Recently, I was asked to consider: “How am I adding to the body of knowledge related to my area of expertise?”

After more than five years of course work, long hours, research and in-depth dissertation study, my wife graduated with her doctorate in education in May. She has sacrificed a great deal to reach this goal. To say that I am proud of her accomplishment would be a significant understatement.

Like many of her colleagues, there is a degree of humbleness that accompanies any discussion of achieving a doctorate with someone who reaches that goal. The strenuousness of the process, the dedication required and the overcoming of obstacles makes these doctors aware of their own limitations. It’s similar to the military person who has seen combat; they know it’s not about them and are all too ready to talk about the contributions of others before and alongside them rather than their own success.

Attending the doctoral programs during my wife’s graduation, I was struck by the words of the vice president for academic affairs, who traditionally charges the new doctors on the next phase of using their newfound degrees.

This year, he reflected on the nature of scholarship and teaching. He said it was the responsibility of these new doctors to continue to contribute to the body of knowledge in their discipline, synthesize their research with others’ research, both within and outside their own field, and then to lead others to discovery through the act of teaching.

My wife is living out the vice president’s advice. While her dissertation topic was narrow by design, it has already contributed to the body of knowledge in her field. Her current job allows her to further gather important data, from seemingly unrelated areas, to add to the overall understanding of her field of expertise. She has taught others in the past and will continue to do so-formally and informally-in the future (I am constantly learning from her). Likewise, her fellow graduates, while all focused on very narrow subject matter in their dissertations, are poised to follow the vice president’s advice. Sitting in that room of more than 300 doctors, I was overwhelmed with the knowledge that I was among people dedicated to improving human knowledge and the human condition, and thereby create success for others.

Are we suited to follow that vice president’s advice in our professions? Of course. While we are not all destined to do doctoral-level studies, we are all in the position to continue our education, from the formal classroom to the on-floor machine instruction. The more that one learns about advances in other disciplines, the more likely improvements will be made in one’s area of expertise. And of course, in teaching others and conveying knowledge, one must be even more confident and learned than if one were only educating one’s self.

Of course, taking this vice president’s advice requires sacrifice. It requires us to make time in busy schedules to do what is necessary to increase our individual knowledge and allow others to do the same. It requires one to get out of his comfort zone of what he believes is relevant to his field and to investigate unlikely sources for knowledge-the rapid growth industry of biotechnology, for example, came about as a result of biologists and information technology experts exploring each others’ fields for answers. It requires one to think of not only one’s self, but of others to whom one can pass along knowledge in a role of service.

Manufacturing and quality may seem like “cut-and-dry” sectors of business. That is simply not true, as is evidenced by the increased demands placed by customers on the products that are made and measured. Such demand will not cease nor slow down.

The 300 doctors I saw graduate in May can each attest to the fact that it is imperative to contribute to the body of knowledge in order that people, products and services may advance. They also are witness to the fact that such contributions require one to sacrifice and become uncomfortable. Are you ready to start your “post-graduate” work?

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