Tag Archives: education

Google the answer engine, not ‘just’ the search engine


I watched my nine year old son doing some homework this week on the computer and noticed for the first time that Google didn’t just point him in the right direction to answer a question, it actually provided the answer.

He didn’t think anything of it. He thinks that Google is there to provide answers, and is an absolutely reliable source of those answers. He doesn’t question the validity of the source any more than I would have questioned Encyclopaedia Britannica when I was his age. I found that it was a further leap for Google-kind than even, two years ago.

The question was “Who watched the ancient olympics?”

He actually typed in “who watch the ancient olympics?” which actually brought the answer closer to the top of the results than the grammatically correct question. That’s a separate issue I’ll have to deal with and it was difficult to ascertain whether he typed in the incorrect grammar to obtain the best results rather than a genuine mistake.

Education is changing at an amazingly quick rate. My son’s [state funded, primary] school has an interactive projector in every classroom, and is aiming that within two years will have a laptop per child.

Children are being taught to use Google to search for answers.

In Richard Watson‘s book, Future Minds, he describes how it took less than a generation to go from reading long form (e.g. a paper article on Ancient Olympics) to consuming bite sized snippets on a screen. I don’t have a major problem with this leap, except for the fact that we need to understand and accept that general knowledge will deteriorate because children will only know exactly what they’ve searched for, rather than anything broader.

Reading the paper article, or even one of the search results’ full articles would have taught my son that the games used to be one day long, then five days long, the different events, and even that in boxing, the boxers would wear hard leather straps with metal over their knuckles – ouch.

Image courtesy of Arkntina

Forstmann’s three lessons


Three and a half years after I joined IMG, Mark McCormack passed away and Ted Forstmann’s company took over the company. Whilst I disagree with several of Forstmann’s (literally) ill advised decisions with IMG, there are three positive lessons that stand out.

  1. The 3 “I”s. If you haven’t read his article on the 3 i’s, read it now. It’s actually Forstann retelling a story by Warren Buffet, but Forstmann puts it into context. That link from the Wall Street Journal requires membership, so if you don’t have membership, you can go to any of the myriad of copied articles available including this word for word copy.
  2. When engaging with a new third party company, whether they are a supplier, customer or speculative in either category, Forstmann recommended keeping an eye out for hiring individual talent within the company, or the company itself. He even had a one page form that we could fill in and escalate quickly within IMG to look into buying that company or hiring the person(s).
    I’ve continued this practice, and find that it raises your commercial senses/awareness when engaging with a new third party. It helps see the relationship longer term. 
  3. Take risks. Forstmann, by his very nature as an investor, takes and promotes risks. Investors get it right more than they get it wrong, and I’ll always remember Forstmann standing on a stage in London telling all the IMG staff that he wanted to take more risks than IMG had in the past, and it was OK to take those risks. He taught that it’s better to take a calculated risk and know that every few will become a success, than never take any risks and continue on a flat line.
    We have a customer who has large posters in their meeting rooms that have in large letters: “Take A Risk” and a similar one promoting “Make A Decision”. It’s vital for modern businesses to take calculated risks, and make decisions quickly.


Rupert Murdoch’s speech


I’m well aware of many of the regular readers of this blog aren’t exactly fans of Rupert Murdoch, so I’m on thin ice on this one…

Rupert Murdoch gave a speech last night to the Centre of Policy Studies in London. My favourite part of the speech is this excerpt:

If children in the poorest parts of the world can learn how to read and write – as well as do maths and science in schools with dirt floors and tattered textbooks – there is no excuse for the way British children are being failed by well-resourced schools. 

We must not stifle the growth of the brightest. 

As Margaret Thatcher exhorted: “Let our children grow tall, and some taller than others if they have it in them to do so.” 

In other words, we must celebrate a culture of success. The rise to prominence is too often accompanied by a surge in cynicism by the traditional elites. 

I am something of a parvenu, but we should welcome the iconoclastic and the unconventional. And we shouldn’t curb their enthusiasm or energy. 

That is what competition is all about. Yet when the upstart is too successful, somehow the old interests surface, and restrictions on growth are proposed or imposed. 

That’s an issue for my company. More important, it’s an issue for our broader society. 

These are the small thinkers who believe their job is to cut the cake up rather than make it bigger. 

In my own industry, for example, digital technology is offering a chance for British companies to make their mark here and across the world. 

When The Times was founded in 1785, its influence was confined to a handful of important people in this city. Today, its content echoes around the world every day. And it has digital competitors who were not even conceived a decade ago. 

In the past too, television programmes were confined to a single screen. Now they can be watched whenever you want and wherever you are – whether on a mobile phone, a tablet or a computer. For all the change, we are still at the early stages of this revolution. 

It’s not just media. This is an exciting period in every sector. And our competitive passions should be stirred by the sense of challenge and opportunity. 

In short, Britain needs companies robust enough to compete in this global market – whether in finance or pharmaceuticals, transport or telecommunications, retail or entertainment. And we need to attract the brightest talent, regardless of background and ethnicity. 

In other words, Britain should be a magnet for the best students and best workers from around the world. 

What might a successful Britain look like in this new century? 

A government that spends modestly, because it leaves its people free to make their own decisions for themselves … 

Citizens who look out at the world with confidence, because they have grown up accustomed to taking responsibility for themselves, and are allergic to the culture of dependency…. 

Corporate and technological sectors that thrive on change, and use the freedom of the market to innovate and grow. 

Above all, a successful Britain would have a society that cherishes opportunity and creativity – making opportunity available to all, and believing that there is creativity in all, where individuals do not feel guilty of wealth or being exceptional, but work hard and exercise humility. 


So there you go. It’s about education, which breathes creativity, which breeds opportunity, which leads to commercial success.

The full speech is available on News Corps’ website.