Scott Adams on a “real” college education

The Dilbert creator writes occasionally for the Wall Street Journal and has had some great pieces.  This past week’s entry hit on the mismatch between college student and curriculum:

I understand why the top students in America study physics, chemistry, calculus and classic literature. The kids in this brainy group are the future professors, scientists, thinkers and engineers who will propel civilization forward. But why do we make B students sit through these same classes? That’s like trying to train your cat to do your taxes—a waste of time and money. Wouldn’t it make more sense to teach B students something useful, like entrepreneurship?

The entrepreneur’s knack — “the strange art of transforming nothing into something”  — is exactly what a clever, but not brilliant, person should cultivate.  Adams helpfully includes a list of behaviors this B-student curriculum should foster: Combine Skills, Fail Forward, Find the Action, Attract Luck, Conquer Fear, Write Simply, Learn Persuasion.

Continue reading

The “that’s not my role” delusion

I very much liked this post by J Schwan (here) about the dangers of over-specialization.  Some of the comments miss the point — J acknowledges the value of domain knowledge — which is that a role-bound workforce conspires against:

  1. Understanding how to optimize the whole vs one’s part.
  2. Remembering why one is doing a project in the first place.
  3. Accountability for results.

As J notes, it is easy to hide behind a “work to role” facade.  But that’s all it is, a facade and a thin, deluded one at that.  To be blunt, strictly bounded roles end up becoming jobs that get outsourced or automated.  I can’t imagine wanting to working in such an environment anyway.  

J paints a picture of a healthier technology workplace:

Sure we all have roles we prefer to play. I love technology architecture work, and if I’m working on a project that’s going to require more than a handful of people, I’ll bring in one of our PM gurus, because frankly, I’m not that great of a project manager. But I do know the difference between a Gant Chart and a Sprint Queue, and when it makes more sense to use one versus the other to manage a project. And I like the fact that our PMs understand the difference between a web server and an application server, and that our BA gurus have no qualms about doing QA work or rolling up there sleeves to fix some simple bugs if that’s what the project needs. 

Hat tips to Eric Brown (here) and Bas (here).

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,518 other followers

%d bloggers like this: