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The Economist: Never too old to learn

Published: 13 May 2010

Older executives are shunning corporate training. This is a problem both for them and the firms they work for. "Lifelong learning” is a phrase beloved by business schools. But not, it seems, by their clients... Are these wise, old heads being overlooked?

Older executives are shunning corporate training. This is a problem both for them and the firms they work for. "Lifelong learning” is a phrase beloved by business schools. But not, it seems, by their clients. According to a recent survey by Mannaz, a management-development firm, the number of professionals taking part in formal corporate training drops rapidly after the age of 55. Are these wise, old heads being overlooked?… Henry Mintzberg from McGill University in Canada, a high-profile champion of the middle manager, takes this approach one step further. He believes the best way to win over this group is to get them to train themselves. His “Coaching Ourselves” organisation brings experienced executives together for 90 minutes at a time. Managers are supplied with learning guides but not teachers. The emphasis is also unashamedly Luddite. Laptops, BlackBerrys and the like are discouraged in favour of old-fashioned pen and paper. “They discuss and reflect on how the topic impacts on them,” says Mr Minztberg. “[The managers] learn from each other and, most crucially, develop actions for their workplaces.”

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