There is no multiple-choice exam for excellence (Demo)

Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times Columnist spent a weekend beneath the Arctic Circle aboard the U.S.S. New Mexico, an attack submarine (Parallel Parking in the Arctic Circle). As a learning designer, developer and ultimately a learner, these two paragraphs from the column stood out to me . . .

My strongest impression, though, was experiencing something you see too little of these days on land: ‘Excellence.’ You’re riding in a pressurized steel tube undersea. If anyone turns one knob the wrong way on the reactor or leaves a vent open, it can be death for everyone. This produces a unique culture among these mostly 20-something submariners. As one officer put it: ‘You become addicted to integrity.’ There is zero tolerance for hiding any mistake. The sense of ownership and mutual accountability is palpable.

And that is why, said Adm. Joseph Tofalo, the Navy’s director of undersea warfare, who was also on the trip, ‘There is no multiple-choice exam for running the sub’s nuclear reactor.’ If you want to be certified to run any major system on this ship, he added, ‘everything is an oral and written exam to demonstrate competency.’”

Two takeaways from the above paragraphs . . .

Accountability & Excellence – Having “a sense of ownership” and an “addiction to integrity” are vital elements in our pursuit of excellence at whatever we do. In a world that has been flattened by technology, a world that is now ultra-competitive, it is the responsibility of each individual to drive their learning path, to be accountable for achieving excellence. If you don’t take ownership you risk being left behind in your profession as more passionate, accountable, excellence driven individuals from all over the world continue to push forward at a furious pace. How do we measure excellence? Well, it cannot be measured with a multiple-choice exam. Determining excellence in any role, or any activity can rarely be measured by a multiple-choice exam. And we all know that. Yet multiple-choice exams are still a huge part of the corporate learning world. It’s the quick, easy solution often driven by time constraints, lack of desire or lack of ability of an organization/business group to truly assess excellence. While the organization has a responsibility to ensure excellence, the learner must take on the responsibility of as well. If they are driven by the pursuit of excellence, their sense of ownership of learning helps drive the learning experience to new heights. Their pursuit of excellence demands excellence in learning and that’s a good thing.

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