The lessons universities fail to teach

The lessons universities fail to teach

At any given world class university, on any given day you will find professors teaching their students the importance of leadership, management, finance, marketing as well as many other much sought-after keys to success.

You will hear professors drill into the heads of the willing - and sometimes unwilling - that in order to succeed they will need this, that and the other. Their heads will be crammed full of knowledge that the university thinks is the right thing to teach these hungry minds. At the end of this lengthy process these students will be given the holy grail - a degree certificate.

Once they have graduated, the universities will advise these students that in order to get that extra edge over others, who like them are also recent graduates, they must seriously consider furthering their education by studying for a master's degree. The idea being that the students will learn how to master their chosen subject, adding yet another key factor in their path to success.

And yet all of this means nothing if universities are not true to their students. And most of them aren't. Not by intention mind you, simply by their nature.

Universities do not teach their students the two factors that will have the single greatest impact on their lives - how to better use their connections and the importance of luck.

Before I get a flood of letters from people telling me off for leading their children down a slippery slope, let us consider what I have said above. Two people; both with an equal knowledge base and both graduates from well known universities. Both have a job interview with the same company but one wears the tie of his favourite football team while the other doesn't like football. They are both interviewed and both do very well. Yet the interviewer is also a fan of the same football team that one of the applicants supports. Guess who gets the job?

Again, let's revisit the same scenario but with a slighty different twist. Both applicants wear ‘power' ties yet one comes from the same university as the interviewer. Now guess who gets the job?

Still not convinced? Take two children from the same family who both start work for the family business at the same time. One quickly rises up through the ranks while the other languishes behind. One fights all the time but for the other nothing is blocked. Why is this?

What if one employees' father is still alive to protect him (even when he is wrong) while the second is orphaned at an early age and has no one to support him? Now does the picture become clearer?

Universities fail to teach these two subjects as a course not because they won't but because they can't. On the one hand universities like empirical things and this is the epitome of all that is not calculable. While on the other hand universities pride themselves in being places of equality and the idea that connections could give anyone an unfair advantage is something they would never promote.

These two subjects cannot be empirically taught and they symbolise all that is unequal - a dilemma that does not sit well within the hallowed walls of elite universities around the world.

I am not saying that the universities are at fault. I am simply saying that we - as a society - are at fault for not teaching our future leaders that life is not fair and that we could all use a little help from Lady Luck from time to time.

We also need connections to smooth our movements as much as engines need lube oil to smooth the friction within and not blow up. We need to be able to recognise these factors and use them to our advantage without feeling guilty for doing so.

Those who learn how to fully endorse these keys are bound to succeed while those who don't will not.

Mishal Kanoo is the deputy chairman of the Kanoo Group.

Original Article on Arabian Business