collBusiness Lessons without College
In the last few years, an anti-college movement has swept across America. This movement is primarily in response to the ever growing cost of education but is more fundamentally a response to the irrelevancy of the education given. Our higher education has become a “Diploma Mill” focused more on and exchange of money for degrees than a focus on the actual education. Many now are claiming the education is not needed and for many jobs, they are right. Yet in fields with abstract lessons, is this so?
Industries Where College is Irrelevant
To begin the discussion, we must first set the contrast. Industries with concrete knowledge requirements are the primary candidates for high paying jobs without college. While I’m using “concrete” in the philosophical sense, working with concrete in construction is one such job. It is a job where on-the-job-training (OJT) is sufficient if not more beneficial than a class-room lesson. Jobs in pluming, steel work, and welding are often used as examples.
These roles benefit very little from abstractions and training should be hands on. The only scholarly institutions that are beneficial are trade schools, where you’ll hardly find a three ring binder but may easily trip over a power cord. Even with skill-sets such as welding where a brief education and diploma may benefit your career advancement, we recognize the uselessness of taking a bio-chemistry class to help with your welding. All you need for a successful career is to learn how to weld and the only way to learn how to weld is to weld.
The same cannot be said about industries where abstractions are key to success. The industry of business, which focuses on skill sets such as leadership, management, process improvement, etc. has limitations on how much you can learn hands-on. A process manager at a manufacturing plant or distribution center may perform adequately according to their job description, but the improvements will be limited and typically grounded in routine rather than principle, which is hardly any improvement at all.
Very few people have the ability to truly create new process from scratch. Fortunately, those who do usually document their process and others can apply the principles and processes to their industry. This is the key benefit of taking classes. An education should, in theory, expedite the learning process so that you can quickly consume the principles learned form thousands of years to apply to your business.
College Isn’t Effective
In years past, I was an advocate for college for those going into an abstract field such as business. However, since I completed my degree, I’ve continued to read and the amount of knowledge I’ve learned from a few dozen books has been more beneficial than all of my college. My entire undergraduate degree culminated in knowing a hand-full of models such as the SWOT analysis. My MBA was a bit more productive as it had a specialty, but not much.
Once I left school, I read a book by Jim Collins that I had heard referenced. I then read books that he referenced, and books those authors referenced, and so on. This trail of books has both given me industry principles written by the authors who created them in a writing style for humans (text books are horrible). Guiding my own choice of books has also been more beneficial than I expected at building a well-rounded education as it’s stemmed off into dozens of categories.
The most damning aspect is that these books are something we can take to work. Discussing “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” in the workplace is significantly more beneficial than “Principles of Management 101.” I’ve been forced to come to the conclusion that a combination of experience and a summer reading list will prepare you more for even an abstract job than college will.