Those Who Can Do, Can’t Teach

Very mixed feelings about this article, but it makes a fascinating point about how former teachers excel when they quit teaching to work in industry:

As you gain experience studying and explaining a skill, you might actually improve your ability to execute that skill. A powerful example comes from a study of what happens when teachers become doers. Although appointing a business school professor as an executive sounds like a terrible idea, researchers managed to find more than 200 companies that did it. Compared with closely matched industry competitors, the companies with ex-professors in their executive ranks generated significantly higher revenues per employee, especially if those former teachers were in vice president roles where they could leverage their academic expertise. Knowledge from researching and teaching didn’t prevent them from making good decisions; it actually seemed to help.

In education, we often assume that a successful career qualifies someone to teach. It’s why business schools love to hire former executives as professors. But we’re doing it backward: We should be sending teachers out to run businesses.

Would love to see research on whether this pattern holds true in the software industry.

Fiona Voss @fiona