Saturday, November 14, 2009

Deciding what to do next - How to design a career, business or education

Two article from Penelope Trunk's Brazen Careerist have been lingering in my drafts for some time. They were good articles, but I was not sure how to apply them to anything I was doing. My last post on design thinking and business got me to thinking about them again. This is still framing the question.

One article talked about how to decide what to do next. The focus is career-wise, which is Ms. Trunk's forte, but it can also be applied organizational-wise. The question is how to bridge and combine the two. Her example is Pastor Tony Morgan, chief strategy officer at NewSpring Church, whose blog mixes careers and church. In his book, Killing Cockroaches, he tells the story of when he was a city manager, and he was in the middle of running a meeting, and he heard a woman down the hall scream about a cockroach. So he got up from the meeting and killed the cockroach.

As Ms Trunk tells us, Really, all time management discussion is about this: How to know when to kill cockroaches and when not to. It's about why we spend time doing small, stupid stuff that is crawling around in front of us instead of the stuff that makes life meaningful. The dichotomy between wanting to make big-picture impacts on the world and being immersed in the more immediate issues bombarding us is a question for organizations and the individuals making up those organizations.What do we teach students about finding ways to make life meaningful, while still being able make it in the "real" world?

ALINA TUGEND wrote Shortcuts: Putting Yourself Out There on a Shelf to Buy in
back on March 28, 2009 in the New York Times. The article was about branding yourself in the job market. What caught my eye was Dan Schawbel, author of “Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success” (Kaplan, April 2009), advice that “Finding your niche is the key,” Which means:

Discover your passion and put it together with your expertise; create a “personal branding tool kit” (which may include a résumé, online profile, blog and portfolio of your work) that consistently reflects your brand; pitch your brand online and offline; and update and monitor any conversations about your brand.

At first glance this sounds in opposition to what was said in the last post, but not if we look at how to achieve this through his four-step process —

  1. discover,

  2. create,

  3. communicate,

  4. maintain.

All of which can be applied to hybrid thinking. The question is how do we teach this in classrooms? Ms Trunk points out that perhaps we should first consider changing how to lead in the new millennium.

Her reasons are that Generation Y has a lot of great traits, but classic, top-down leadership is not one of them. This is not a surprise: Because gen Y is the great teamwork generation. They did book reports in teams, they went to prom in teams, and they are notorious for quitting jobs in teams.

This should arguably make it easier to teach today's students the concepts of hybrid thinking and incorporate design thinking into students' career path.

Finally, I am including this TEDTalk (video) featuring Dan Pink on the surprising science of motivation which points out that our assumptions about motivation are also questionable. For the same basic reasons he raises in the last post Roger Martin says, What's Thwarting American Innovation is Too Much Science. Dan Pink says that the problem is a mismatch between what science knows and what business does. Is the same thing true of education?

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