Inaugural lecture outlines new approach to transforming education

From: Policy Publications
Published: Thu Jan 28 2010

Educational systems and approaches to teaching need to be radically changed if people are to achieve their full potential. According to Prof. Colin Coulson-Thomas "it is possible to transform school, higher, professional and lifelong education by making it easy for people to learn, increase their understanding, build their capability and solve complex problems." His inaugural Kuwait Knowledge Partnership lecture set out how this can be achieved and gave examples of tools that have had a massive impact on understanding and performance in complex fields.

The Professor and author of Winning Companies; Winning People believes "Different people learn in different ways. Learning support tools can help people to overcome barriers to learning. The right tools use a variety of ways of making it very easy for people to quickly understand areas that have hitherto been considered too complex to comprehend. At school level they need to be designed to engage young learners, secure their attention and inspire their imaginations."

Coulson-Thomas who is also a co-Founder of the Kuwait Knowledge Partnership believes, "Possession of information and knowledge does not of itself lead to understanding or the capability to do things. A new generation of learning and performance tools are enabling average people to excel in challenging roles by equipping them to adopt the approaches of their high performing peers."

The Professor explains: "Within any community of knowledge workers and professionals whether teachers, engineers or doctors there are a small number of superstars and a long tail of OK people. The high performers are not necessarily cleverer or better educated. They just do the activity in question differently. The performance of others can be increased by making it easy for them to adopt these more effective approaches."

The right tools can also stretch and develop high performers by freeing them of the more routine aspects of their roles, and enabling them to quickly search for better outcomes. Coulson-Thomas’ Winning Companies; Winning People research programme identifies critical success factors for a wide range of activities from winning business and building relationships to corporate learning and creating and exploiting know-how. Early adopters of tools based upon his approach have obtained returns on investment of over 20, 30 and 70 times within a year on the basis of just one or two of several possible measures of outcomes.

Coulson-Thomas believes education must also help people to be true to themselves. He argues: "Far too much education and training is focused upon helping people to address their weaknesses rather than build upon their strengths. With cost-effective ways of capturing and sharing what super star learners and high performers do differently, the payoff from encouraging people to excel at what they enjoy doing and do best can be enormous."

The new generation of learning and performance tools the Professor champions can boost performance, speed up learning and other activities, and enable bespoke responses, while at the same time reducing risk, costs and stress and ensuring compliance. They have already been adopted by pioneering companies and are now in use in over 100 countries. Affordable tools can be developed for both teachers and learners, and the latest ones allow for automatic updating whenever users are on-line. Whereas some technologies can de-skill Coulson-Thomas advocates designing them so that people increase their competence and confidence each time they are used.

The implications of the new approach are far reaching. The Professor explains: "People can learn at a time and place of their choice, including when on the move as support can be provided via a laptop or the latest generation of mobile phone. The roles of teachers and trainers are changing from the transmission of information and knowledge to the facilitation of learning and the building of both understanding and capability."

The new approach also supports the Kuwait Knowledge Partnerships aim of encouraging creativity. Coulson-Thomas feels "Most past education and training has equipped people with commodity knowledge. Training inputs have not led to intellectual capital outputs. In order to break new ground people need to be helped to go out in front. Building controls into learning and support tools means that people can be set free to discover, explore and innovate."

Coulson-Thomas’ book "Winning Companies; Winning People" is subtitled "making it easy for average performers to adopt winning behaviours". It sets out a new approach to helping people to understand complex areas and do difficult jobs and can be obtained from It gives examples of how pioneering companies have used learning and support tools to increase understanding, build capability and boost performance.

Prof. Colin Coulson-Thomas is an experienced director, consultant and educator. He has been a Faculty Dean and the Head of a University campus and is a fellow of seven chartered bodies. The author of over 40 books and reports, he has held professorial appointments in North and South America, Europe, the Middle East, India and China, and helped over 100 organisations to improve director, board and corporate performance. He has spoken at over 200 national and international events in 40 countries, and can be contacted via His recent books and reports can be obtained from

The Kuwait Knowledge Partnership is for the betterment of society and coming generations, and a sustainable future. It achieves this through knowledge-transfer between experts in Kuwait and the wider world, and aims to help young Kuwaitis to develop new thinking and a passion to achieve the highest standard of educational excellence and creativity. The inaugural lecture was delivered at the TIES Center in Kuwait City which promotes relations between westerners and Muslims through dialogue, friendship, and cultural-knowledge exchange.
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