Cooperation in and between Education
and Business Life
Prof. Dr. László Dinya
Former Deputy to the Secretary of State Hungary
Everybody is talking about cooperation nowadays, just let's see the agenda of our conference: networking in quality assurance, successful project application, support for EU associations, etc. - even EURASHE is a living example of cooperation. The notion of cooperation becomes more and more popular than the competition today, but they are both very close to each other (like the Hungarian sentence: what is the difference between a mafia and a lobby? There is just a little bit: if I'm outside the lobby, it is called mafia!). But seriously: the cooperation is a form, how to be more competitive. More competitive in fighting for the limited sources (possibilities) against actors outside the partnership. This is a very radical approach to deal with cooperation, and very different (but rational) from the ,,we like each other, and cooperation is so good and sympathic!" opinion.
When we are talking about cooperation between education and business life it is better to have a business-like approach to understand the motivations of potential partners. It would be very simple just to talk about difference of possibilities, tendencies of cooperation, but I'd like to put it firstly into a broader context, and let's see how colourful is the picture later on.
Education and business life are in the same basket
All needs of actors in the society are satisfied by three main spheres:
- the business sphere
- the public sphere
- and the civil sphere
In a healthy (=well-developed) society there is a strong cooperation among the spheres (to satisfy the needs) and a strong competition too (for the limited sources. The cooperation of spheres (actors of the spheres) needs important bases: cultural bases, common and identified interests and intensive communication. There is distinction between cooperation and networking: the networking is a long-lasting cooperation.
Changes in business life - and the role of Education
Everybody is familiar with stereotypes of today's challenges (like globalization, knowledge society, information technology, etc.). Instead of dealing with these stereotypes I'd like to talk shortly about their consequences in and towards education, especially Higher Education, even the extra~university sector. Four implications should be mentioned:
"The neuronal man"
The speed and growing use of new IT's is now a common phenomenon in most countries. Anyone in the world can contact anyone else at any place and any time. Any organisation is able to connect with any database to reach the information it needs, without an intermediary! Direct banking, direct insurance, direct diagnosis, direct education and self-development become the rule of our society: a person will be like a neuron in a huge network! Consequences are:
- changing relationship to time, money, health, work, education, family, social life, etc.
- It will create more benefits, opportunities and more stress
- Life becomes more homogeneous and heterogeneous (general norms and uniformity - differentiation based on the use of IT's)
- Increasing security (more organised society) and increasing risks (dependence on common norms, networks, etc.)
- Quick and radical adaptation to environmental changes becomes a very difficult matter - that is a real challenge for education!
"The strange attractor"
Complexity becomes more conventional - everybody agrees on the level of complexity. But parallel with growing complexity there is an increasing role of individual actors in affecting the very sensitive balance (like the the well-known Internet-virus ,,I love you!"). In complexity theory a very small factor affecting meaningfully a stable environment is called a "strange attractor". There are calculations that in the future companies may need half as many employees, paid twice as much, and working three times as hard. But we were born in an industrial society structured and organised along the principles of Taylorism. Because of high priority of efficiency and competition, it seems that each generation has to face the movement of one-third of its population from one type of job to a totally different type. It was not a quick and smooth process to leave the agriculture for the industrial sector, later to move again to the service industries, and the next generation will shift people from service industries to other activities (the nature of which remains unknown). That's why we:
- have to focus from employment to employability (because we do not know really what kinds of jobs will exist in the future)
- need fundamental research in education, because at the present time we educate people on the basis and theories and values of XVIII-XIX centuries, and 20 or more years are required for a new discovery to reach the classroom education.
The world is turning into a network of cities (appr. 50 % of human beings live in cities, more and more people commute far from their home everyday). ,,Distance employees" cannot be managed like those sitting in the same building. The ability of entrepreneurship and creativity will be privileged, and required competences of workforce will become even more complex and more individualised. Long-term career planning is no longer practical in most companies, employees have to take care of their own future thinking in advance about what is going to happen to their jobs, and how to maintain and even enhance their employability.
In a knowledge-based society all of the actors, even the organisations in higher education (HE) has to be a learning focused actor, which means:
- excellent prepared (both ,,mentally" and professionally)
- has to be rigorous as well as creative
- hard working as well as imaginative
- risk-taking as well as routine-minded
- technology minded
- stress resistant
- flexible and quick decision maker
- "head in the sky and foot on the ground"
- taking part in different networks.
From teaching institution to learning centres
There is a growing competition on the knowledge market on the field of education programs offered to business life. Clients are more and more demanding (the payback from their invested time and money). That's why teaching institutions have to become learning centres:
- from a focus on initial career education delivered by remote providers to a continuous involvement in LLL
- from explaining generalized concepts and theories to designing individually and organisationally tailored approaches
- from functional knowledge to supporting integrative learning
The profile of these learning centres should be:
- longterm partnership with clients
- comprehensive portfolio of learning sources
- professional diagnosis and counselling
- focus for networking and benchmarking
- multicultural and global outlook
- wide use of educational technology
- relationship of marketing and client management
- collaborative relationships between providers
- encouragement of LLL
- quality as a core value
At least 5 issues of the above mentioned ones lead to cooperation, partnership in or between education and business life.
Managing an institution - client relationship
Having clients from the world of business it is important to recognise their focus -what do they require by:
- designing a program
- style of delivering
(i.e. predictability, speed and simplicity, measuring success in terms of business benefits, etc.)
Because there are a lot of potential conflicts between the provider and client in these fields, we have to categorize the types of clients and discover (manage) the potential conflicts. The model of categorization has some basic terms.
- Client = organisations wanting to get something from the institution
- Flexibility = openness, creativity, risk-taking in designing a program
- Influence = the impact, what they want to get from the program
The client's categories are:
Degree of Influence
- Learners = they want to get real competitive advantage for their meaningful investment
- Fire-fighters = they are in a hurry and want to solve the current problem in the shortest possible time
- Rigid = large investors, but they show significant resistance to changing their centrally-driven menu of offerings
- Goal-keepers = minimising the change, justifying current practice.
Partnerships across boundaries
Partnerships, mutual learning and networking across all kinds of boundaries are hot topics in the reshaping education and development. The nature and diversity of the new Europe offer many opportunities. The first question is: why do we need to cross boundaries? Because there are numerous:
- formal (explicit) country borders, organisational-, legal- and political barriers,
- informal (implicit) cultural-, communication-, economical differences (like the EU-and CEE- countries)
and we want:
- to provide an international and multi~disciplinary perspective required by the changing nature of EU-economies, multinational clients and other clients operating across borders.
- To be a part of a wider development network and share intellectual efforts, practical experiences with others.
But it must be recognised, that:
- partnerships are condemned to failure if they only started because they are seen as fashionable and good to do,
- looking for benefits without being willing to make any investment isn't a reasonable attitude.
There are many forms of alliances of providers (institutions):
- alliances between similar institutions - they are designed to give the client access to a broader range of faculties (f.e. a range of leading business schools around the world)
- alliances between institutions in developed and developing countries (f.e. CEE-countries, Asian emerging economies)
- alliances between complementary organisations (f.e. schools with consulting firms)
- alliances between organisations with a small core staff - to call upon a range of professionals from different organisations to deliver their programs.
Terminology, principles of effective networks
Speaking about cooperation, networking, etc. it is time to be clear with the terminology:
- Cooperation = is a common action from which two or more partners wish to draw certain benefits. These benefits are widely acknowledged and documented.
- Networking = is based on information exchange. It does not lead necessarily to joint activity, but it can greatly facilitate the search for partners, and could turn into active collaboration among members of the network.
- Networks = are channels connecting individuals (institutions) in ways that facilitate communication.
- Association = are mechanisms for networking and could be set up at various levels:
world - continental - regional - national. At all levels you can find examples.
To establish effective networks we have to know the so called ,,four deadly poisons" for networks, which are the following:
- a frequent reason for failure is the identification of networks with one institution, or even with one person which (who) takes the association as a hostage for power, personal image building, etc.
- Dangerous is the trend of many associations to compete with their members by providing the same sort of services (especially when there are members often doing much better)
- Another risk lies in the natural inclination to try and do everything for everybody. As a consequence the network expands too thin and too far and gradually looses substance and interest. Networks, like corporations, have to focus on their core business and their clients (=members) main common interests.
- The most dangerous enemy for networks, however, is the absence of effective management . A network needs a competent and committed "networker", who must combine diplomacy, tolerance, open-mindedness with the hard entrepreneurial, organisational and financial skill to sustain and develop a voluntary association. That is why are so important good training programs on NW-management and experience exchange among NW-s.
The second question is: how to manage cooperation and networking at institutional level? Institutions must have the capability to use effectively these mechanisms and see and manage adequately their networking opportunities. Otherwise, networking will soon appear as a costly, time-consuming exercise. To avoid this problem an institution has to:
- have sufficient thought about what kind of organisation they want to be, what they are planning to do for the future, and why;
- analyse carefully where to fit cooperation with other partners in their general development strategy;
- assign priorities of cooperation strategy strictly and systematically;
- be as good as they might be at organising themselves internally to gain the full benefits of continuous collaboration with others.
Concerning the last point the proposed method includes 5 steps:
1. assemble a group representing the competence of networking
2. seek agreement on objectives
3. assign priorities among the issues based on the strategic plan
4. assign responsibilities for the implementation of the plan
5. communicate the outcome of the work to employees who have not been involved in it.
Such an approach considers cooperation and networking as integral parts of institutional strategy. It makes it possible to determine priority issues and areas for cooperation, desirable partners and levels of collaboration, methods to be used and appropriate resources. In summary: I didn't want to discuss all aspects of cooperation between Education and business life, but I really hope it will be useful not just for the participants of the conference, but also for EURASHE, as a potentially very good form of network in the next 10 years too!