Every time I have to put my designation down for Connect2Teach, I cringe just a little bit. No, it has nothing to do with the negative bias that has crept into the word ‘Founder’. It has to do with the fact that ‘Founder’ implies that I am single handedly responsible for conceiving Connect2Teach and bringing it to the stage it is at now. When the reality is very different.
At every single step of the journey, from nine years ago when I first toyed with the idea of starting a university to recent times when I needed a piece of content edited – there have been so many people who have held my hand, shared their opinion, challenged my assumptions, shared resources and made time from their busy schedules. Connect2Teach has been built as a sum total of those contributions.
I can’t imagine it being any other way. These helpers include family, friends from high school and universities, colleagues from work and even strangers I have met on flights. So when people wonder why I make Sunday day trips to see my nephews or why I am okay with waking up at 5 am to help a friend with his cover letter, the reason is simple: I really do believe that in a world where intelligence is a google away and money available in the flash of a credit card — your competitive advantage lies is in your relationships.
When I get a chance to speak to students, two of my six slides are dedicated to this. One is titled ‘Empathy’ and the other is titled ‘Collaboration’. If we can take the time to understand and celebrate each other’s differences, then we can actually work together to, what I have labelled, ‘be the sum total of each other’. Which means that each of us can focus on our strengths and then just like you would Captain Planet, call on the superpower of a friend for the parts that you struggle with.
I saw this exemplified during my MBA at the University of Cambridge. The night before an accounting exam, the accountant in our cohort was waiting in the school cafeteria just in case anyone needed help at the last minute. Throughout the year, I observed how much of the culture was set to enable collaboration rather than competition. This, in my modest opinion, is the reason Cambridge is credited with producing the most number of Nobel Prize winners in the world. It was the most valuable lesson I graduated with. It meant that no matter what I did, I could always be rest assured that at the least, 140 people had my back.
More and more institutions need to emphasise the importance of building relationships, teach students emotional intelligence and test them on empathy. By creating competition, they are isolating the student’s experience. Classrooms need to be filled with discussions and debate to understand different perspectives. This means that the need for interactive education is even more dire than it ever was. These skills will not just hold meaning in building personal relationships but also in understanding customers, suppliers and employees better. Putting human emotion at the centre of a product is undoubtedly the most important skill set in a time when your customer is sitting further and further away from you.
So when in doubt whether you have time to meet that friend for coffee or accompany another to the museum: no matter how busy you are, I recommend choosing to invest in your relationships. Who knows, you might end up with a Nobel Prize.