David Brooks wrote an article in the New York Times recently about the evolution of higher education. He distinguishes between technical learning, and practical learning, and this distinction presents a terrific opportunity for executive coaches.
Technical learning are things required to understand how to do a task, like recipes or formulas. Universities are too expensive to teach this kind of knowledge now, or will be soon enough, because of the emergence of free or low-cost online alternatives.
Practical learning is more nuanced. It is about how to do things. This is the knowledge that can't be found in step-by-step recipes or formulas. Technical learning can teach you to be a cook, but practical learning teaches you to be a chef.
In business, Brooks notes that plenty of people have technical skills. It is the practical skills — like collaborating, communicating powerfully, influencing others, engaging & mobilizing employees, and leadership in general — that seem to be in short supply.
I would argue that even our best universities and business schools don't do a sufficient job teaching these skills.
That is where executive coaching makes a huge difference. As coaches, we can go into any organizational setting, assess our client to get a clear understanding of his or her real impact, find some gaps in performance, and fill those gaps.
At the Center for Executive Coaching, we provide you with the methods, materials, and tools you need to help executives, managers, and up-and-coming talent develop these nuanced skills. They can't be taught effectively online, and most universities don't do teach them very well, either. The best way for leaders and aspiring leaders to develop this wisdom is on the job, real-time, with a coach.
David Brooks' distinction is extremely useful for seeing the opportunities in executive coaching, and the huge difference we can make.