“These are the wise sayings of Solomon, David’s son, Israel’s king— Written down so we’ll know how to live well and right, to understand what life means and where it’s going; A manual for living, for learning what’s right and just and fair; To teach the inexperienced the ropes and give our young people a grasp on reality. There’s something here also for seasoned men and women, still a thing or two for the experienced to learn— Fresh wisdom to probe and penetrate, the rhymes and reasons of wise men and women” – Proverbs 1:1-6
I was sharing experiences on the contribution of enterprise development to economic growth with a mature audience at a Rotary Club meeting in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) recently. The observation was that when we nurture one successful enterprise after another then sustainable economic growth occurs. The questions from the floor clearly articulated the obvious concern about the relatively slow rate of economic growth in SVG. Even though there seemed to me to be a willingness to move forward, there was the recognition of an atmosphere of countervailing forces which would inevitably stifle any positive forward thrust. Complacency seemed to have set in and there was an acceptance that they would have to settle for a “lot in life” in which change was not likely to be an imminent experience. One of these countervailing forces was very clearly articulated. It was that the level of comprehension (the act or fact of grasping the meaning, nature, or importance of understanding – the knowledge that is acquired in this way) and problem solving competency in SVG relative to Barbados, say, would stymie the rate of economic growth. This observation was interesting since there has been a recent report from the highest levels in the educational system in Barbados that the level of comprehension in Barbados is on the decline and this was certainly of concern because of its likely impact on economic growth, if not immediately, on future generations. Be that as it may, my response was to advise that the solution lay with individuals or groups of individuals within the society and their willingness to change their mindset and get personally involved in developing the people, the country’s greatest asset, one person after another. Indeed, their individual responsibility is to teach the inexperienced the ropes and give the young people a grasp on reality. The mass academic training of individuals as is done in institutions of higher learning (e.g. community colleges and universities) has its place. Its major benefit is to inculcate discipline and logical structure in the minds of the students but this does not necessarily make all of them useful citizens. The medical student does not graduate until after one to two years of practical clinical training; the accountant is not allowed to parade his qualification until two years of assignment in the profession; a student may graduate with a Bachelor of Law’s degree (LLB) but may not be admitted to practise until graduation with a Legal Education Certificate, then apprenticeship with an experienced law firm follows; and so on. The theme running through all this is the concept of apprenticeship before you are allowed to unleash your talent on the general public. Traditionally there are the trades practised by a carpenter, mason, plumber and an electrician, for example, where the level of formal education may have been less but the passion for the trade by an individual is matched by a period of apprenticeship to produce an individual who plays a useful role in society. The farmer, dress maker or building contractor may or may not have formal education but they serve their apprenticeship and contribute significantly to satisfying the basic needs of food, clothing and housing for the community. The economy of a country will only develop significantly, rapidly and sustainably if the main sectors that fuel the economy are alive and well. Whatever the combination of these lead sectors, sustainable progress cannot take place without the optimal use of the people resource. The people need a manual for living so that they may best contribute to the growth of the country. This manual will inspire the virtues of leadership, management and shepherding to supervisors and the operational team. Many of us may be familiar with the statement “Our people are our greatest resource, we should develop them to the fullest”. It is indeed paramount in mounting the manual for living. My advice to the audience was to follow this concept of developing the people to the fullest and this would go a long way to minimising the impact of the countervailing forces. Of course, one important initiative is to mount a major formal educational programme but this takes time, money and remedial work since many people will have slipped through the formal educational net. However, much can be done by shepherding, mentoring, individual counselling and apprenticeship to get the show on the road. Indeed, this approach may be optimal in terms of reaching short term objectives while in parallel pursuing the more formal education programme which paves the way of the discovery spectrum from data, information, knowledge through insight, understanding and wisdom. A final word was that the process of cross cultural diversity in the shepherding process may indeed induce synergy.