Tuesday, 12 August 2014

The value of continuous learning

I’m really very grateful that Education Month has given me an opportunity to focus on what interests me. Primarily, I’m interested in business continuity (as an element of a wider interest in Organisational Resilience). I’m also interested in improvement; that means self, organisation, personal and professional. And of course, I’m interested in education. I like to learn from my peers, colleagues, students and business partners, as well as by studying and maintaining focus on what is going on around us every day. And because it’s my job, I want to share that enthusiasm and interest with others; in this case, you.

Business continuity is one of those industries/professions/sectors that is on a growth trajectory. It needs to be as it works in an environment that is rife with influences that may engender or initiate change and thus inform the shape of risk and impact landscapes. There is much speculation, theorising and pontificating about what is coming, how it should be influenced or could be controlled and how we deal with impacts. From globalized business activity to changes in national and international power balances, from political reorientations to an emergence of technology enabled ‘people power’. Also, while there is an immense amount of opinion and theory put forward daily from all quarters concerning human behaviour and its effect on others (such as, by implication, political, economic, social, technological impacts) it is also worth considering ideas, theories and opinions on the less easily quantifiable and controllable. These are all areas for thought, concern and yes, education.

So, if we are aware of the potential problems, what’s the problem? Well, there are thousands of business continuity professionals (that is what you are: professionals) out there who are undereducated, or perhaps miseducated, or maybe even not specifically educated at all. You may have been trained; but ‘educated’ is a different thing. Of course, you will know things, processes, functions, problems and issues and you will be adept in your role, and if that’s OK with you; then that’s OK. The sector abounds with professionals who are working hard, mainly successfully, to do what needs to be done and in general, we don’t equate ourselves with reticence, lack of confidence or indecision; or indeed lack of self-awareness.

However, there are very many people who do hesitate when it comes to education. It is interesting. Maybe this hesitancy is not about cost; nor is it usually about obtaining support from employers. Usually, there is a fear of being overcome by the difficulties and challenges of learning, perhaps because they have been away from formal education for many years, or simply because they are familiar with training rather than the academic rigour of university programmes.

Well, simply put, there is nothing to be afraid of or worried about. If you decide to undertake an academic programme you can expect to be provided with advice, support, guidance and resources to allow you to grow into the mysteries of higher educational learning. In fact, here’s a little secret – there are no mysteries at all! Learning takes time; skills take practice, correction and amendment to perfect. It can be done and in fact, it is not intimidating or difficult at all. It does take hard work and application – but so does life.

Most importantly higher education learning doesn’t turn you into an academic; it enhances your professional capabilities. In fact, unless you are steeped in study on a daily basis, you are not an academic or a scholar – in reality, for those who undertake professional and academic courses as part of their CPD (continuing professional development), the clue is in the acronym - ‘CPD’! And importantly, it is not all about theory; education in the modern world and in the BC world should be about practical application.

So, in Education Month, perhaps it is worthwhile taking pause from your busy and demanding life and thinking about what you would like to be.
  • Better paid? Education helps whether you study for a certificate, diploma, bachelors or master’s degree.
  • More competitive? Education helps you to think about and analyse the world around you.
  • Better at your job? Education helps you to learn and understand what you do and why – and what you should be doing and why.
  • A thought leader? Education helps you to become a more effective thinker as well as an effective practitioner; win/win!.
Education will not necessarily make you any better than anyone else. Just holding an award is meaningless if you are unable to make it work for you and if you cannot use and develop the skills and knowledge gained from your learning. But - if you’ve taken the time and trouble to read the Education Month blogs and other publicity then you must be interested and it may be time to transform your interest into reality.

Phil Wood is the Head of Enterprise, Security and Resilience within the Faculty of Design, Media and Management at Buckinghamshire New University in the UK.

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