How will we Manage without degrees?

Management is a skill and a great example of nature and nurture coming together as one. In PR, there’s no way to skip straight to management. It’s vocational enough that you simply can’t start delegating without the proper understanding of what you’re asking of people, what you expect from them and, as much as anything, experiencing good and bad management yourself.

But in recent years, other industries have pushed forward with a dynamic that ignores this – the graduate trainee scheme. The idea of these is that if you bring in talent with allegedly great potential and fast track it, you make sure the cream of the crop gets to where it’s needed in your business as quickly as possible.

Universally unqualified?

The only catch is, it’s rarely university smarts that have reliably indicated the highest potential individuals out there. Hoards of “under-qualified” success stories strut through the FTSE, their powers of invention and determined hard work speaking volumes – and often with extra challenges along the way (what’s with all the talented dyslexics in the world?!)

But famously, many have worked their way up from the bottom, spending longer in those lower rungs and sometimes even returning to that vantage point where possible to inform their understanding of managing their business.

Good management takes time

With this in mind, and university fees skyrocketing, perhaps there will be a silver lining to more people picking alternate routes through life and skipping the graduate schemes. Perhaps high calibre students will forge their own path, spending a more natural amount of time at lower levels of organisations before they leap to management.

I’d like to think that as a result, there could be a revival of management culture embodied by those that succeeded because of their knowledge and first hand experience of what makes the business tick.

What comes next?

Call me naive but I’d say understanding this shift and how to nurture those who forgo the university system should be a challenge that more businesses keep their eye on over the coming years.

The biggest question is whether current managers, themselves a product of the old paradigm, will know where to look.

Picture credit

- Max Tatton-Brown

September 12th, 2011