Two brief news stories in the British media this week illustrate some of the issues we often try to highlight at 3Di.
First, on Radio 4, there was an item about the expansion of Honda’s car-making capacity in England. With regard to any difficulties the company may have with finding additional skilled workers, the Honda UK managing director, Dave Hodgetts, said this:
“Honda has always prided itself on being able to take in a wide range of people, following the philosophy of our Founder, Soichiro Honda, which is built on the key principle of treating all individuals with a great deal of respect, treating everybody equally, everybody has a chance to move on in the company – we don’t differentiate on the basis of people’s qualifications, for example – it’s what you do in the company that’s important rather than what you brought to the company when you joined.”
So much for the ongoing row about GCSEs and grade inflation. In the real world which sensible person or business really gives a stuff about the results of timed tests and exams? – and a successful multinational company such as Honda is very sensible indeed. The CBI has been saying similar things about skills and capabilities for some time – including a call for the abolition of examinations prior to the age of eighteen – but who’s really listening? And still the world is full of frequently arrogant and often useless individuals with university degrees who are often far from happy with their working lives – because they are not three-dimensionally intelligent and they’ve been unable to discover their true element.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is a wonderfully gifted young footballer who has been brought up through Arsenal’s football academy and became a member of the England squad before he’d reached the age of nineteen. He’s fully in his element.
According to the Guardian, reporting on a press conference at the England training camp this week,
“Oxlade-Chamberlain spoke with an eloquence and self-assurance that made it difficult at times to forget this was not a seasoned professional but someone with a mere seven Premier League starts.
“I’ve always wanted this,” he says. “When I said I wanted to be a footballer, my teachers would tell me: ‘You’ve got no chance, make sure you do your homework.’ But at the same time, I always knew.”
Why do we find this incredible? That in the 21st Century teachers can be so dismissive of a young person’s interests and ambitions? That they can only see merit in academic certificates? They they could fail to spot a young person’s incredible gifts and talents? That if he’d paid attention to his teachers and given up on his ambitions Alex might now be working in some dull job for the minimum wage, or even unemployed in spite of having a handful of GCSE passes?
The really stupifying element of this story is that Alex’s father, Mark Chamberlain, was an England international footballer who played alongside John Barnes when Barnes scored his ‘miracle’ goal to beat Brazil in the Maracana stadium back in 1984. Were Alex’s dismissive teachers aware of this?
Maybe young Alex’s former teachers are now reflecting on his ability to earn more than a million pounds a year – which is presumably a lot more than they are able to earn in a decade or so of piling on the homework and giving young people the impression that GCSE success is all that matters in school and in life. Maybe they’re now considering his life as an international footballer with its incredible opportunities for achievement, travel, excitement and fun. Still – what’s that compared with the non-existent security of a fistful of GCSE certificates?
We see this sort of thing time and time again – for example guests on programmes such as Desert Island Discs – people who hated school and hated the dry as dust regime of ceaseless preparations for tests and exams – highly successful and creative individuals who were only able to find and develop their real interests and talents, and discover their true element, after their schooldays were over.
It’s not difficult to turn this situation around. We just have to convince a few hundred of our so-called representatives in Parliament, a few thousand people within the teaching profession, and a few million parents. It won’t be a problem convincing the children and young people.
For the views of the younger generation take a look at this recent article in the Times Educational Supplement:
Let’s break free of GCSE constraints
We are being forced down narrow paths of knowledge, argues sixth- former Noa Lessof Gendler
Even art, which was advertised as an independent-minded option, through which we would follow our own interests and tastes, forced us to work by completing “assessment objectives”. Achieving 95 per cent in each of the four objectives would give us the A* that our school desired for us.
Perhaps a new curriculum with a new set of exams and a blank slate on which a progressive view of education could be created is what we need. Indeed, the best way to implement change is to shake things up, and I’m all for an educational revolution.
If we want to create a hard-working, independent-thinking, engaging culture for young people then we need to teach them to be just that, and telling them that they are thick at a young age is never going to persuade them to stay in full-time education and reach their potential.
The strength of the Honda Corporation comes from the Honda Philosophy which was created by the founder of Honda Motor, Soichiro Honda. Our commitment is built on two important Honda philosophies; Respect for the Individual and The Three Joys.
Respect for the Individual reflects Honda’s belief in the unique capabilities of the human being. This fundamental respect defines the company’s relationship with Honda associates, customers, dealers, business partners and society. Simply put, our motivation and main concern is people – to make a difference by doing what’s right.
Honda also believes that every person involved in the process of buying, selling or creating our products should receive a sense of joy from the experience. Together, these Three Joys result in an overall joy of affiliation – a positive feeling resulting from a relationship with Honda.
Larry Jutte, plant manager at Honda’s engine plant in Anna, Ohio, can quote the Honda philosophy chapter and verse: “How do we get better results? It all goes back to our basic philosophy. Focusing on the customer. Being creative. Respecting fresh ideas. Enjoying your work. Understanding that change is good.”
The backbone of the challenging spirit articulated by Mr. Honda is the company’s respect for humanity, which is reinforced by the Honda management policy:
Proceed always with ambition and youthfulness.
Respect sound theory, develop fresh ideas and make the most effective use of them.
Enjoy your work and always brighten your working atmosphere.
Strive constantly for a harmonious flow of work.
Be ever mindful of the value of research and endeavor.
Such statements may sound too simplistic to the skeptical outsider, but Mr. Nelson strongly defends their practical applicability: “Some people might think we’re too philosophical. The practical side is that our philosophy is our long-range plan. We all know where we’re going.”
Which is more than could be said for the once-great British companies that were crippled and destroyed by bad management and ownership that had no respect for their workforce, no guiding philosophy or principles, no creativity, no fresh ideas, no capacity for innovation, and no real care whether the business was successful or not. Had this not been the case then it’s possible that Britain would not now be so reliant on overseas investment in manufacturing industry and might still have a healthy and thriving industrial sector.
Honda’s commitment to diversity has a strong supportive foundation in the Honda’s corporate philosophy, established by our Company founders more than 40 years ago. At the core of our philosophy is the principle of Respect for the Individual, which has three basic components: trust, initiative and equality. This fundamental commitment to ‘respect’ guides Honda in all of our business operations.
As it applies to the workplace, our philosophy states: “Equality among colleagues is expressed in recognizing and respecting individual differences in each other, treating each other fairly and creating equal opportunity for everyone.”
We know that to be successful, action and philosophy must be closely linked.
“Action without philosophy is a lethal weapon; philosophy without action is worthless.” – Soichiro Honda, founder