Something Borrowed

Let me start by saying that I was one of those kids who LOVED school. Always. From the time I was in pre-school. I loved learning. I loved the tasks. I loved the teachers. I think there was even a part of me that loved the tests…. I know, weird. I definitely didn’t love exams in college, but in elementary school and middle school I liked the validation. I was learning. I did know these things. I was getting “smarter”

But I was good at school. I seemed to inherently understand the rules of the game and the way it was meant to be played. It came easily to me, and I know that more than indicating that I’m smart, it just indicates that I was lucky. I was able to thrive in an environment of semi-arbitrary structure with semi-arbitrary rules.

What in hindsight seems silly to me, is that the number one cardinal sin of formal schooling is plagiarism. In school, getting caught borrowing ideas or phrasing from someone else is the kiss of death. Its an unforgivable offense. And its silly.

On one hand, you need to work through things on your own to learn, but what schooling doesn’t prepare students for is the need to be able to re-use parts of other people’s work.

In the office, we share work all the time. Jim had a slide in his presentation that he gave last week that makes the same point you are trying to show to your boss, snag it. Sally already wrote the specification for this system, copy it. Three years ago Joe took the time to put together an excel sheet for key reporting metrics, use it.

With modern technology we are constantly connected to infinite streams of information. Shouldn’t we be teaching the future leaders of our economic success to leverage this? Give them a hard problem. And let them Google it. Let them work together. Let them copy each other. Let them all turn in the same answer… As long as its a good one.

So what if the best communicator, or most resourceful turns in the best answer? In business the most successful people aren’t always the smartest. They are the ones who know how to utilize their resources. Right?


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