Monday, 20 April 2009

Lessons for O.R. from the junior school

Britain's "The Independent" daily paper carries a supplement on education most weeks. Last Thursday (16th April) there was a page about two schools in St Ives, Cornwall. Although St Ives is a popular holiday destination, many local people are not well off, as tourism is low paid, seasonal work. The Junior School had problems when it was inspected in about 2003, and the head teacher, Sue Smith (no relation) was drafted in to sort things out. The feature covered many of her achievements and philosophy.

Two quotes struck me as being relevant to the O.R. profession. First, a homily from her office wall:

In times of change, the learners will inherit the earth whilst the knowers will be beautifully equipped to deal with a world which no longer exists.

Second, the response to Sue Smith's question at the start of school assembly, "What are we doing?":

We are thinking, looking, listening, not talking, and concentrating.

Why the relevance to O.R.? For the first one, it is a reminder that learning never stops; as O.R. professionals, we are agents of change in systems, and that rebounds on us -- we need to be people who learn and change in turn. And for the second, those five characteristics should be the ones we show when we face a new management problem; maybe the fourth is not so relevant, and might be replaced by "Not talking irrelevantly".

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