School performance vs. work potential

The world is full of mismatch problems: When what we get taught in the classroom is out of sync with what it takes to succeed in the real world.

In a study, Jeffrey Pfeffer of Stanford University analysed forty years of data in an effort to find evidence that MBA business schools make their graduates more successful. His conclusion was thought provoking: it doesn’t matter if you graduate at the top of your class with a perfect 4.0 or at the bottom with a barely passing grade – getting an MBA has zero correlation with long-term career success.

A similar conclusion was reached when the University of Michigan decided to set up an experiment: measure the success across time of all UM Law graduates – 30 years worth – and compare the success of those graduates who tested well with those minority graduates who did not.

Interestingly, the study showed absolutely no correlation between what made you successful inside the walls of the University of Michigan and what made you thrive outside. In other words: School performance rarely correlates with work potential.

The same principle is true for those people in the gym who build their muscles using fancy gym machines and develop their strength by lifting large weights, but in a street fight they get beaten up by a small guy who trained in a more unstructured and disorderly setting.

When training people in a structured and an extremely organized environment the risk is that what they learn will not apply to the real world, which is complex and constantly changing.

Any organisation should therefore think carefully about how to reduce the gap between what employees get taught in training and what will make them successful in their jobs.

Anything else is a waste of time and effort.

Posted on 27th Nov 2013 by Rasmus Ankersen

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