Tertiary education is not enough

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Just as in many other previous instances, a recent visit to a good friend unlocked a fascinating conversation.

On our way from buying drinks, we stopped to buy plates of take-away food. The food was delectable. Anyway, let me not digress, allow me to ask, please: Is what you are learning at college or university have any basis and relevance in the world you live?

So, we went on to discuss a Marketing textbook he’d used in his second year at college. He was raving about how the book was timeous and relevant in its information. It contained mind-blowing case studies which were recent, broke down and analysed them in microscopic detail. The result for him was never looking at brands and marketing the same. It unleashed an insatiable appetite for studying and building his own case studies from businesses which exist in the world.

The point is that formal education isn’t enough. We’ve got to take the learning outside the classroom.

You look at how the world has changed in the business of media, publishing; retail (you’re familiar with Jeff Bizos, right?); talent recruitment and so on.

Writing of talent recruitment, Instagram is the modern-day portfolio for painters, graphic designers and many other professionals in the visual art space. One such person is Nelson Makamo — he boasts an impressive Instagram profile.

It’s quite disappointing how some tertiary institutions still teach media and communications the same ways they did many years back. Although students do occasionally get printed-out pages stapled together that briefly discuss blogging, social media marketing, technology changing business, et cetera. It’s not enough. My guess is, communications in its traditional state (traditional marketing, for instance) still take up a lion’s share of the study material provided to students. While new media has a small percentage of life overall in lecture halls and auditoriums.

I lightly uttered Jeff Bizos above — founder of online retailing platform, Amazon. He recently bought the Washington Post newspaper. The news publisher was struggling financially and major downsizing was on the cards, until he came through, in shining knight gear, atop a horse galloping along and saved the Post. The publication was struggling in part because they missed the online publishing bus. While other players invested in digital tools such as building up interactive and mobile friendly websites, they nestled in the comfort of print media. Their stronghold, then.

Charles Darwin cleverly observes: It is not the strongest of species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.

The world has shifted to an extent that people and businesses operating in the media space today not only worry about other people and businesses in media and publishing. Competition comes in all sorts of forms and from all sorts of directions. Take the coffee giants from Seattle, Starbucks; they have various exciting positions which focus on technology and digital marketing, with Chief Technology Officer being one of them.

Or Red Bull, they’re not only a beverage business. They boast Red Bull Media House: a multi-platform media company with a focus on sports, culture and lifestyle. As the name suggests, it’s Red Bull’s media and content arm.

So, your competition in the publishing business isn’t only limited to Avusa; Kagiso Media; Harvard Business School’s graduate, Khanyi Dhlomo and her outfit, Ndalo Media or Koos Bekker’s ship, Naspers.

Education has to shift with those dynamics, lest the education you acquire makes you ancient in today’s fast-changing and small economy.

Today we talk much of a global citizen. Today, a chief executive, though based in South Africa, needs to be responsive enough to be able to lead a team in Britain or be roped in in a dire turnaround strategy in Dubai, for example.

So, again, in this exciting world we live in today, it’s essential to source knowledge outside the classroom. And I have to admit, supplementing formal education with my own insatiable curiosity and reading has put me in good stead.

Inasmuch as education has to adapt, as an individual you’ve got to learn and move at the clock-speed of real businesses in acquiring knowledge. Being observant and building your own case studies helps a lot, too — venture out of the lecture hall.

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