In the past two weeks Eliza and I have worked with professors in Aalborg, Denmark and Tromsø, Norway to help run three Income/Outcome workshops. Scandinavia has a justifiable reputation for innovative designs that are interesting, elegant and functional (as in the Tromsø housing below), so we wanted to know how our foray into their universities would be received.
At Aalborg University we ran two 1-day workshops for Danish engineering undergraduates, while training and accrediting a group of business professors to take over from us. The first workshop ran all day from 8:15 to 5 pm. The students, most of whom had no business background, were exhausted by the end, and a lot of their comments were about the workshop being too long.
The profs restructured plans for the second workshop – they work in a very flexible environment – so that the first half ran in the afternoon, and the second half ran the next morning. A lot of the comments this time were that the workshop was too short!
This was a unique opportunity for us to have an experiment that compared two virtually identical groups of undergraduates. We have often suggested to clients that more learning occurs in situations where the participants can sleep on the first part of the learning, process it, and come back fresh the next day to review it and use it. Otherwise, if all the learning is crammed into one day, the participants may become exhausted.
With Income/Outcome people are learning to play a new game… learning new concepts about business management… picking up new terminology and definitions… working in a team with people they haven’t worked with before… constantly making decisions… and, in this case, doing it all in a second language. No wonder they get tired!
At the University in Tromsø we ran a slightly shorter workshop for a group of 15 MBA students aged 29 to 39. They came from China, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, as well as Norway and a mix of Eastern and Western European countries. Here the students already had both business experience and business English; the workshop was a refresher for them, rather than being brand new information. We ran it over two short half-days, and again the suggestion was that the workshop should have been longer. The Russian (who had presented in class as someone who understood all this already, seeing as he had two businesses of his own back home) advocated a four-day workshop.
When we run a workshop in the corporate world, we may be providing the only finance education the participants will get for the next ten years. For a day or two, we are their university. What we don’t teach them, they don’t get taught.
But when the workshop runs in an actual university, we are only a small piece of their studies. Income/Outcome is best positioned as foundational learning. We provide a big picture of how all the pieces of business fit together – how the Income Statement and Balance Sheet tell you different things, how you need to think to understand the business, how you have to manage separately for cash flow and profit, how to visualize cost structure and working capital and depreciation… And then the university takes over and teaches business and finance and accounting for the next semester or year or more, and goes into far more detail than we did.
But we have provided a single big picture that the university can’t provide. That is our strength. Our workshops, in an academic setting, are foundational. And thanks to us, the institution can then teach more, and faster, and in more depth, and have it all understood and remembered.
Learning occurs best when you have a clear big picture understanding of what you are learning – as well as when you have a good night’s sleep to process it.