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Are you still looking for instructions?

If you're working for a startup, or running your own, it is extremely likely that you're expected to take a lot of decisions, even for your everyday tasks. And quite often, you don't have any prior precedent as to how these decisions ought to be taken. There is no manual, no guide, no map. At best, you might have a mentor who has been in comparable situations and can draw from her experience to assist you.

Contrast this with what you do at school. You have a well defined curriculum. You know well in advance how your efforts will be graded, what kind of questions and assignments you can expect, what you need to do to set yourself up to be picked for the kind of job you have in mind or the kind of University you have in mind. You almost never have to think for yourself.

And suddenly, when you get out of college and start working for a startup, bam! you need to start thinking for yourself and figuring out what to do. There isn't even the geek who refuses the manuals and does her own thing for you to copy from as each one has a different job to do, because if you're not bringing value to the table, you don't have a place at the table.

I recently spoke to some of my old school teachers and realised that what the schools are doing is even worse than what used to happen when I was at school. The students today are practically handed a set of hundred questions of which about twenty will appear in the exam. No need to learn anything outside of syllabus. And they are expected to spend hundreds of hours perfecting the answers to questions that don't matter at all once they graduate. There is little to no room for questioning the status quo, exploring things outside the curriculum, making mistakes, gaining experience.

All you are doing when you do well in exams is show that you can follow instructions well, and this is true no matter where you study. So, back in my MBA days, I had the idea of having a course design that doesn't provide a manual and lets you do your thing and leave it to you to bring more than mere memory to the table.

The course design would be exactly the way courses are designed currently - lectures, interactions, assignments, quizzes, exams, projects - but with the simple difference of not defining how the students will be graded at the end of the course. That can be defined once the course is done (or defined early and communicated to the students at the end of the course).

That was one idea to get schools and universities to stop producing good instruction followers. There were jobs where instruction followers could rise through the ranks and build careers, until a few years ago. Not anymore. So stop looking for instructions and start making art.

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