The business of human endeavour…

For a long time now I have had real concerns about the focus of policy makers, and the projects that they spawn, on ‘enterprise’ and ‘entrepreneurship’ as being just too business oriented.  It is as if the only fields of human endeavour that matter are commerce of some kind.  Making money or fixing societies ills.

This is especially un-nerving when you see it played out in our primary schools as 6 year olds are encouraged to wear badges that proclaim them be a ‘Sales Director’, an ‘Operations Manager’ or a ‘Brand Executive’. Yuk!

What about all of those other great fields of human endeavour?

Climbing mountains, making art, having fun, playing sport, writing, cooking and so on.

What if we encouraged our 6 year olds to wear badges that proclaimed them to be ‘Footballer in Training’, ‘Ballet Dancer under Construction’, ‘Surgeon to Be’ or ‘The Next Michael McIntyre’?  OK, so perhaps we don’t need another Michael McIntyre…. but you get my point?

Because what really matters is not exposing more people to the world of business and entrepreneurship.  It is to get them imagining possible futures, and learning how best to navigate towards them.  It is about developing people with a sense of agency and influence over their own futures.  It is about building a generation with both power and compassion. And a generation who really understand how to use the tools of collaboration, association and cooperation in pursuit of mutual progress.

Does it really only matter if their chosen endeavour contributes to GVA?  Or is there more to our humanity that we need to recognise and encourage through both our policy and practice?

And this is not just an issue in schools.  It runs like a plague through our communities from cradle to grave.

I think this is important because we lose so many who are completely turned off by the thought of a world of commerce (and let’s face it we don’t all want to dive headlong into a world of Dragon’s Den and The Apprentice).

So what about if instead of focussing on enterprise and entrepreneurship we attempted to throw our net wider and to encourage and support people to build their power and compassion in whatever they choose to be their particular fields of human endeavour?

  1. August 4, 2011 at 5:20 am

    No, please no more Michael Macintyres. He is, however, an anomaly in your list as he is a very clever business person

    • August 4, 2011 at 6:03 am

      I reckon that most surgeons have more than a few brain cells too John! I wasn’t thinking social media surgeons either!

  2. Richard Simpson
    August 4, 2011 at 7:36 am

    Politicians obsess about economic growth – without it they can’t get enough of our money to fund their ideologies. As a result, business becomes the only game in town. I think enterprise though has potentially a wider definition – something about self-realisation, achieving personal goals, progress on a journey, getting off your arse and doing something for yourself and others…?

    • August 4, 2011 at 8:01 am

      Exactly what I was trying to articulate Richard. When we look at how we help people to exert more influence over their own lives and what they can make happen the results are profound.

      So do we try to influence a change in policy or just do it any way? Most of my energy goes into the latter on things like Progress School, Elsie and Innovation Lab, although I am doing a slot on ‘policy options’ at a conference in the autumn –

  3. Lee
    August 16, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    Stumbled across your article. Anyway, Ken Robinson might be of interest to you. His book, The Element, is a good read. Watch his TED Talks:

    • August 16, 2011 at 4:24 pm

      Cheers Lee. Ken and his work has been a big influence on me. As has most of the radical thinkers about education (as opposed to teaching) over the years. We stand on the shoulders of giants – Rogers, Fromm, Adler, Tilich, Ilich, Cuthbert, Dibble and Grub (joke, lame I know)

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