The idea for Seven Learning had been percolating in my mind for at least 10 years.
My husband, Matt, teaches at St John’s College, a small liberal arts school with a unique approach to education based on deep reading of classic books, hands-on encounters with the ideas of great thinkers, and open discussions with peers. I noticed how St John’s alumni, a number of whom had impressive business careers, talked with passion about the program and the way it had transformed their lives. I thought there should be a way to apply this kind of approach to corporate education—and especially to leadership development.
Busy as I was with my job at Forum, I kept putting the thought aside until one day this article appeared in my Linked In feed.
In it, Ken Starkey of Nottingham University Business School advocates for “a new kind of Master’s education that melds an understanding of business with a broader concept of education.” Pointing to the seemingly constant crises in business and finance around the world and employers’ growing doubts that the MBA is a useful qualification for leaders, Starkey offers ideas for reinventing the business school so that it becomes “more like the agora of ancient Athens … a place of dialogue where citizens collectively addressed the limits of their knowledge.”
The article was a slap upside the head. I decided I would quit my job and start a company devoted to teaching leadership in a new way:
- Not as a supposedly practical—but actually ineffectual—collection of tips and tools
- Not as a supposedly robust—but actually flimsy—collection of contemporary theories
- Not as a supposedly transformational—but actually transitory—collection of “a has” and “wows”
… but rather, as a liberal art: a genuinely practical, robust, and transformational way of understanding oneself and the world.
What do you think: Laughable … obvious … or intriguing?