Is it sometimes worth self teaching or being coached with family business employees ?

With only minor peripheral support, babies teach themselves to walk by watching the world around them and advancing on their own terms through self-motivation, loosely structured group interaction and practice. This is the innate and optimal learning system for humans, but unfortunately, human organizations rarely employ it.

How can the above relate to the daily running of a family business and the continuous challenge of training up employees and the family business leaders of tomorrow.First, a clear vision has to be established. The employee experience is to be the first corporate priority in a family business.  Then a small amount of modeling is provided for. Then an allowance needs to be made for self-organizing and self teaching allowing for the occasional stumbles that one s employee path may encounter . This methodology makes way for better work places and a more loyal employee the same way a baby learns to walk.

Humans arrive on Earth already knowing how to learn. Exceptional organizations of the 21st century will come to honor this truth. As family  businesses learn to get out of the way and allow self-organized growth to flourish in a natural rhythm that dances to the hum of the Universe itself so too will these family businesses embrace the fact that loyalty works in reciprocal measure.

Family businesses need to visualize properly how best to manage and supervise adults at work.  Systems for teaching, managing and governing are all top-down and standardized exercises in following and uniformity. A baby aspiring to walk has more freedom to acquire that complex skill on their own than a 16-year-old has in English class, or most mature adults have at work.

Now, think again about how a baby learns to walk.  Next, consider how we might reimagine our learning, governance and business operating systems to align with how humans naturally learn in family businesses.


Social experiments 

Over a decade ago in remote villages across rural India, Sugata Mitra conducted a series of exceptional social experiments designed to better understand how children learn.

In dirt-covered town squares where kids congregated, he inserted a computer screen and control panel with internet access into a randomly selected wall. No instructions were left behind. No adults stood by to invite children to gather and then teach them what to do. Here’s what happened next . . .

Within hours a child would find the device and begin experimenting. This child, like all others who participated in the test, had never used a computer or been on the internet. To add to the complexity, the computer language was English, which none of the children in the region spoke. In less than 10 minutes, that first user was successfully browsing the web, having never seen anyone do so before. By the end of the first day, dozens of children had congregated, taken a turn and learned to use the device. Within weeks the group knew hundreds of English words and had achieved advanced internet navigation skills to play games, watch shows  and gather information. When later tested on proficiency, all children typically passed. Everyone earned the same high grades. Rarely were there any discrepancies in learning.  When the children learned on their own, no one was left behind.


Sugata describes from his research the four optimal conditions for learning:

  • Fault tolerant
  • Minimally invasive
  • Fluid, allowing free flowing connectivity with others
  • Self-organizing

It’s worth comparing our existing business practices in family businesses against these four principles.



(All factual and statistical information presented in this blog has been obtained from an extract of a blog from ) Follow us on our Facebook page and Family Business Office website at

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