I recently sat with a very well-educated executive to help him prepare for an important presentation. It was our first time working together, and I began by saying, “Charlie (not his real name), we are about to go against everything you learned in school, from Kindergarten all the way through your MBA program!” This kind of statement, and I make it often, tends to cause consternation at first but eventually brings relief. Charlie was no different. Smart and motivated, he caught on pretty quickly and off we went.

After that meeting, I came across an interview with Guy Kawasaki, the former chief evangelist of Apple and co-founder of Alltop.com. Guy Kawasaki is one of the great thinkers and communicators to come out of Silicon Valley; he’s a widely respected author and speaker. Here’s an excerpt from a Q&A with him in The New York Times on March 21, 2010:

Q: What should business schools teach more of, or less of?

A: They should teach students how to communicate in five-sentence emails and with 10-slide PowerPoint presentations. If they just taught every student that, American business would be much better off

Q: Why?

A: No one wants to read “War and Peace” emails. Who has the time? Ditto 60 PowerPoint slides for a one-hour meeting. What you learn in school is the opposite of what happens in the real world. In school, you’re always worried about minimums. You have to reach 20 pages or have to have so many slides. Then you get out in the real world and think, “I have to have a minimum of 20 pages and 50 slides.”

I’m with Guy all the way. What works for learning may not work for persuading or informing or motivating in the workplace. But school can be a tough habit to kick!

Beth Levine