From “Forbes”…

Why Target, J.C.Penney, and Gap’s New CEOs Have To Learn To Be Merchants

The executive role is a functional skill set that is loosely aligned to the context of the domain under control.  Despite best efforts to find the person with both an executive acumen and deep domain expertise, the trade-off is often to the detriment to domain knowledge.  This is true for a number of reasons, but most importantly due to the transitory nature of knowledge and the fact that a strong team can mitigate knowledge gaps.  Executive acumen is resident in the individual.  However, the expectations on executives for innovation in their new domain are significant–how can we innovate when we don’t understand the problem?

It is critical that executives in new domains learn the context of that domain rapidly and thoroughly.  A method of practice must be in place.

From “The Junior Executive“…

Don’t believe the false promise of specialization. An executive is not a specialist, but a polymath and has the ability to synthesize information and concepts across educational disciplines for productive application. This is not often a talent and must be learned over time. The best place and time to learn this is in structured educational environments. The stronger the foundation is built at this time, the smarter the executive will be in the future. A structured education curriculum must cover a broad array of subjects and we must work hard to draw meta-conclusions from these subjects. This is precisely how greater understanding of the world is obtained and how confidence is built that one can understand, operate and actually change the world. Individual subjects are a bit like the cogs of a watch mechanism. We are only able to understand how they interrelate through individuation and deductive comparison. As we are exposed to more and more pieces and work very hard to draw meta-conclusions, our point of view is elevated and we begin to see the pieces for what they are–an operating mechanism that has inputs, outputs, does work and yields something valuable. This point of view is only achievable through thoughtful education.

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