Monday, March 14, 2011

Life Lesson ~ Experienced Theory

I loved how our Supply Chain Management class professor handled our class today. She made us do a case study (which usually fills 5 to 10 short bond paper sheets when single spaced) after reading a one-page information about MasterTag. This was unlike the other case studies I've had in my other classes, where we were tasked to read 20 to 30 page-long case study materials with an average of 10 exhibits, complete with financial statements, operational strategies, etc. She said, "That's real life. You sometimes do not have all the information. You may have to scramble your way to determine which data to get."
I thought being enrolled in a management class that is very much related to engineering (Industrial) would be boring, but no. I was surprised when my professor was encouraging us to be as creative as possible with our case studies. We could develop our own numbers and crunch them up to compute for the metrics. (In our other assignments we could do case studies of hypothetical companies, but we had to base all info on real hard facts.) We could offer different solutions, different systems, and arrive at different recommendations. There was no right or wrong answer for her. She simply encouraged us to broaden our thinking, and deepen it to the very detail, like "How will you replenish the four racks of goodies in a Ministop shop? Should the delivery happen daily? every other day? Will you ask someone to do rounds every hour?"

Education, as she said, is not merely teaching about theory or experience. It is mixing both. If you teach based only on experience, then when someone asks you, "why should meat stew be cooked slowly?" You can only reply with "because my grandma tells me so." Whereas if you have a theory to back you up, like "slow evaporation keeps the taste full and meat tender," then the lesson is much stronger. Your student would know how to handle something (a task, an experience, etc.) when the environment changes. On the other hand, if everything is based on theory only, it lacks life and vigor. It rests only in the mind with no use for the new knowledge.

Indeed, a life-changing, powerful lesson is one that blends both theory and experience. It is a life lesson (life~experienced, lesson~theory) that sticks. I'd probably remember even after so many years that once upon a time I learned how to create a supply chain model for the colorful horticultural tag company, MasterTag. Maybe that's what all teachers should do, to teach experienced theory, whether it is a Supply Chain Management class, Strategic Management, Arts, Science, History or the Bible. And perhaps this goes out to more than the teachers, to parents who have youngsters, students who have maids at home, and Christians who have friends and families that have not yet tasted the grace of God!

Learn theory, experience the theory, and teach. God bless! :)

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