Business / Industries

After 20 years in business, it is time to go back to school

By LIU JIE (China Daily) Updated: 2015-07-28 09:33

I have just spent four full days, including a weekend, at Peking University taking part in a business journalism course, which surprised many of my colleagues.

"You have 20 years' experience as a journalist, 15 of them in business reporting-so what can you possibly learn from this kind of training?" a colleague asked.

I had anticipated all of my classmates would be younger than me, some even in their 20s, and all from Chinese-language media.

But I was particularly interested in the topic, "Anti-monopoly and Market Competition", and thought it would be a great chance to both refresh my skills, and have a little break from what has been a hectic routine in recent months.

What I found was certainly the former, but most definitely not the latter.

This was far from being rest, but an intensive four days of classes, brainstorming and reading.

Previously I thought I understood both anti-monopoly law and market competition. But the course delivered a fantastic range of topics, and quickly I found myself questioning all I thought I knew and understood.

Are monopoly practices really anti-competitive, if the market is perfectly competitive? Does a fully competitive market economy need anti-trust regulations? Is the actual end-goal of competition, the creation of a monopolistic, dominant player? Are anti-trust reports really neutral and fair?

We pulled apart the subjects, one by one, and discussed every angle possible.

But more than anything, what the training gave me was a chance to leave my comfort zone, to get out of my normal routine, and re-examine some things that I had started to take for granted.

In the end, the most valuable part of my four days at the university was that it was not a relaxing course.

It refreshed and enriched my mind, while the bonus to my employer is a renewed enthusiasm to get back to work to use the knowledge and ideas I took from the classes and brainstorming.

The intensive, but enormously valuable, four days also got me wondering what kinds of training might be helpful to others like me-those of us who have been working for many years, and who have just been starting to take our experience for granted.

I have come up with four areas, four pillars, maybe, on which I think all senior-staff training sessions should be based:

・ Provide a combination of academic principles and case studies: My Peking classmates and I all had working experience, so what we wanted was not dry principles but a combination of theory and practical examples-methodology that we can actually use to guide our daily work.

・ Bring in a mix of high-quality teaching professionals, officials, independent analysts and senior executives to teach: I fully appreciate as a journalist, that single-source stories can be fatal in news reporting.

During our sessions we were fortunate enough to hear from a fantastic range of speakers, including a senior official from the National Development and Reform Commission, a judge of the Supreme People's Court, experts and lawyers who have participated in the formulation of China's anti-trust law, even a vice-president of Didi Dache, China's largest taxi hailing service. They helped us gather a range of opinions and approaches to the subject.

・ Offer high-quality, updated preparation material, including books, videos and online discussions: A weak point of the course is that despite materials being rich in content, they were not recommended to us before the classes, so we had to stay up late reading a massive amount to prepare for the next day. Maybe the organizers were just being considerate to busy working people.

・ Most importantly, carefully plan the makeup of the training group: Gather together a group of expressive, creative people from different backgrounds, with strong but varying levels of professional experience, who have a willingness to open up and explore the truth behind their subject.

This time around, I took great inspiration from my young classmates.

They showed me that no matter what stage you are in your career, you have to update and refresh your knowledge to remain at the top of your game.

You don't have to be young to train. I am looking forward to my next course already.

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