21 Wordsworth was rubbish at Sudoku

I get hundreds of letters every week begging for money. My daughters are nothing if not persistent. Two are at university and therefore perpetually penniless as a result of having to attend all those extra night-classes led by Professor Funkalicious. The third is still at school and just thinks money is cool. She is an early adopter.

What is the best way for parents to redistribute their meagre wealth these days? Simply giving in to claims of child hunger is one way. However, I prefer to use a couple of slightly more externally verifiable KPIs in deciding which of my kids to keep alive: when the begging letters arrive, I assess them for lucidity of sentence construction and accuracy of punctuation. Txt msgs? If the entreaties are not dispatched with the flourish of a quill pen on crisp oyster vellum, then there ain’t no dough for the Lady Gaga show.

You’re lying for comic effect, I suppose.
Thank you for noticing. But I was remembering yesterday, for all our dreamy nostalgia about being young and free, how really crap it was to be young and poor. You knew exactly how much better life would be as a kid if you had that new Scalextric chicane, and what you got instead was a parental treatise on the benefits of delayed gratification.

Parents and children always live to a different agenda. While parents treasure their children’s childhood, the kids themselves want cash. We want to preserve their innocence, they want to live in Argos. By the time they’re into double figures, they’re already budding consumers – shackled by the patronage of pocket-money and dreaming of fiscal freedom.

Gordon Brown thinks 16-year-olds should get the vote. I think twelve is the right age. Not to vote but to start experiencing properly the financial reward principle that’ll inform the rest of their lives. How about we link financial reward with education and pay children against their performance at school? By we I mean the taxpayer. By pay I mean in hard cash, as well as buckets of praise.

At last, proof of certifiable madness.
You think so? Education is a service industry, and the customer it serves is society. When new adults arrive from Teenage Central and leave their rank little hoodies at the door, we want them fully operational in social skills. Feet off seats etc. But we also want them clever.

To most children, school is primarily an arena for personal and social discoveries. Who am I? Who are my friends? These are questions more vital to any adolesecent than What symbol represents potassium on the periodic table? As adults, we’ve forgotten what it’s like. Imagine if we had to sit in a room all day while a bunch of old people made us learn things that we personally couldn’t give a damn about. Like line dancing. For our own good.

How many adults do you know who recite Wordsworth while figuring out Sudoku? By the age of twelve, kids have already jumped off the arts/science fence onto the side that suits them. What is the point of trigonometry if you’re a linguist? Why study syntax if biology’s your future? Why not let them specialise earlier, drop the subjects that make them feel dumb and incentivise them properly for becoming better earlier at the subjects they actually enjoy. The government’s EMA scheme already gives some 16-19 year olds £30 a week just for turning up at school. They need a dose of profit-related pay, them kids do.

And how this relates to business is…?
I wonder how well we educate our people at work and help them grow. How well do we construct a curriculum of job tasks and personal development that motivates them and encourages them to motivate themselves? Do we understand their interests? Do we think of them as individuals? Or do we treat our employees as children, who ought to do what they’re told?

Maslow and Herzberg (the Jedward of management gurus) were always spouting that money is a feeble motivator compared to the glow of personal job satisfaction. That’s true without a doubt, especially when you’ve acquired enough Scalextric. The worrying thing for most businesses, in terms of employee job satisfaction and therefore employee performance, is the actual number you come up with if you perform this simple test: look around you now and calculate how many of your colleagues are glowing. Dare you! Double dare you do it!

You probably won’t need a differential equation for the answer.

Nielsen Dinwoodie
business messages people remember

All posts also at www.dinwoodie.net

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