Chris Thomson, Education Consultant and former sixth form college principal.

Am I alone? I confess any connection between Albert Einstein and the role of a CEO had totally escaped me. But then I heard the boss of a leading UK company say this in an interview on BBC News:

"We find we're not very good at predicting the future. So, what we tend to focus on are what are the things we don't think are going to change.

"Customers care about: do you have the right products? [am I] going to get them at a great price? and can I get them in a convenient way?"

He was responding to a question about how to cope with rapidly changing developments in IT and his thinking seemed thoroughly grounded and thought-through. In essence he was saying, don’t be distracted or intimidated by what’s dazzling and new; be guided by what’s dependably, fundamentally certain.

But seeing beneath appearances that can be misleading to focus on what doesn’t change is what mathematicians and physicists call seeking symmetry or invariance. A planet and a ping-pong ball, for example, appear to be massively different things but some of the fundamental ‘laws’ describing their motion turn out to be identical.

In 1905 Einstein began a revolution in physics by thinking about a wonderful invariance: the speed of light. It doesn’t matter whether a light source is moving away from you or towards you, the speed at which the light comes to you is always the same. Because this is so, despite what common sense would suggest, time and space are not fixed but relative. Both change in very weird ways at very high speeds.

Attention to this invariance proved very successful in physics in at least three ways:

  1. First, it enabled scientists to account for what till then had been inexplicable (the motion of the planet Mercury).
  2. Secondly, it pointed to the existence of things no one had ever dreamt of (gravitational waves) and
  3. Thirdly it helped us invent things (satellite communications).

True, giant leaps in understanding like these make comparison with the way organisations work sound a bit far-fetched. But beneath the unreliable appearances there are points in common. The business symmetries quoted above are robust. Try reversing them and imagining how well an organisation would succeed if it focused on the wrong products at an extravagant price and made them inconvenient to obtain – irrespective of its particular business.

And these business symmetries function well in deciding how to develop the business, in sifting competing initiatives, in being sure choices are based on fundamental priorities rather than on superficially attractive opportunities. They act like sentries at the CEO’s office door whose perennial challenge is, ‘Great solution! Now how does this further our fundamental business priorities?’

In the world of Further Education, attention to fundamental symmetries would make any college principal think carefully about the wisdom of pursuing attractively funded initiatives or adopting Government advice or requirements without first thinking through whether or how they fit with the college’s mission.

And they don’t just help with deciding strategy. By keeping the college’s invariant purpose constantly present in everyone’s minds, a college principal can motivate staff and unleash their creativity. It means the organisation’s development doesn’t just depend on the whims or insights of one individual at the top; everyone, everyone can feel they’re directly connected to the great values, the great purpose that drives the corporate endeavour and anyone, anyone can come up with suggestions that will assist it.

So, there’s a degree of humility in that answer the CEO gave the journalist. The role is not about the exercise of personal power but about identifying and harnessing the enormous potential stored in an organisation’s fundamental purpose.

Not too dissimilar perhaps from the scientist’s humility. As Richard Feynman memorably said: “For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations (and human egos, we might add), for Nature cannot be fooled.”

Chris Thomson, Education Consultant and former sixth form college principal.

You may also be interested in these articles:

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Advertisers

Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Video Advert

Newsroom Activity

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In May 2020, FE News had over 120,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.

Podcasts

We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.

Events

FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page