Would you step into the boxing ring untrained?

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Well would you? I know I certainly wouldn't.

While never partaking myself in the art of boxing, I do know somebody who did. He trained hard every day, he crafted his skill and practiced until he had the knowledge and skills to be able to box. Yet he was still not ready to face a hardened opponent Why?

Because his father, who just happened to be his coach and mentor was still helping him turn this knowledge and skills into a winning combination. He helped him make sense of these newly learnt skills, he taught him how to apply the learnt knowledge and he made sure he knew that he was always there no matter how many opponents gloves made contact with his chin.

My friend had a fairly successful time at a local level and he enjoyed his spells in the ring. It taught him about the tough world of boxing and gave him huge confidence in other aspects of his life. He had learnt the knowledge, gained the skills and changed his behaviours to match his goals. However, it was his coach and mentor who had brought all this together and helped him make sense of it and more importantly, apply it to create impact.

The story makes sense, yes? Yet thousands of business owners and their key team members go into the ring every day as raw as my friend when he picked up his first pair of boxing gloves! The business environment we now operate in is as complex as it has ever been. This was summed up for me at a lecture by social theorist Anthony Giddens I was honoured to attend, who stated “we are off the edge of history” his statement was regarding that much of what is happening in the business world (and possibly the wider social world) has little modelling to make sense of it. We are still following old models in a very fast paced and modern environment, and I can’t see it improving.
With this in mind, it is no wonder that many small business owners struggle to make sense of the environment they operate in, especially when they are being bombarded daily by possibly well meaning (and some not so well meaning) people offering the silver bullet for every business challenge, from marketing to sharpening there pencil!
Therefore, going back to my boxing friend and linking it with the world of business apprenticeship education in which I operate, the knowledge, skills and behaviours we teach underpin preparing for the bouts ahead. However, it is the coach’s and mentors who sit beside our learners and help apply the knowledge, develop the skills and mould the behaviours that allow the business owner or team member to really be ring ready. 
For I believe that without that element, especially when it comes to application of knowledge, they, like many before them won’t last much past round three!
 

Harry Harris

Swarm Commercial Director