Creating Values in your Job

I have come to learn through my experiences that values can be built. The notion that your values need to be fit with the value of jobs is definitely essential but the context has changed a lot since then. I don’t see job now as  static that you stick to the job description and perform to the best. Now when you get a responsibility, you can always create ways of delivering it. At least, in my profession, luxury of that exist.

While I was reading an article on World Economic Forum which titled “Growing number of people are feeling that their work is useless. Time to rethink the meaning of work”. Interestingly, these growing number of people are managers, CEOs, consultants who have the highest pay, incentives and other aspects.  The article clarifies that it is not talking about sanitation workers, the teachers and the nurses who if were to go on strike will create an instant state of emergencies. What is the essence of work? Should it be associated with meaning that people are searching for in their life to make it well-lived?. How do you determine the essence of work? Ultimately, everyone wants to make society or world little better through their work. Internally, nobody wants to spend the majority of time feeling worst in their job. They don’t want to drag themselves through the work that does not have any essence. David Graeber, an anthropologist coins the term “bullshit jobs”. Bullshits jobs are the kind of jobs that exist for the purpose of making people work. In his words,

                 “It’s as if someone were out there making up pointless jobs just for the sake of keeping us all working” – David Graeber

There might be lot of bullshit jobs out there and it might be obvious to see no purpose in that job. However, people do experience lack of value in even the meaningful job that society or world cannot do away without it. I consider teaching job as meaningful in that sense. One will see two teachers going into class to teach. One is highly frustrated with the thought of going into  class, teaching and dealing with students. The teacher may not see the value in his/her job of teaching. Then there is another teacher who is joyful to go each day in class with something essential to deliver. He/She sees the value of making an impact on students and further has a vision of competent humans in the world. Both, of them have a same actions to perform but then the essence they have attached to it makes all the difference.

The two teachers that i am referring to is not two individuals but the examples of how i existed in past and how I am now. There is no change in the context in the before and after scenario. There still exist  disagreements with authorities approaches, their myopic vision and the stagnation that exist in the job. Possibly, I will not be able to change the context that revolves around what I do. The context does have an impact on what I do. They do slow down my contributions and creates unnecessary obstacles. However, they don’t prevent me from making my life meaningful nor they fill me with bitterness as in past. I don’t imagine sweetness flowing out of someone who is bitter inside. Thus, it is important for me to maintain that sweetness in order to make the kind of impact that I envision. My core purpose is to serve the newer generation by being a useful medium in their learning process. I have associated meaning with it.

A perfect job that fits with your values and gives you meaning is fanciful. Even if you land into a perfect job (the one that you believe is meant for you), with time and the presence of external environment will stop holding a meaning or may become monotonous. Also, I don’t think job itself can create meaning for it. It totally depends on the perception you hold and how externally affected you are.  I imagined teaching to be the most fulfilling job for me but then with time, meaning vanished from it. I thought consulting projects would make me happy because you are supporting organizations to function effectively and efficiently. But, when your action plans turns into just another documents, it stopped creating any meaning. There will always be things that are beyond your control that will belittle the outcomes you contributed or prevent you from achieving it in the first place. Probably, it is human nature that wants more and more. The nature is such that it cannot settle with one outcome.  

For sustaining meaning in the job or work you do, create your meaning to it and hold an inner awareness to one’s self. Have internal criteria such as; seeking competence, doing best that is possible for one to do because doing itself can be an achievement. The complete involvement in the process also creates experiences that are fulfilling. Most importantly, don’t evaluate yourself based on external criteria. External criteria could be the amount of money you possess, the position you hold and the perception people hold about you and so on. With the passage of time and doing same thing everyday, work do appear valueless. Even the air we breathe everyday goes unnoticed but it’s value to our existence is unquestionable. So, making a job valuable is totally in our hands. Once i created value in my job, I am always super excited to go to class, engrossed in learning to make my classes effective and seek different means and methods everyday to facilitate rich learning environments. I am  aware that this has enhanced my capabilities to function. Whatever, I may do I will always create values in it. It is also applicable to other aspects of life. Is life has a meaning to it? Yes, because I have created one.

    “When you live by chance, you also live in fear and anxiety. When you live by intent and capability, it does not matter what is happening or not happening, you are at least in control of what is happening to you. It is more stable life.” – Sadhguru




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LAB- Based Method of Teaching in Management Education

At times, opportunities are right at your door. I remember the Building University Capacity to Support Business Incubation in Nepal (BUCSBIN) project being one such opportunity for me. I did not understand the core concept back then. However, the research component of the project attracted me to it. In the beginning, it all sounded vague and distant to me. At the end, it deepened my understanding and most importantly it made me exuberant.

The project’s objective was to increase the capacity of Nepal’s universities to develop and teach entrepreneurship and business incubation programs. It was taught in collaboration with Oulu University of Applied Sciences (OAMK) and its innovative and award-winning incubator program, namely the OAMK LABs.

During the initial phase of the project, we visited OAMK and its LAB in Finland. The experience gave me a different level of awareness about the different methods of teaching. The university’s LAB based teaching course is a credited course at OAMK and takes a period of four months to complete. I attended a four day workshop on LAB based learning. The four month credit course was developed into a four day workshop for Nepali partners so that they could experience it. Similarly, it was then conducted again for five days for students. The students were from Nepal as well as from OAMK. Here, we experienced the training as coaches and mentors.

The LAB based course doesn’t just teach, it also attempts to instill an entrepreneurial mindset in students so that they have the necessary 21st century skills essential for success.

It is apparent in the context of business education in Nepal that the focus has always been on informing students about various management courses. Furthermore, it is noticeable that knowledge and skills are often assumed as separate things. Thus, a student goes to business school to gain knowledge and get the degree and attends training sessions to develop practical skills.

The Lab based method challenges the idea of knowledge and skills being separate. It further focuses on building the proper mindset for 21st century skills. Globally, the trend is more than ever leaning towards integrating the humanities into technical as well as business education. The argument is that there will be computers to perform hard skills so humans must possess the “soft skills” which are now termed as “essential skills”.

Furthermore, teachers and colleges should now be orientated in the humanities to build these foundational skills, such as problem solving, critical thinking, empathy, social perspectives, active listening and communication skills not only by offering degree programmes in the humanities, but also by integrating more humanistic teaching into business education.

This global trend made me reflect on my own approach to teaching. It was difficult to accept that after four years of teaching my approach may not have been humanistic. I was highly focused on transferring research skills to my students. My experience at OAMK and the workshop made me realise the importance of “essential skills”. I tried to change some of my teaching methods. It resulted in better teaching and better feedback from students. I am still looking for answers on topics such as, “How to make my course more human”. Furthermore, as a team member of BUCSBIN, my question to myself and other team-members is, “Do we possess the 21st century essential skills that we want to deliver to students through the LAB based teaching method?”

Replicating a five day workshop and a credited course is possible. However, the challenge lies in transferring the “essential skills” in the same manner as the LAB master and coaches in Finland. Some of the integral questions that need to be settled if we really want to conduct what we plan to without losing the essence are: Are we honest with each other? Do we collaborate when we say collaborate? Do we have empathy for each other? Do we really want to make a difference? And, for those of us who have taken up the roles in this project, do we know why we have taken up the roles?

It was rightly pointed out, for instance, that if we want to instill the essence of planning and remaining fixed to time schedules, we need to model out. Talks, motivational speeches are wearing out. They don’t have the kind of impact they used to have when these talks were rare and people who made these talks walked it as well. Our classes are falling apart. In the first day of a research class, I asked students what motivated them to study research. Many of them joked, “We don’t have a choice, it is a compulsory course!” Another student whispered to his friend, “I like coming to college but not to class!” This simply shows us failing as educators.

Essentially, it is important to have the 21st century skills in place even before attempting to transfer them to students through the LAB based method. It is easier to tell students to sort out differences honestly in team-work but exhibiting it from my side is far more important. It is easier to be effective when one tries to transfer the skills that one possesses. We must achieve these “essential skills” if we want to successfully adopt the project based learning system in our pedagogy.

At times, opportunities are right at your door. I remember the Building University Capacity to Support Business Incubation in Nepal (BUCSBIN) project being one such opportunity for me. I did not understand the core concept back then. However, the research component of the project attracted me to it. In the beginning, it all sounded vague and distant to me. At the end, it deepened my understanding and most importantly it made me exuberant.

The project’s objective was to increase the capacity of Nepal’s universities to develop and teach entrepreneurship and business incubation programs. It was taught in collaboration with Oulu University of Applied Sciences (OAMK) and its innovative and award-winning incubator program, namely the OAMK LABs.

During the initial phase of the project, we visited OAMK and its LAB in Finland. The experience gave me a different level of awareness about the different methods of teaching. The university’s LAB based teaching course is a credited course at OAMK and takes a period of four months to complete. I attended a four day workshop on LAB based learning. The four month credit course was developed into a four day workshop for Nepali partners so that they could experience it. Similarly, it was then conducted again for five days for students. The students were from Nepal as well as from OAMK. Here, we experienced the training as coaches and mentors.

The LAB based course doesn’t just teach, it also attempts to instill an entrepreneurial mindset in students so that they have the necessary 21st century skills essential for success.

It is apparent in the context of business education in Nepal that the focus has always been on informing students about various management courses. Furthermore, it is noticeable that knowledge and skills are often assumed as separate things. Thus, a student goes to business school to gain knowledge and get the degree and attends training sessions to develop practical skills.

The Lab based method challenges the idea of knowledge and skills being separate. It further focuses on building the proper mindset for 21st century skills. Globally, the trend is more than ever leaning towards integrating the humanities into technical as well as business education. The argument is that there will be computers to perform hard skills so humans must possess the “soft skills” which are now termed as “essential skills”.

Furthermore, teachers and colleges should now be orientated in the humanities to build these foundational skills, such as problem solving, critical thinking, empathy, social perspectives, active listening and communication skills not only by offering degree programmes in the humanities, but also by integrating more humanistic teaching into business education.

This global trend made me reflect on my own approach to teaching. It was difficult to accept that after four years of teaching my approach may not have been humanistic. I was highly focused on transferring research skills to my students. My experience at OAMK and the workshop made me realise the importance of “essential skills”. I tried to change some of my teaching methods. It resulted in better teaching and better feedback from students. I am still looking for answers on topics such as, “How to make my course more human”. Furthermore, as a team member of BUCSBIN, my question to myself and other team-members is, “Do we possess the 21st century essential skills that we want to deliver to students through the LAB based teaching method?”

Replicating a five day workshop and a credited course is possible. However, the challenge lies in transferring the “essential skills” in the same manner as the LAB master and coaches in Finland. Some of the integral questions that need to be settled if we really want to conduct what we plan to without losing the essence are: Are we honest with each other? Do we collaborate when we say collaborate? Do we have empathy for each other? Do we really want to make a difference? And, for those of us who have taken up the roles in this project, do we know why we have taken up the roles?

It was rightly pointed out, for instance, that if we want to instill the essence of planning and remaining fixed to time schedules, we need to model out. Talks, motivational speeches are wearing out. They don’t have the kind of impact they used to have when these talks were rare and people who made these talks walked it as well. Our classes are falling apart. In the first day of a research class, I asked students what motivated them to study research. Many of them joked, “We don’t have a choice, it is a compulsory course!” Another student whispered to his friend, “I like coming to college but not to class!” This simply shows us failing as educators.

Essentially, it is important to have the 21st century skills in place even before attempting to transfer them to students through the LAB based method. It is easier to tell students to sort out differences honestly in team-work but exhibiting it from my side is far more important. It is easier to be effective when one tries to transfer the skills that one possesses. We must achieve these “essential skills” if we want to successfully adopt the project based learning system in our pedagogy.

Published in New Business Age : http://www.newbusinessage.com/MagazineArticles/view/2318

Reading Fiction: Should You?

 

I always preferred literature to Fiction if the term should be used. Possible reasons are people pay more respect to the term “literature” than to the term “Fiction”. Fiction often resonates with something that is imaginary which have no basis on reality. While literature is more perceived as contribution and only those of the superior ability can write or contribute.  They are not synonymous but fiction are usually narration, novels and some other form. I have been an avid reader of fiction almost as far as my memory goes back to awareness. And, the desire of writing a fiction existed from the childhood. I practically grew up with fiction. The habit must have been cultivated through the imitation of my father reading, the classes where my English teacher used to tell stories ( I still remember the content and sound of that story) and the presence of library with lots of story books and fairy-tales.

It never occurred to me that there exist people who don’t read fiction or never have read and another set of people who actually prefer not to. I had this notion that fiction is part of everyone’s life. In recent days, I came across amazingly adorable people who have not read fiction or they are against of it. The major reason they spoke of it was “what for?” or “waste of time” or “it never occurred”. However, i have never tried to see or evaluate them against me or any other who reads fiction. I have really no measurement of how not reading a fiction would affect people, their thought or their approaches towards life. The people I know, I completely adore them. Just I am cautious that any fictional content that I read should not be discussed with them. First, they may dislike it and second they cannot resonate with it. I have also met people who read fiction in the extent I cannot compete but have turned into disillusionment. How or Why? No idea. Thus, i will talk about me and fiction.

I did not choose to read fiction, it happened to me because of the environment i was in. It became a habit that I have not still given up. Once in a business school admission interview, I was asked, “Why do you read?”. I said, “ I read because my single life may not be enough to experience all different facets of life that is happening in the world. I may not be able to cross the physical boundaries of the location I live but i want to know and experience life.” These are not exact words but the essence was same. However, i read both fiction and non-fiction in the same manner. Now, it does not matter to me whether the genre is fiction or nonfiction if the subject matter lures me. Interestingly, even in non-fiction that are research and evidence-based, I see the lots of aspects of fiction like author’s own opinion or judgments and their experiences with the concept. I started my journey towards reading with fiction.  However, text-books except for literature were always boring to me. I have read novels hidden in my text-book during exams. Therefore, it is always easier to develop reading habit with fiction if you are trying to build the habit. Fictions are colorful, full of imagination and its roots are always deep in the society that the author is part of. Reading a novel is like becoming the main character, experiencing his/her experiences and many a time it keeps you strong if similar events happen in your life. At times, it expands the horizon of your mind as you imagine yourself in different contexts and possibilities of life.

The most difficult time, it remains with you as a guide to life. Further, it holds you strong. It taught me resilience.  I always remember one book that prevented me from falling apart when my father died. The book was “To Kill a Mockingbird”. My brother was back from US and he had brought this book with him. The book was a story about a daughter and father. At that moment, I felt like the book was written for me so that I could manage or reflect back on my relationship with my father. It also made me see the maturity I had to bear the loss.

Further, it makes your writing more human and colorful too. You are more expressive and creative when it comes to even expressing different good or bad events of life. Additionally, it helped me be more empathetic towards others because I tasted different sorrows through these fictions. I remember reading Khalid Hosseni’s ,” And the mountains echoed” and gasping with tears and smile. The smile was for the reunite of a brother and sister and tears were for the brother lost his memory. He knew he will and wrote a letter for his sister before losing it totally.  Putting yourself in either a sister’s shoes or brother’s shoes, one can experience the juices of life.

Possibly, I can invent more reasons to offer rationale for my reading of fiction but I really don’t know the drawback of not reading fiction because it’s not me. Life is beautiful with fiction. For me those who write fiction, they gather all the beauty and joys the creator holds and try to express it through words. Those who read fiction tries to store those beauty and joys in their heart.

 

A Teacher’s Aspiration

 

Each trimester I enter into class full of 35-40 students hoping to experience the materialization of learning outcomes from my course plan through students’ produced outcomes and reflection. The first day of class is filled with curious faces wanting to build an impression about what is coming their way in 12-14 weeks’ time period. Among the curious faces, few of them are eager to make an impression on you, majority are trying to make sense of whether the course journey is going to be an easy way out or a struggling battle for grades. Then, there will always be some who will be looking forward to chat either in their social media world or a friend beside and remain unnoticed throughout. Each one of them irrespective of their motive does hope for the best possible grades. Some believe grades will automatically happen to them and some are ready to put in necessary effort in the process to get a grade. While, I make sure to convey that learning is important, grade will happen as a result of learning in the first class itself, students will only inquire about how to get grades. A well-designed course uses the principles of learning and focuses on learning outcomes and better grades are the indicators of learning taking place.

A competent teacher or facilitator worldwide who designs and delivers his/her courses rely on to the empirically tested principles of curriculum and instruction design. First, the principles states that one should know his/her students, should decide on what one wants them to learn in the course, should determine how one will measure students’ learning and should plan activities, assignments and materials that support students’ learning. Finally, it should be delivered as planned and desired learning outcomes is obtained. Grades result as the outcome of learning. But, it requires competencies for anyone in teaching profession to do so. Competencies as course designing and delivering comes from pre-service teacher education and continuous on service teachers’ training in the different educational dimensions as adopted by country like Finland. Unfortunately, for me, teaching or facilitating came through different self-learning. Some trainings to be a trainer helped a bit to develop basic level of communication skills. But, I still lack of competencies of a teacher because I never went through rigor it takes to become a teacher. Thus, it has affected my ability to perform to the fullest. With the understanding that one does not have the necessary competencies despite one does not lack the passion and purpose required in, every day becomes an internal struggle with the self.  Meanwhile, with the trial and error method of teaching, there are ways to conclude one’s classes. If it goes well i.e. students give you good feedback and are happy with the course, one can praise oneself for the best of the abilities. If it fails, one can even say that this time students were less than average or just average and nothing could have worked on them. Even further, it is all about adult learning so it entirely depended on their willingness to learn.

Not everyone can move ahead with that conclusion in life. Profession takes up the majority of valuable time in life and for most it creates an identity to reflect on. After years of service, if one wakes up one day just to realize that there was nothing that one did made a slightest of difference to the lives that one touched upon, one may end up with regrets. However, one can always rationalize one’s struggle and how the external environment never supported it but someday one has to look within and the answer may be the truth. The truth may list into things as; why did not I make best use of my potential? Why did not I blossom to the fullest?

How does this link with a teacher’s life in a management class? There are usually some common discussions one can hear if one spends some time with academicians (teachers) in the context of Nepal. The general and common views are: Students are not proactive rather reactive, they never put in the necessary effort to learn,  highly focused towards obtaining grades, don’t know how to critically reason, never transmits learning into behaviors and highly distracted. While the job industry has their views too. They are: they hold theoretical knowledge but lacks competencies, lacks adaptability, are arrogant and lacks professionalism. The views presented may be correct but with a closer look one can say they are symptoms or consequences. While every experts talk about world functioning in the manner of action and consequences. The consequences are visible but then actions are where the changes are required.

When a management education institution admits a prospective management degree applicant portraying itself as a best place to proceed in management career, the institution holds responsibility of providing an environment through appropriate and well-designed curriculum, competent faculties to deliver the curriculum in an effective manner and necessary infrastructures to materialize the learning process.  Even job industry holds a responsibility of connecting with the institution and voicing out the kind of professionals the industry requires. Furthermore, also offering a practical experience as a support. The world must work in an interconnected manner to reap the benefits.

It is high time for an institution to invest not in the make-up aspect of intervention in action side. The make-up aspect of interventions are having numerous events, taking students to trip, advertising and branding of the institutions, discount in the admissions, conducting inductions and events in 5 Star Hotel and  or developing world-class strategies in the paper. However, I don’t claim they are not important. The utmost priority that requires an intervention in management institution in the context of Nepal is teacher’s competencies. Also, this is an era where the world has open up knowledge and learning opportunities to everyone through internet. For instance, there are a lot of free courses in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). It is even easier for institution to develop thought-out teachers’ development plans that enhances their competencies in teaching using advanced and scientific tools. With these development plan, teachers can move beyond information delivery to becoming a facilitator of learning process. They can be a change agent and catalyst in the process of changing mindset of students. They can be the reason for students choosing an uncomfortable path than to follow the trend.

Additionally, in the long run universities can plan to make the entry into the teaching profession rigorous demanding not just qualification but specific competencies. This may prevent anyone with just qualification to opt out because it demands a soul out of you. After all, it is a profession of assisting or facilitating the newer generation towards the realization of their full potential so that they contribute to the well-being of others through the profession they select. For me, I would like to wake up any day with no regrets at all.