Posted by: Gillian | September 2, 2008

Damsonomics and lifelong learning

Today, Boris Johnson has written about ‘damsonomics’, the art of adapting to reap bountiful and unintended harvests when others were awaited but failed.  It’s a point well made and yet one that current education policies emanating from the UK Government seem incapable of addressing.  ‘Employability’ is a much-used term but educating only the young with skills that fit what employers need today is short-sighted.

To continue Boris’s analogy, the forlorn who await their damson crop in vain are those who learn a skill or a tick-box competence in isolation, never linking it to other skills nor seeing the wider context.  Those who transfer their attentions to more successful harvests, this year’s ‘apples’ and ‘blackberries’, have transferable skills that allow them to recognise similarities in fruit and employ slightly adapted processes to make worthwhile products.  For that to occur, the education ‘farmer’ needs to sow and nurture curiosity, experience, creativity, reflection not just this year but every year, from pre-school to extreme old age.  As the debate rages on about the lack of UK Government support for ELQs and lifelong learning (see it is down to each and every one of us to do what we can for ourselves, our families and wider communities.  As the US, mainland Europe and UK academic years begin, its time to harvest old skills, put them to use and develop new ones.


  1. gillp1 makes an excellent point. We are teaching those coming in behind us (and some already working in key positions) to crunch numbers, identify trends and follow the status quo; however, the strategic view (and leadership) is left mostly for individuals to learn by trial and error.

    Leadership builds; we should not take that lesson for granted.

  2. So is it time to free off the “farmers” who are teaching the leaders of tomorrow? Move away from bonuses and targets based on achieving success in exams and SATs and allow wider ranging and creative teaching to develop those skills which are inherent in future managers. Support and encourage learning in all fields, directions and timelines: all age-groups: all abilities. Accept that some will achieve and some will not and give more and better education to those who want it, need it and can benefit from it.

  3. Great to see you here, Wayne. How do you see the relative importance of ‘curiosity, experience, creativity, reflection’ in developing leaders and how can/do education systems help or prevent? (Here or in the US)

  4. Hello Gillian, good question. As I speak to students and groups of all ages, the term I use repeatedly is curiosity.

    As a student, the ones that show great promise are the curious ones. Those that ponder ‘how’, ‘why’ and ‘what if’.

    To be sure, there are leadership classes in every college; however, we are not teaching leadership in those institutions.

    Leadership is an ‘art’. It is subjective. It is not cut and paste. What worked today may not work tomorrow, even though the scenario might appear exactly as presented before.

    Not everyone will be a leader. Not everyone will be a follower. Many will become ‘managers’; however, leaders and managers are quite different. Some of us think management and leadership are synonymous; they are not.

    In my business as a university adjunct professor (also as an associate professor for several years) and as a Leadership Development Consultant, engaging students (college, university or corporate levels) is what I do. I offer them tools, best practices, concepts, and laboratories that they can process on an intellectual level and then in-turn, guide them and challenge them with those leadership skill sets that they can ‘play’ with, ‘practice’ with (real-time) and employ immediately at work if they so choose.

    Many students (corporate and university grad level) have suggested in the many years of education (management classes), they had not been offered leadership to this level; they liked it and thought that everyone in leadership roles should be in this class/laboratory.

    As we know, there are all types of leaders. We also know that there are many paths to leadership. Yes, there are individuals that are good and not so good in leadership. Yet, there are courses of action that one can entertain to help enhance their leadership skill-sets or for the individuals just entering the corporate world develop good practices today in preparation for leading tomorrow.

    Leadership is an art and it is a pleasure to watch individuals transform from their own status quo to something new and exciting without much risk; one leader at a time.

    We at Just Leadership, LLC enjoy the curious, relish the engaging and observe the transformations with delight. Integrity is our watchword. Empowerment is our foundation. Innovation is our credo. Personalizing the processes, by expanding knowledge and application of leadership attributes, are the bonding principles. Corporations are run on the power of ‘you’! We want to help make ‘you’ better.

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