Last month I spent two mornings instructing 53 high school juniors in financial education. It was gratifying to volunteer my time to provide an important topic to impressionable high schoolers. It was also an interesting experience for me. Even though I have four kids, this was my first time in a high school classroom since I left high school, a “few”, short years ago.
The curriculum was developed and is administered through a non-profit organization called Make A Difference-WI, however I went off the ‘grid’ a bit and took time to dive into the Financial Freedom formula (F² = i – ex) where i is income and ex is expenses. I spent about 15 minutes explaining this formula and how ‘+’ from the formula go to the asset box and ‘-‘ go to the liability box. My point in sharing the formula was to show these students that financial freedom is simple (not easy, but simple) and . . . ANYONE can use the formula. However, in my 50+ years of living, what I have found is that what is simple to do, is also simple NOT to do!
Therefore, a few of the students slept through the training, literally. Their heads were on their desks, eyes closed. One young lady was able to exhibit a remarkable feat by sleeping straight up in her chair without succumbing to the ‘head bob’. Several students displayed the “glazed” facial expression. Their eyes were open but they clearly were not hearing one word I said, or very few. However, there were some students who smiled or laughed at my corny jokes and raised their hand when asked, “How many of you . . .?” And finally, there were a select few who participated, asked great questions, and were noticeably intrigued by the topic.
So what was so interesting? I was hoping to be shocked by the number of students who were rocked by this impactful topic. But I wasn’t shocked! It’s another classic case to support the bell curve or the law of averages. A few didn’t care, a majority were mildly disinterested or slightly interested, and a few were intrigued. I would love to be able to follow these students over the next 10 years and determine if this simple financial awareness had an impact on their financial lives up to that point in time. All I can do is hope that my time to share this will make a difference in the success of a few.
Continuous improvement knowledge for companies is similar to financial education for high schoolers. It can make all the difference in a company’s competitive advantage, i.e. success. Any company can use CI to improve safety, quality, service, cost, people, etc. Let me repeat that, ANY company can use CI; it doesn’t matter what business you are in, it doesn’t matter how large or small the company is, or where you are located. It’s simple; not easy, but simple. And when a company grasps the power of CI, they do not have to ponder if it will change their potential for success and/or if it is worth the effort, because numerous companies have successfully implemented CI three, five, ten years ago or more and are still using and benefiting from CI. Any company interested in CI is able to ascertain its power through the plethora of success stories that have been publicly shared.
When I reviewed the classroom surveys completed by the students, I noticed that a handful stated that the least interesting part of the curriculum was “the obvious formula”. Again, I found that comment “interesting”. My first thought after reading that comment was, “well, if it’s so obvious, why aren’t more people using the formula?” My second thought was, “it’s just human nature to discount the simple.”
I will continue to volunteer my time to share financial literacy to high school students including the “obvious” F² formula, even if they sleep through it. Why? Because I hope that someday I will read about a successful person who is asked about the key to his/her success and they respond, “When I was in high school a woman with crazy hair spent a few hours with us and explained the Financial Freedom formula, and it made all the difference!”
Understanding and utilizing CI in your business is a game changer and it can make all the difference. Don’t let its simplicity fool you.