On the No Zero Policy in schools and the future effects in the workplace

I have never been an Einstein but my school grades always fluctuated from 60% to top of the class… from one month to the other.

My university years were a simple translation of my early life.Through my first and second degrees I worked full time, missed many, maaany classes, studied French and even took 9 months off to do the, then mandatory, military service. The only course I completed with a +90% attendance was my postgraduate course, which I did between the two degrees.

I was lucky enough to get a BCA grant to finish my second degree in Los Angeles, CA, and there I found out that I could have a broken English, take 50% more classes per term than the average student, work on campus the maximum 20h, join the swimming team and disappear in the desert the rest of the time and still get straight As at the business school.

The fact that I could move from one year to the next in Spain without much effort and some of my classmates who fed me class notes and attended uni full time, was surprising for me. Fair enough, I didn’t get stellar grades, but some of my classmates had to repeat courses.

When I got to California, I was surprised of how low the level was, how little was needed to get best grades (let alone pass) and how good and bad students got warm words regardless their performance.

Fast forward 8 years. Florida seems to have cracked the motivational paradise (or hell?) with their “no zero policy”. They have decided that it seems like punishment to give a zero to a child even if that child never showed up for class. Great training for life! I missed many many classes in my university life, but I can tell you a) I was working full time and b) I would take my work holidays the week before the exams (hence, no holidays at all at the end of the year… for years) and pushed to make up for 4 months of non-attendance.

Let’s not get into the mastering of mother tongues, but who hasn’t heard of kids sports where winners and losers get a trophy? In my boyhood I use to get a bronze medal or just a coloured ribbon if I didn’t make it the podium. This sense of moving people through rewarding them for something they haven’t done actually well is a very dangerous game. Doesn’t a trophy imply some level of success that exceeds those around us? If we just flatten the playing field so that nobody wins and nobody loses, we are talking of an economic model where I don’t think I can fit in.

It is not that I want everybody to lose, but when I decided to work and skip classes I knew the risks of doing so, and I took the risk, there must be a reward for doing better than the rest.

Life does NOT work like this.

What Florida is turning into policy, the rest of the Western world (or at least the countries where I have lived Spain, USA, and UK) has been quietly accepting in their schools and universities.

Dan Miller gave a really good example of why it is wrong to follow this “no zero policy”:

Let’s say that we are watching a butterfly emerge from a cocoon and we see a little crack there and two hours have passed and it’s trying to get out.

We think “I am going to try it to get out, we are going to help it out, it’s worked really hard, it’s done half the work, let’s just reward it and help it finish the task”. So we get the scissors and we cut the cocoon open and the butterfly is now free. Or is it? Instead of having the blood pump up into the wings, we’ve got this little bulbous misfit of some kind that never develops into anything. We have shortcut  the process that it was designed to go through to really become a beautiful butterfly.

What else needs to be said? What are we creating (or already created)? Imagine a workforce signing for 40-hour weeks, not showing up and demanding 30 pay. Imagine.


* Post inspired and quotations from Dan Miller’s weekly podcast “48 Days to the Work you Love


On the end of the rule of law in the West, another case study: MPs expenses

I am growing more and more worried about the raising populist anger spiralling out of control.

First, it was the “outrageous” (but legally binding by contract) golden parachutes of failed investment banking executives.

It followed the popular clamour against sky-high (but legally binding by contracts) executive pay.

Then it came poor Sir Fred Goodwin and his pension (legally binding by contract), and his public grilling by the British government and puppets who have nothing else to do sadly reminding me of Dr David Kelly and the alleged sexed-up report on Iraq’s WMDs.

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On saying NO to paperless banking, don’t fall in the guilt trap

As a principle, I refuse to change to paper-free statements, not only because the banks themselves don’t accept online statement print-outs as proof of address (ironic!) but because again, I don’t get anything out of it other than feeling less guilty for saving a piece of a tree. But let’s remember, it is the banks who want me to feel guilty about not saving paper and then they turn and mail me unsolicited advertising printed in non-recyclable paper.

I never felt guilty for getting paper statements, as a matter of fact, since I am a geek and keep my accounts to the minute using MS Money software, I never even looked at them. But then, I started having problem after problem after problem with banks and it became clear that keeping the paper statements was a sensible thing to do.

A good old marketer trick, is to create a need that didn’t exist before, and then harvest the profits. The immorality of using fear, guilt or customer stupidity as a means to higher corporate profit lead me to get my BA in Market Research and move out of the industry (not without the knowledge learnt and a permanent interest in the matter though).

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On 2009+.10 Trends: Predictions & Provocations by Richard Watson

I am a keen reader of Richard Watson’s blog, What’s Next: Top Trends, and having just finished reading his 2009+.10 Trends: Predictions & Provocations, I advise you to spare 20min and read it (http://nowandnext.com/PDF/2009_complete.pdf), it will help you stabilise a bit in the turbulent times we are living.

I share many of Richard’s predictions, some others are almost or totally Greek to me. I guess I am nothing else than a frustrated futurist, I deeply admire those who, like Mr Watson, can make a living out of it. I wish I had the time to recognise and follow up trends and patterns I notice. But I am condemned to go out hunting every day, and drag the food back in the cave. Or am I?


On a life with no news, day 40: Smelling the future

40 days and 40 nights trying to avoid the news. I almost got my hands badly burnt gambling on oil CFDs, but the G20 meeting saved my neck and taught me a good lesson I read the other day: Nothing sedates rationality like a large doses of effortless money (Warren Buffett).

Easy went, easy came, but overall, almost 2k down the drain.

I guess I learn the hard way, but scars remain, and as a parking fine in an intelligible parking spot makes reminds me forever to look three times and don’t give anything for granted, a couple of months meddling with CFDs taught me a bit of self-control under panic situations and when to admit defeat and take loses before making matters worse (I wish I had learnt the lesson before getting stuck with RBS stock). Continue reading