Project Legacy:

Greg Enas

Written by Dave Seibel | 5.11.20

This post is the twelfth in Project Legacy, a series of interviews that aim to learn from leaders outside of education to influence those inside education. You can see more of this series on our blog.

Dr. Greg Enas is a venture catalyst with almost 30 years of leadership experience at Eli Lilly and Company, where he was responsible for biopharmaceutical regulatory strategy and advanced evidence-based, decision analytics. He advises leaders, providing actionable strategic insight that minimizes risk, enhances value, and accelerates high impact business solutions.

With his collective experience, Dr. Enas can teach educators to minimize risk, enhance value, and accelerate high-impact solutions. These are the lessons I have learned from Dr. Enas during our meetings in 2018-2020.

Lesson #1: Minimize risk by teaching students the skills of numeracy during COVID-19

As a participant in founding the Oaks Academy in 1998, Dr. Enas has a rich background in classical education. In our conversations, Greg has noted that more and more adults are being overly influenced by various COVID statistics. “Our students,” he says, “need to be steeped in the skills of numeracy: the ability to understand and work with numbers.” COVID-19 has revealed a great need for an educated populace that is not overly dependent upon governmental institutions.

Daniel Elliot explains this need for numeracy in his article entitled “Media Abuse of Statistics.” He cites the following illustration of the problem with selectively presenting evidence for purposes of mass media consumption:

CNN reported on an ad that says hot dogs cause cancer, and said the ad was sponsored by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, “an animal rights group that wants us all to be vegans.” CNN claimed “research published in reputable journals” linked consumption of processed meats (nitrites, in particular) with cancer.

In their presentation of the story, CNN failed to report the findings of studies conducted by other organizations, including the American Medical Association. In fact, closer examination revealed that the study cited by CNN had serious flaws.

Students today need a guild of master-teachers that know the Word and know the world.

Students well-trained in the mathematical arts can catch these issues. Especially in light of COVID-19, there is a great need for close examination of the assumptions driving research. Skills of numeracy are essential to the responsible consumption of media. 

Students today need a guild of master-teachers that know the Word and know the world. This generation of students must be able to evaluate their entire range of experience using sanctified logic and an educated imagination. Distinguishing between truths and half-truths will be one of the critical skills needed to succeed in our media-flooded future. By developing mathematical fluency from the earliest ages, students of today will be well-positioned to minimize risk tomorrow.

Lesson #2: Enhance value by redeeming daily experience

It takes a few years to even begin to get your arms around all Dr. Enas is doing in the world. I regularly hear him use the phrase “redemptive entrepreneurship,” which I take to mean “pursuing a profit that cannot be measured in dollars alone.” He has many irons in the fire, but one organization that resonates well with the theme of redemptive entrepreneurship is the Praxis Group led by Andy Crouch. This group serves as a creative engine for entrepreneurs looking for a profit beyond dollars.

Greg has taught me that many leaders compartmentalize their faith from their daily practice. The redemptive entrepreneurship movement seeks to stop this compartmentalization by combining orthodoxy (right belief) with orthopraxy (right practice). Faithful enterprises have the power to renew the spirit of the age by embodying the gospel in the value that they offer. Organizations like the Praxis Group provide content, community, and venture to add eternal value to our time and place. 

The Praxis group describes redemptive entrepreneurship in this way: 

When we call something redemptive, it means someone is giving or sacrificing to restore something or someone to its proper place. Redemptive founders are those who, being deeply spiritually formed, generously surrender their personal and organizational power for the sake of others.”

If I could describe Greg Enas with a picture, it would either be a 2 x 2 grid or this redemptive frame from the Praxis website. With Greg’s background in evidence-based decision analytics, as well as his deep love for God and others, he has a unique set of giftings. So what can educators learn from someone like Greg Enas? 

Education is meant to be a redemptive experience! Adults sacrifice so that children can be restored. Because of the fall, children are born with tremendous potential and unbelievable corruption. They, like all imperfect human beings, are in need of restoration, and this is only possible through sacrifice. Someone must come to them from the outside and bless them by adding eternal value. Ultimately, Jesus is the only Redeemer of mankind, but thoughtful adults who love Jesus are His ambassadors. 

What might the next generation of students look like if educators saw each day in the classroom as an opportunity to sacrificially add value to the lives of students? Redemptive leadership within the field of education must be part of the creative engine that restores creation. Education is not mere information transfer but rather the passing of culture from one generation to another. Let’s make sure that it is a culture of redemption that we are passing on.

Lesson #3: Accelerate high impact solutions by elevating the essentials that radically improve student learning

Spending time with Greg is incredibly stimulating because he is a deep thinker who loves truth. He is by nature a catalyst, someone who speeds up the process of meaningful change. What I love about Dr. Enas is that he is focused on accelerating high impact solutions. He is not interested in mere political commentary on problems or being a bureaucratic placeholder. Instead, he is interested in finding redemptive solutions to the problems of today. 

More importantly, Greg does not want credit. In that regard, he is a true catalyst, because the catalyst is that element in a reaction that speeds things up but remains invisible. Greg has certainly had that impact on my life! He focuses his strengths on the ventures that fit within his strengths and sphere of influence. He does not waste time on things that will not have a high impact and will not lead to a solution. 

How could educators accelerate high impact solutions in the lives of students? I would like to offer three high-impact levers that ought to be part of every educational institution: an encouraging atmosphere, a challenging Classical curriculum, a faculty of master-teachers cultivating learning habits. 

What if we thought of schooling as a catalyst for lifelong education?

I realize that these essentials may sound like your grandma saying, “Brush your teeth, eat your vegetables, and take a walk each night after dinner.” However, the simple things are often what go most overlooked. So let’s look briefly at the three essentials to accelerate high impact solutions:

An encouraging atmosphere

In the same way that plants need soil, sunlight, and water, students need a daily learning environment that is both predictable and supportive. There needs to be a daily routine and structure, as well as the presence of people who are for them, who know and love them, and who will strengthen them in their weakness. The right schedule, the right policies, the right approach, and many other factors all hinder or help this high impact solution.

A challenging classical curriculum

You are what you eat. Students today are fed too much riff-raff in their intellectual diet. We get underwhelming results in our students because we overemphasize that which is not essential. By removing great books from the modern curriculum, we have turned education into an enslaving enterprise rather than one that forms and liberates. Students ought to be well-trained in the Great Conversation: the ongoing process of contemporary students interacting with and refining the ideas of their predecessors. Minds like Newton, Adam Smith, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and the Apostle Paul should be regular conversation partners for a liberating education. 

Learning habits from master-teachers

Thomas Jefferson’s education was a combination of mentors and classics. The classics were the food for his mind, while the mentors showed him how to use his ‘fork and knife’ to eat the food.

Schooling is what happens in K-12 and education is what happens the rest of your life. What if we thought of schooling as a catalyst for lifelong education? What if, instead, we focused on cultivating the habits of learning in K-12 so that they could learn the specific skills that they’ll need to earn a living and make a good life?

We often have it backwards and only think about education as career preparation. When master-teachers focus on the essential habits of attentive observation, careful interpretation, pattern recognition, and many more, students will succeed not just in school but for life. That is a high impact solution worth accelerating!

Dr. Greg Enas is a venture catalyst with almost 30 years of leadership experience at Eli Lilly and Company, where he was responsible for biopharmaceutical regulatory strategy and advanced evidence-based, decision analytics. He advises leaders, providing actionable strategic insight that minimizes risk, enhances value, and accelerates high impact business solutions.

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