Let us unleash all potential !

Feedbacks on the 2020 annual ATEL conference by KZ

Diversity? Financial sustainability? Creativity? 
Let us unleash all potential!

As an active member of the Luxembourg Treasury Association ATEL for about 20 years, I had the honour of being one of the rare guests to attend this annual conference like no other, given the health circumstances. Indeed, times are changing, and for the first time this event tackled themes including those of diversity and financial sustainability.

Clearly, for me, the topics are linked and much more than you might think.

Coralie’s grandmother, women, and treasury …

A panel of women, from various continents, testified to their experience as treasurers. Among them a French woman, Coralie. I wonder if her grandmother is still alive and if she remembers that it was only in 1965 that she was allowed for the first time to have a bank account and to work without her husband’s permission. [1]

It would take another 16 years in Luxembourg, until in 1981, it was finally forbidden by law to deny women or men a job because of their gender.[2] For so many generations, women were discounted, and they were prevented from making much contribution to the financial sustainability of our world. Yet, to meet contemporary challenges, diversity is exactly what we need.

Excerpt from ” Brief histories of everydays objects” by Andy Warner [3]
It was impossible for her to have her delivery truck insured because the companies did not believe that a woman would pay her contribution on time. The female brain always forgets such things. This is well known.” It was in 1920, a woman, Scudder, had the brilliant idea to pack crisps !

What if we also unleashed some « others » from the grip of the standard?

Just as women were discounted as having inferior brains, for years our schooling systems have marginalized dyslexics. Ronald D. Davies has the merit of having demystified these differently functioning brains by talking about GIFT rather than flaw. [4] Nevertheless, these brain functions are still too often treated as pathologies to be remedied to meet an inflexible school standard that is not adapted to the expression of their potential. All in all, this is a huge waste of (future) human resources! Indeed, these people have advanced abilities such as multidimensional information processing, connection building and creative image-ination. Many dyslexics excel in various areas of innovation, so this is a great opportunity!

Take dyslexics, for example, they represent:

  • 35% of entrepreneurs, 50% of NASA scientists and 40% of people who became millionaires from scratch… 

    But they also comprise:
  • 35% of school dropouts, 50% of adolescents in detoxification for drug and alcohol addiction, and 60% to 70% of those described as “young delinquents”. In addition, young DYSlexics have extremely high rates of depression and anxiety. They are also significantly more at risk of self-harm and suicide. [5]

In other words, an enormous economic as well as human waste.

“For decades people with dyslexia have been expected to integrate and to be considered and assessed based on the skills that were a real challenge for them. Today, technology is replacing the absolute need for these skills. On the contrary, the thinking skills of dyslexics are even the ‘sought-after’ skills in this changing world of work. In short, the workforce of today and tomorrow needs dyslexic thinking, and dyslexic people should no longer have to ‘fit in’ but should be able to ‘stand out’ and focus on their strengths.

Kate Griggs, Made By Dyslexia [6]

What if the 20% Concept [7] became the norm …

For how long can we afford to discount people just because they do not fit the typical mold of the day, and do not conform to standardized expectations of the times? When people become victims of inflexible thinking then the whole of society suffers due to a failure to recognize what they have to offer.

Even now, we reward the children who fit our standardized expectations, and believe that it is best to coerce and control education to try to get them all to fit in, inflexibly, all of the time.

However, many companies and more recently schools demonstrate that self-direction can be very profitable. Allowing people time to explore and be creative can bring outstanding results. Some of the inventions made by 3M employees during their 15% self-directed time are still in use today. Google took up the concept in the 21st century by granting 20%, which enabled gmail to be created.

And I would like to quote Derry Hannam [8], a big advocate at the Council of Europe of the 20% concept for our educative system in view of the 4th industrial revolution: 

« The transfer of the 20% idea from the hi-tech business world to education is already happening in the United States. The mother of the CEO of Youtube, Esther Wojcicki, has argued for and practiced the idea for nearly 40 years in her extraordinarily successful Media Arts program at Palo Alto High School. Students use 20% of their class time for totally self-directed projects where their natural learning instinct take flight either individually or more usually in collaboration with others. … It is probably no coincidence that Esther Wojcicki’s daughter Susan was one of the founders of Google and went on to create Adsense in her 20% Google work time before moving to Youtube. » [9]

Google goes even further by offering online courses preparing for tomorrow’s jobs in 6 months instead of 4 years for a university degree. [10]

In these changing times we need to embrace diversity. Human diversity, neurodiversity, and embrace diverse ways of learning and doing business. This is the key to our financial sustainability. We must dare to go off the beaten track. It is time to free ourselves from obsolete norms, to be able to innovate and overcome the challenges ahead.


[1] https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loi_du_13_juillet_1965

[2] http://fraendag.lu/fr/geschichte/1971-1989/

[3] “Brief histories of everydays objects” by Andy Warner 
ISBN-13: 978-1250078650, Publisher Picador; Illustrated edition (October 4, 2016)
French: ISBN-13: 978-2311102239, Publisher: VUIBERT (6 October 2017

[4] ” The Gift of Dyslexia ” by Ronald D. Davies https://www.dyslexia.com/book/the-gift-of-dyslexia/
ISBN-13 : 978-0399535666 Publisher : Perigee Books; Revised & enlarged edition (February 23, 2010)

[5] ” What if Schools create DYSlexia ? ” by Je’anna L. Clements (September, 2020) https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1048359

[6] https://www.madebydyslexia.org

[7] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/20%25_Project

[8] Derry Hannam “Another way is possible – Becoming a democratic teacher in a State School” https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1029100

[9] http://www.fhree.org/cms/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/20-A-Modest-Proposal-Derry-Hannam.pdf

[10] https://www.inc.com/justin-bariso/google-career-certificates-plan-disrupt-college-degree-university-genius.html?cid=sf01003

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