The Importance of Education in a Family Enterprise
Listen to Dr. Ivan Lansberg, who teaches family business at the Kellogg School of Management, emphasize the importance of learning and reflecting together as a family through educational programs in order to work at family harmony and sustain business growth.
If you become an enormously successful family, you started with nothing, built a, you know, world-class enterprise, with good reason you take great pride in the particular formula that led you to that success. The problem is that, you know, many families end up believing that they themselves, and they alone have the answers to their own future because they have been able to demonstrate that they can do a lot of things. So who is going to teach me anything? So piercing through that, and actually saying to families you may have been enormously successful, you know, up to this point, but the reality is that often the challenges that are coming down the line for you, you have not lived. So, and in fact, may require you to reassess the formula that made you successful. So, you do have to earn that trust in that sense. But I think, the most important thing is again, instilling in families the kind of humility and the kind of, shall we say, self awareness to be able to know that they need to be on a learning curve, as long as they are an enterprise family. Because the world changes, the circumstances of their businesses change, the legal systems change, their kids and their grandkids will change. So, that is the one given, right? So how do you impact these families so their adaptability to those changes can actually be enhanced?
Now, education can happen in multiple forms. You know, some of it may come over a course on the web; some of it may come by attending a program at a university. Some of it may come by having a customized in-house seminar for a particular family, and each one of those venues has a particular advantage and a particular cost. So, for example, when you attend a public program, you know, the curriculum has not been customized to you, although there is often, if it is a good program, a good deal of overlap, but the most valuable thing you get is meeting the other families. And the moment you start talking to a peer, maybe a family from India, or a family from Hong Kong, and are worlds away from your cultural background, you put them in a classroom, you start talking about issues of continuity and succession and before you know it, they all share something in common. The awareness that comes from being in a classroom with different people and understanding how you are common, I think is very powerful.
We want to instill in families the notion of lifelong learning. For education to occur, you have to create the capacity as a family to literally hit pause, in your life, and reflect on how you are doing what you are doing. You know, I often say to people that experience without reflection is not learning, it is just experience. So creating for families the capacity, the language, the opportunities for them to pause and just simple things, like how are you running your board? How are you developing your next generation? How are you addressing the complex issues of ownership that come with having an enterprise? You know, it sounds simple but in fact, families do not do it. So what happens is that they are making choices, a stream of choices, and very seldom do they pause and then move up to thirty thousand feet to look at the total picture of how are they going about what they are doing. All families have to bring themselves up to a level of understanding and respect of the issues before they can thoughtfully engage in solving their circumstances.