are not as equipped as they need to be before they land their first job. So let’s think of this: We go to schools that are organized in the industrial era, to graduate through standardized tests (i.e. in the USA) or through a system where only the last exam counts without taking into consideration previous performance , to enter college for 3 or 4 years which is – in many cases - out of date, to teach us “knowledge” (not “competencies”) to eventually graduate and enter the job market with limited or no practical experience and work in an era where automation is “killing” a great percentage of jobs that we thought would be ‘there” for us. Interesting isn’t it? Parents and college students should be aware of these issues as the system does not seem to be working if one checks stats on graduate employment globally. It takes many graduates a number of years to actually enter the job market, even with a Masters degree. How can we confront these challenges?
Change is happening fast, technology is disrupting everything and we need to be able to assess, evaluate and predict. The problem is that we are asking the wrong people. If you want to know about the job market, ask consultants and seasoned – market focused – counsellors. If you want to think about which area to study, ask the people who work in that area, not the school or college. Go and ask someone who is doing what you want to do, not the person or people who are not even working (or have worked in many cases) in that industry. Make the best out of your time at school and during college to gain competencies and skills. Internships do play an important role. Soft skills development also does. With a plethora of courses and trainings offered on-line for free, make the best out of your time in everything you do…
Personalized learning - 1:1 education & training – Is this where we are heading?
How technology can help us focus on specific areas to develop.
Dr. Constantine “Dino” Kiritsis, Founder, StudySmart
I had the chance to listen to Salman Khan in June 2016 at the SHRM conference in Washington DC. It was – as expected – an amazing experience. Sal Khan has been able to revolutionize the way we are educated and – as an educator myself – I can only praise him for his contribution to on-line education all over the world. What struck me more than anything was something he mentioned about personalized learning and how Khan Academy was able to focus in areas where students need more work. He mentioned the flaw in the existing system where all school grades move together at the same time irrespective of student grades and gaps in certain areas. So if someone has a problem in algebra but passes the course, its “ok”. If someone has a problem in geometry, it’s “ok” as he/she passed the course. All students move together as the average is acceptable but at the end of the day more and more students have gaps which are never attended to. He noted an analogy with engineering and construction where you would never build on “average” foundations as at some point the building would fall.
This addresses the problem of 1:1 learning or the personalized approach where it is imperative to ensure that educators focus on specific weaknesses of individual students rather than on the “average”. Given the fact that we can now measure specific areas for students, wouldn’t it good to start using the findings towards the benefit of our children? Are we actually measuring anything at schools? There are a number of public schools I am aware of in Europe and the Middle East that could be assisted by the use of technology in terms of measuring specific aspects of the work conducted so as to assess each student in the most focused manner. The technology exists and I feel we are moving into this direction. Measuring gaps will become more and more evident in our quest to personalize education and help students realize their full potential. We should spend more time when we are younger on filling in our specific gaps and passing a certain grade does not necessarily imply this. It seems that private schools have realized this and some have already started investing. Since 2014, some American Schools are actually using Khan Academy’s approach and teachers know where to focus when it comes to each individual student. If we use the right technology things are possible and affordable.
This has always been the case for professionals, who, based on a classic appraisal at work would have to find ways to build on their weaknesses to develop and build on their stengths. The concept and philosophy is the same and therefore has always been the case in the professional world. The difference now is that we can measure things faster and more efficiently. Are we actually using technology in the most effective manner? Are we measuring what counts when it comes to our children? Why are we so detailed in corporations and more generic in schools? Shouldn’t it be the other way around?
Why professional trainers need to improvise, take risks and get out of their comfort zone towards creating a memorable experience
Dr. Constantine “Dino” Kiritsis, Founder, StudySmart
Every training session is never the same, the audience is never the same and the experience is always unique. This “dissimilarity” is reinforced by the participant numbers, the location, the setting, the vibe, as well the mood of the participants which may be affected by social, company, personal or even political events. In essence, the ingredients are the same, but their importance and ‘correlation” in each and every training session differs. Add on an “incident” or a ‘comment’ that takes place in class and the equation becomes even more complicated, but fruitful.
Given the uniqueness of each cohort and having in mind the similarity of the topic, the trainer needs to act like a disc jockey. Disc Jockeys have their material (songs), their own identity and a plan before they start. However, if people do not respond, the music has to change. The extent of a certain style can change, the volume needs to be modified and they must think of ideas as they go on. Another analogy comes from live concerts. Great bands play classic songs in a different way ALL the time. They can extend a solo, they can extend an intro, interact in a different way with the crowd and say something unique. The songs are well known but each and every concert is a unique experience for the audience.
There are trainers, and then there are great trainers with “participant centricity” that create a great training experience and of course add value or make others “profit” from the whole experience. Let’s not forget that trainers are educators and an educators code of ethics always includes inspiration and making the delivery all about the participant and not the trainer. To do this, it is imperative to follow a script, or a plan, have a logic, a sequence and of course manage time effectively. However, these things are not always done in the same way, as the uniqueness noted earlier implies a possible different approach, spending more time on specific areas, extending a discussion further and facilitating interaction. The unique events that take place in a training session where the trainer is getting out of his/her comfort zone, taking some ‘training risks”, improvising, innovating in terms of facilitation within an overall training framework is called “trainerpreneurship”.
Trainerpreneurship is also evident in curriculum development. A new layout, a new methodology for training, a custom – made model, unique activities to support the theory, action based learning can be blended into an innovative way that can also have a great impact and offer a unique experience. A trainerpreneur is the person who takes risk, initiative and is able to maneuver based on planned or unexpected requirements and changes before or during a training or education session adding value throughout, even after the training session.
Feedback will definitely help evaluate and assess what’s going on. But if you are a trainer, ask yourself if you are merely delivering or making a difference? Are you doing your job or are you making it your job to make the training an experience? Are you adding value or are you wasting time?
When you get disrupted, it is already too late…
Why organizations cannot afford to stay the same in their quest for sustainable competitive advantage.
Dr. Constantine Kiritsis, Founder, StudySmart
Every strategy can be copied or benchmarked in our digital era. It is quite obvious that we are living in a transparent, open-information based world. The internet is changing almost every industry available and it’s doing it fast. Uber, Amazon, Skype, Viber, Airbnb and others are just some examples. Everyone is bound to be disrupted one day and companies need to prepare for this disruption.
Ralph Rattler, a good friend and a true innovation expert actually uses the phrase “do you know the expiration date of your company?” on his business card trying to stress the importance for companies to be innovative and creative. Quite evidently, innovation and “change” is a necessity.
This is why it is imperative to train professionals in how to think creatively, come up with ideas (many of them) and explore. Again, training professionals for this skill is crucial and it is long term as it assumes a change in culture. And yes, as noted in some of my previous writings, you will be disrupted, so you need to come up with new ideas and doing so is a skill.
A company can only have a sustainable advantage through its ability to learn and change. Ask Nokia, Blockbuster, Kodak, Blackberry, Smith Corona and hundreds of other companies. They know….
Time management or Managing Ourselves?
24/7 access, wrong assessment and the increasing problem of interruption. From work-life balance to work-life integration?
Dr. Constantine Kiritsis, Founder, StudySmart
I often talk about time management in my acumen sessions around the world. I feel that time management has become a very difficult area to tackle and it is getting worse because of the “big data” available, the constant new ways available to communicate and to be reached and – overall – our wrong assessment of time for tasks which is – for a significant number of people – still based on the 20th century. Let me explain.
First of all, there are a number of ways to get interrupted and we have actually given permission to organizations and applications to do so. Many of us are reached in 10 – 15 different ways. Email accounts, messenger, hangouts, what’s up, viber, facebook, SMS, twitter, facetime etc. etc. If one calculates how much time is required simply to check messages on a few of these you start getting the idea… Then, you need to reply, or simply read. The email accounts we have are growing (personal, company, old accounts by generic service providers) and if you add the emails in which we are cc’d and in most cases need to read, it becomes obvious that managing time is getting more and more difficult. Entrepreneur Jason Fried in one of this Ted talks stated that work “doesn’t happen at work” and provides a solution where organizations set up “no talk Thursdays’” to allow for staff to get things done, given that meetings and other face to face interruptions worsen the problem.
Professionals receive from 50 – 200 emails a day depending on their position and just that says a lot. Furthermore, we check our mobile phones close to 100 times a day, or 90 minutes per day, which amounts to 23 days per year based on recent stats (mobilestats); this is done to check messages, emails and facebook posts. Therefore, the question is “when do we have time to really think creatively if we are constantly interrupted”? How can we filter all this information we are receiving in order to prioritize and get things done? Google is not necessarily helping as well, given that a simple search produces millions of results and there are issues relating to validity, reliability and a plethora of data to go through. Add all of the above together it becomes imperative that we need to find solutions.
There is also one more point. Our assessment of our “to do list” may be “off”. Checking emails, attachments, newsletters etc. takes more time than anticipated, facebook scrolling takes more time that envisioned (this is why it is called by a number of analysts as a major time waster), our assessment of preparing an email, answering a simple email or finding a file in our PC our back up is – in most cases – wrong, especially if there is no wi-fi available, the service is slow or your outbox doesn’t work properly.
In sum, it seems we have all the tools to find each other, interrupt each other and waste time, but I am not sure if these tools actually are helping our management of time, given the number available and the simplicity in access and cost. The point is to make all these turn to our advantage. How? Inform people on how to find you. Do not allow them to use any medium for any reason. Inform them of what you use and how to use it. Also, avoid time wasters. Set a few minutes aside to check social media and share but be consistent and organized. Try not to get carried away. Take the unexpected into consideration when planning, as finding a network, downloading or document or preparing it takes on average a lot more time than we initially think. Marketing Guru Seth Godin also suggests not to use meetings as they are useless. Think about it. He may be right. Other entrepreneurs have meetings standing up for 15 minutes while no food is allowed.
Whatever the case, we are living in a fast moving “big data” world and finding ways to manage our time is getting harder than ever. For those who have a family, there are also issues of having a work life balance. Or is it “work-life integration” as Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos argues?
P.S.: I avoided talking about corporate procedures… If we add these to the equation there may be no time left! I will deal with SOPs soon…
A high level competency crisis?
Why aren’t we educated in areas such as leadership, negotiations, presentations, time management and other important skills we need as are career develops?
Dr. Constantine Kiritsis, Founder, StudySmart
As an entrepreneur in the professional training industry I have always found myself talking about the importance of soft skills, especially as we grow and develop throughout our careers. Everyone seems to agree with the assumption that these are “important” “crucial” “imperative” and requirements towards effective leadership and management.
The question therefore that comes to mind is why on earth aren’t schools focusing on these areas, why Universities do not deal with such topics in most curriculums and why are organizations not spending more attention? Well, the quick answers are that schools are still organized in the same way they were in the industrial age, University professors – in many cases – have never worked in the areas they are teaching, so it’s all about theory and organizational leaders do not train themselves after they reach a high position. They feel they do not need anything else when in fact this is the time to invest in themselves given that their leadership and decisions will affect a greater number of people and the sustainability of the business.
Organizations seem to ask for trainings in technical and knowledge areas (a new tax law, a new regulation, accounting standards, reporting, business intelligence, a new software etc.) but when it comes to spending funds on soft skills development, the feeling is that we ‘don’t need it as much”. But how can they transfer the knowledge from the technical workshops when they are not effective in handling meetings, they do not inspire, they do not communicate effectively and overall are afraid to listen?
Part of the reason is because the top leaders, as stated earlier, stop training themselves. They feel they do not need any further training, as everything they needed to learn has been gained experientially. Another reason is because they have no time. Many of these individuals even end of teaching others(!) on effective leadership, negotiations and other areas purely based on experience. Don’t get me wrong: This is possible and a good percentage of such individuals may be effective, however, many of the leaders in top organizations made their way up because they followed the simple hierarchy, played the politics required, maybe had the right “passport” or relationship required and did not make any creative disruptions. Furthermore, many professionals without such skills have (own) their own organizations, especially in the SME’s and never had to “fight” to get to where they are as no one actually appraised them and of course they won’t fire themselves if they do not do a good job! In essence, businesses seem to be neglecting some important areas when it comes to learning and development. Look out, there is a competency crisis out there but no one is really dealing with it, but before we express any more views, let’s start assessing ourselves for a change…
Challenging educational models at Doctorate level
Comments and questions on the duration of a PhD in the 21st century
Dr. Constantine Kiritsis, Founder, StudySmart
I did some research recently about the history of the PhD or “Doctorate” only to verify my initial assumption that its duration most probably needs to change. The Doctorate degree has been around since the mediaeval ages and about 100+ years in a form close to its current structure. It is logical to assume that a PhD candidate required 3 – 5 years minimum to research a topic area as reviewing the literature and collecting and scrutinizing data took a considerable amount of time.
In the era of the internet and the capabilities and tools available for analysis, it is logical to assume that the structure may need to change, not necessarily drastically but at least in those areas related to the time required to research a certain topic area and in specific disciplines where this is possible. Spending let’s say 5 years on a topic may be good in the sense of testing the evidence, but this evidence, up until the mid 1990’s required a considerable amount of time to collect – let alone find a way to make it presentable – and test efficiently.
In an era of disruption, it may be a good idea to challenge traditional models that were created based on the parameters existing 100+ years ago. Almost every industry has been disrupted and it seems to me that the most traditional industry resistant to change may be the educational establishments themselves...
Whose job is it anyway?
Comments and questions on who is responsible for our career
Dr. Constantine Kiritsis, Founder, StudySmart
Having been an academic and professional trainer for close to 20 years has made me aware of the general lack of specific competencies of professionals which one would most probably take for granted. Education has become more and more accessible to individuals on a global scale while the options and methodologies as well as the type of degrees, certificates and qualifications are endless. Despite this fact, there still seems to be a lack of skills in the greater percentage of graduates and professionals that relate to teamwork, negotiations, presentation skills, time management and others.
Companies evaluate staff and management through a list of competencies. Therefore, education can get you the interview, a test can get you to the second stage if your personality matches the company’s values, culture and strategy while competencies will help you keep your job. Since competencies have become our security why don’t we develop them? If competencies have become THAT important, why don’t companies support their people? If competencies and skills have become our passport, why don’t we focus on these in school?
Are schools responsible? Are Colleges and Universities responsible? Are organizations responsible? Are we – personally – responsible? In the era of ‘big data’ and overwhelming information, it becomes more and more clear that we can learn almost anything, probably not in great depth, but the options are out there. Schools still unfortunately focus on knowledge (apart from some exceptions), Colleges and Universities seem to be doing the same, while many organizations focus on technical training rather than soft skills.
Being a well – rounded professional implies a combination of knowledge, skills and abilities. If companies do not have a solid training programme (or any training programme), professionals should try to fill the void on their own. To do this, it is imperative that professionals know where they are heading in terms of career objectives. This will save time and money. So don’t wait for your training manager to get back to you or support you on a training course or qualification you desire. Stop complaining if your organization does not support you. Complaining is not a strategy. You need to plan on your own. Remember, it’s YOUR life.
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March 10, 2016
Knowledge VS Synthesis – Are you asking google for all your answers?
Why “synthesis” is the new skill for success in a big data era
Bit Size thoughts by Dr. Constantine “Dino” Kiritsis, founder, StudySmart
Knowledge is defined as “facts, information, and skills acquired through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject “(Oxford Living Dictionary). It was extremely difficult to acquire knowledge 100 years ago, or even 25 years ago. Books were responsible for the transfer of knowledge while professors at Universities (among other individuals) had access to books, research findings, information and data from other colleagues and this knowledge, access and publications drafted based on this interaction, gave them elite status.
Don’t get me wrong; professors still have elite status, but this access to information they had is now “open” and shared by all through the internet, knowledge management portals, cloud systems etc. 20 or 30 years ago, knowing a definition, or what something meant or even how something looked was important. Today you have images and videos and ‘how to’ articles and demonstrations on almost everything. In schools, teachers asked us if we know a specific date, a definition of a term or the answer to a multiple choice question. With the dramatic explosion of the internet and its ‘open access’ character, knowledge has become somewhat of lesser importance. People “google” the question and get the answer. If you want more on the same topic, you can access info from Wikipedia (yes I know, it may not be reliable, but it is useful), or even watch a short video of someone explaining it. Educators are being challenged more and more and the bar has been raised. So what’s missing?
What is now missing, is ‘synthesis, which may be defined as “the combination of components or elements to form a connected whole”. How can you link knowledge areas together? How can you create synergies? How can you connect the dots? How can you then challenge existing knowledge? Can you synthesize information on the web with an idea you have to create a new concept? Can you be innovative? This should probably be an area where professional trainers / educators should work on.
Synthesis is becoming an important competency. Remember that professionals are appraised based on competencies within a corporate environment, not just their knowledge. Degrees may get you to the interview, but competencies make you stay. All major organizations are assessing their staff through competency models including skills and abilities. With the tremendous learning characteristics of the internet, its endless amount of information and our free access to it, it becomes imperative to know what to use, when to use it, how to link areas of interest, understand reliability, validity and try to be innovative. Thus, it is important to create flow charts, parallels, analogies, mind maps and other techniques to summarize and link theories. With so much information, we need to make things simpler and save time for professionals. Yes, knowledge is still important, but synthesis is becoming more and more imperative given the massive attack of information.
In the era of big data, it is therefore important to connect the dots, link and innovate rather than merely present and define. Are you ‘synthesising’ enough or are you asking google for all your answers?
Can banks take the heat from IFRS 9’s impairment loss requirements?-We will know sooner than later
Chris Ragkavas, BA, MA, ACCA, CGMA
StudySmart management consultant, senior finance & accounting tutor
IFRS 9 Financial Instruments is due to be applied by all entities reporting under IFRSs as per 1/1/2018, early adoption is permitted.
The marked departures from the current standard IAS 39 Financial Instruments: Recognition and Measurement are the treatment of impairment losses, and the classification and designation of financial assets.
We will deal in this short piece with the former, as it poses a significant challenge to financial institutions across the board.
The current standard, which has been applied since 2001 states, that:
Impairment losses should be recognized when they are incurred, rather than as expected;
An impairment loss is regarded as incurred if, and only if, there is objective evidence of impairment as a result of one or more events that occurred after initial recognition (‘a loss event’).
Financial institutions have been recognizing discounted shortfalls, between the contractual and expected cash flows, only once a loss event had occurred
On the contrary, IFRS 9 introduces an impairment model for financial assets that is based on expected credit losses (ECLs). This model aims at timely reflection of anticipated deterioration in credit quality of financial assets, since initial recognition.
When estimating ECLs, the entity must consider [IFRS 9:5.5.17]:
An unbiased and probability weighted amount that is determined by evaluating a range of possible outcomes;
The time value of money;
Reasonable and supportable information that is available without undue cost or effort at the reporting date about past events, current conditions and forecasts about future economic conditions. This point calls for significant level of judgment with regards to the impact that future macroeconomic factors will have on the ability of the borrowers to settle their obligations in a timely fashion, and in full.
The requirements of IFRS 9 signal a clear departure from calculation of losses based on an incurred credit event, towards an estimation of the impact that a wide range of events are assessed to have on the credit quality of financial assets including forward-looking information.
IFRS 9 will exert significant pressure to reporting entities to design, maintain and control a system of internal controls that enables them to provide reasonable and supportable evidence for the (non-) credit deterioration of their receivables.
IFRS 9 states that discounted ECLs must be calculated on origination of a financial instrument, say, a mortgage loan (when in fact no credit events may have occurred) by using forward-looking information. This will have a material impact on the loss allowances to be recognized by entities. The assessment is repeated at each reporting period-end.
Currently, absent to a credit event as defined by IAS 39 as per the reporting date, entities do not generally recognize any loss allowance.
As per the adoption of IFRS 9, they should consider a wide range of factors in a market with originated loans as or example:
Expected trend in unemployment rate,
Country financial and monetary risk;
Credit deterioration of counterparty by rating agencies;
Expected adverse economic conditions in the environment in which the borrower operates, and assess their impact on collectability of contracted cash flows.
ECLs are categorized as follows:
12 month ECLs
This measurement is required if the credit risk has not increased significantly since asset origination. The entity considers the effect of events expected to occur in the following 12 months only, to credit deterioration of the asset until maturity. They are a portion of the lifetime ECLs as described below.
This is required if the credit risk has risen significantly since asset origination and the credit quality of the financial asset is not considered to be anymore low risk. The entity considers the effect of events expected to occur throughout the lifetime of the asset, to credit deterioration of the asset until maturity.
IFRS 9 will most probably result into a marked increase of loss allowances and a commensurate reduction in the net assets of reporting entities. This may trigger new recapitalizations in 2017 (for early adopters of IFRS 9) and in 2018.
We will be closely monitoring the effect of IFRS 9 implementation in financial institutions and keeping you informed of the relate.
Don’t forget the teacher! Does a title give you the right to teach?
When we talk about change in education, apart from the system, curriculum, process and methodology, shouldn’t we be talking about the role of the teacher/educator a bit more?
Having finished a talk at the Innovation Explorer conference in Bulgaria and having the chance to meet some amazing people and share thoughts during a panel, the role of the educator became more and more central to the issue of change in education. I have written a few articles on educators and through my work as a Board Member of SoFIA (School of the Future International Academy), which focuses on education and administration models, it is evident that we need to find ways to upgrade and focus more on the role of the educator, as these people will be the real drivers for change. This applies to educators at all levels.
School systems, educational methodologies, entrance tests, curriculums, competency development and other areas are important, but the true driver for change is the educator. Policy makers can make any change they like, but at the end of the day it is the educator that will make it happen. Furthermore, many policy changes that relate to the incorporation of educational tools or new teaching methodologies like action based learning, virtual classrooms, on-line support and mentoring (to name a few), require changes from the side of the educator. These changes can be in areas of communication, delivery, facilitation, debriefing, case study methodology etc. etc. When was the last time a number of professors decided to change the way they teach? Change is – almost always – disorganizing as a pressure and trainers / educators are resistant. Why/ Because they fear change. They may be afraid of learning a different technique. They are afraid of getting out of their comfort zone. They are afraid to listen to others and be challenged by disruptive ideas. A recent study indicated that the average age of the professors in Greece was over 50(!)… Shouldn’t we therefore be looking more into this?
Many countries do not even have (nor require) a teaching or training certificate; a relevant University degree, or possibly a PhD gives you the permission to teach for life. Does the title (i.e. PhD or an MSc) automatically give you the skill to deliver? Does work experience give you the right to become a professional trainer? Shouldn’t training have its own requirements? Shouldn’t training require a specific set of skills? Of course, in some countries (but not all) there exist requirements like a teaching certificate or being present to pass a simple exam, but even in these cases, the requirements need to be fine - tuned due to the dramatic changes in technology that have also affected the classroom (virtual settings, digital material, cloud systems etc.).
Finally, in most cases around the world, there is no need for continuing professional development (CPD) apart from a possible requirement by the school or University itself (i.e. for private schools). This may be a ‘taboo’ subject, but I feel that the fact that educational institutions are moving away from the real world may be because of the educator.A bad curriculum can be taught by a brilliant trainer/educator and make it seem like the best in the world; a great curriculum will always look bad with a ‘poor’ educator.
Differentiation in education – Why it matters which programme or qualification you study for and which organization or association is behind it.
How “Academic Inflation” is pushing us to differentiate.
Bite Size Management Thoughts by Dr. Constantine “Dino” Kiritsis
Knowledge is available almost everywhere. You can access it from anywhere. Similarly, you can opt for a University degree, a designation or qualification on-line and receive a degree or certificate at your own pace. Mass on-line open courses, University degrees, College degrees, certificates, designations, diplomas and more. Undoubtedly that’s great, as it fulfills the vision we all have deep in our minds of living in an educated world.
However, a very important question arises: How do you stand out? Everyone seems to have a degree or ‘degrees’ and a certificate or ‘certificates’ or ‘qualifications’. The supply is there – in many cases at no cost. The minimum requirements or the benchmarks have changed and I have written extensively on this issue. We are experiencing an “academic inflation” and eventually there will also be a ‘designation inflation’ if we continue at the same pace. This process towards academic inflation is accelerated – or ‘will’ be accelerated by the logical requirement for all of us to stay employable through continuing professional development. With everything changing dynamically, one way to ‘prove’ our employability will be the number of certifications we have gained that will assist in keeping us competitive.
Having all these options on how to study, what to study and where to study has heightened the issue of quality more than ever. For example, this oversupply of educational opportunities should put pressure on business schools, Universities, associations, institutes and the like to raise the bar and make their programmes of study of better quality, matching the requirements of the 21stcentury, more useful and more innovative in terms of their educational methodologies. I am not sure we are seeing anything different in 80% of the organizations. Differentiation, when it is real, can make the difference. This is why some people buy a Mercedes and dream of a Maclaren, or ladies buy a Chanel or a Luis Vuitton bag and dream of an Hermes “Kelly” bag.
The question is what kind of education do you want? Is it really a matter of getting a certificate or is it a matter of gaining the best knowledge to make a difference in life? When was the last time you made a difference by the way? In a world that is more and more based on low cost strategy (or freemium in many cases), I feel we need some differentiators, especially in education – and yes –we may have to pay a little bit more for something better…