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Ducks in a Row: Educating For The Future

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

St. John’s College

Yesterday we revisited Does Education = Thinking?; today is a look at what education actually needs to do to accomplish that.

Education focuses on developing and boosting inherent smarts for career purposes, but the definition of smarts is radically changing.

“The new smart will be determined not by what or how you know but by the quality of your thinking, listening, relating, collaborating, and learning.” –Ed Hess, Professor of Business Administration and Batten Executive-in-Residence at the Darden Graduate School of Business and co-author of Humility Is the New Smart: Rethinking Human Excellence in the Smart Machine Age,

The new smart will include a high degree of empathy — not a common trait in highly educated men.

A growing real-world demand for workers with empathy and a talent for making other people feel at ease requires a serious shift in perspective. (…) SEL programmes in the US explicitly teach students strategies for developing empathy, managing their own emotions and working with others.

“The need for imagination, a sense of truth, and a feeling of responsibility — these three forces are the very nerve of education.” –Rudolf Steiner

Waldorf schools are private (not cheap) and based on Steiner’s ideas. The schools have no tech — no computers, no iPads, no iPhones. There’s one in San Francisco and 75% of its student body are the children of tech executives.

Three of my sister’s grand kids attended the Waldorf in Denver; according to my sister, “Waldorf kids are usually ahead of other kids when they reach regular school.  It’s a very impressive regimen they follow.”

There is no argument that education is critical, but is education about learning specifics that fit kids for jobs today or should it be more?

Shouldn’t it, in fact, fit them for the yet-to-be imagined careers of tomorrow.

Put another way, AI can be taught to code, taking programmer jobs in another kind of outsourcing, but, on its own, AI can’t conceptualize what to code.

Just as importantly, or perhaps even more so, is the need for education to offset helicopter parents, who have followed their kids from college to the workplace. From the comments…

There are many young millennials employed where I work. Many are unable to navigate the most basic work interactions and have no idea about professional or workplace etiquette. (…) These young folks typically have a very difficult time when faced with any conflict because they have never had to think for themselves or handle difficult life situations by themselves.

What does it take to educate kids to think for themselves in spite of over-involved parents and the world they live in? What is needed to live and work successfully in 2030 and beyond?

A recent Pew Research Center survey of 1,408 technology and education professionals suggested that the most valuable skills in the future will be those that machines can’t yet easily replicate, like creativity, critical thinking, emotional intelligence, adaptability and collaboration. In short, people need to learn how to learn, because the only hedge against a fast-changing world is the ability to think, adapt and collaborate well.

Is that the secret sauce that makes the Ivies so prestigious and expensive? Not really.

Ever heard of St John’s College?

Like Waldorf, St John’s specializes in learning how to learn and has done so since 1696.

St. John’s offers only the Program; it’s prix fixe is a higher education world of a la carte. Four years of literature, language, philosophy, political science and economy, and math. Three years of laboratory science, and two of music. That’s it. No contemporary social studies. No accounting. No computer classes. No distinct majors or minors. (…)

This curriculum is carefully designed not only to build knowledge, but also to understand how knowledge is ultimately created; it is teaching students how to learn. In this respect, St. John’s students de facto major in epistemology. And for those of us who never studied Ancient Greek (a St. John’s requirement for two years), epistemology is the philosophy of knowledge, or the investigation of what distinguishes substantiated and supportable belief from mere opinion.

These are the skills that abound in true leaders, but are feared and despised by pundits, ideologues, despots. politicians, command and control bosses, and others too numerous to list.

Image credit: Preservation Maryland

Ducks in a Row: Mindful Living

Tuesday, June 20th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/136920307@N06/32426377540/

I really enjoy the oddball columns in the New York Times, especially considering how depressing the news is these day.

There is a feature called Metropolitan Diary where people write short accounts of things that happen to them in their everyday life in the city.

A few days ago John Cunningham wrote about seeing celebrities daily during his lunch time.

His co-workers didn’t believe him, because they didn’t see any.

One day Tracey joined him to see if it was true. They walked to the corner and he asked if she had seen any yet.

She said no.

So he asked the guy standing next to her if he could shake his hand.

It was Henry Winkler.

Tracey didn’t see him, because she wasn’t paying attention — not mindful in today’s lingo.

I had a habit of looking into the face of every person who walked by me or stood next to me on the street, something that maybe most people did not do.

All this happened in 1988.

Before smartphones, before iPods, before all the distractions of our digital age.

I hope you remember this the next time you find yourself staring at your phone, instead of noticing the world through which you are moving.

Who knows who you might see or what adventures await you if you only notice.

Image credit: Skinny Casual Lover

Ducks in a Row: Culture Of Hypocrisy

Tuesday, June 13th, 2017

Whttps://www.flickr.com/photos/bonniesducks/4395202521/almart loves showing off all they do for their employees and it has a lot of them.

From its website (emphasis mine).

Walmart employs 2.3 million associates around the world. About 75% of our store management teams started as hourly associates, and they earn between $50,000 and $170,000 a year. Walmart is investing $2.7 billion over two years in higher wages, education and training.

What isn’t mentioned is that around the same time

Walmart lifted wages [to $10/hr], it cut merit raises and introduced a training program that could keep hourly pay at $9 an hour for up to 18 months.

Walmart especially loves to brag about its special efforts, such as those for military workers and defines its culture as “our values in action.”

However…

What kind of values enable the following scenarios?

The report says that Walmart uses a point system to discipline workers, and too many points results in firing. Walmart reportedly gives workers disciplinary points for any absence they consider unauthorized, and working less than half of a scheduled shift is considered an absence.

  • ‘I passed out at work. They sent me to the hospital. The next day, they fired me for it.’
  • “I got into a car wreck on my way to work and was sent by ambulance to the hospital. I had two fractured ribs and a concussion. I reached a manager from the hospital, who said it would be ok, and I came into work the next day with wrapped ribs and a concussion. The front manager then said that they wouldn’t accept the doctor’s note from the hospital, and they fired me for missing that day.”
  • “My appendix ruptured while at work and because I already had eight points, I could not leave work to go to the ER without pointing out and losing my job. I should have been able to leave to go to the ER and not worry about losing my job. I had even said to management, ‘So if I fall out because of my appendix and have to go out in an ambulance…I will get a point and lose my job?’ The response from management was, ‘Yes.'”
  • “I was vomiting blood and had to go to the ER. I was there for two days and each day was a point. I then had two days off, and I brought my hospital notes in when I went back. They would not accept them.”

Of course, Walmart’s well-known attitude towards women is front and center

  • “My daughter was having seizures, I had to take time off to monitor her. They counted it against me. I passed out at work. They sent me to the hospital. The next day, they fired me for it.
  • Katie Orzehowski was forced to return to work still bleeding after a miscarriage or face being fired.

It would be funny if it wasn’t so grim, but apparently Walmart expects events, such as heart attacks and car accidents, to be scheduled.

If an employee does not call in to report an absence at least an hour in advance, they receive four points, the report says.

Most ironic of all is Walmart’s tag line, which reads, “Save money. Live better.”

More accurately, it should read “Save money. Live better — unless you work here.”

All of this proves once again that there is a major difference between words and actions.

Image credit: Duck Lover

Ducks in a Row: The Myth Of Finding Passion

Tuesday, June 6th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/44412176@N05/4461384285/

I know it gets old, but here is yet another reason to subscribe to CB Insights newsletter. At the end there is a section called The Blurb that provides four links to exceptionally excellent content, such as

Mark Manson’s thoughts on “passion.”

Manson is referring to the oft stated advice to new grads to “find your passion” when looking for work. Seems a lot of those people write him saying they don’t know what their passion is and asking how to find it.

But more importantly, what I want to say to these people is this: that’s the whole point — “not knowing” is the whole fucking point. Life is all about not knowing, and then doing something anyway. All of life is like this. All of it.

He points out some basic truths about work and passion/loving what you do.

  • Priorities, like buying food and paying the rent/mortgage, often trump passion.
  • You can work for the priorities and spend the rest of your time on your passion.
  • Even your dream job will include parts that suck and some days when it all sucks.

If you’re passionate about something, it will already feel like such an ingrained part of your life that you will have to be reminded by people that it’s not normal, that other people aren’t like that.

If you have to look for what you’re passionate about, then you’re probably not passionate about it at all.

A child does not walk onto a playground and say to herself, “How do I find fun?” She just goes and has fun.  

Further,

  • You won’t find your passion in a set of data points.
  • Nor will you find it by looking/asking/ranting/whining.
  • Just because your best friend loves their job doesn’t mean you would.
  • People change. Your passion at 25 may not be your passion at 45, let alone at 65.

Don’t just read Manson’s essay, think about it and then apply the lessons learned to your own life.

I guarantee you’ll be a far happier/satisfied/passionate person.

Flickr image credit: gorfor

 

Ducks in a Row: Say Hello To Generation Z

Tuesday, May 30th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/kathryn-wright/27567185716/Companies and bosses have struggled over the last decade or so learning how to attract, manage and retain millennial workers.

Long before that they had to learn to manage Boomers — the original me generation.

This is a generation, after all, that thinks of itself as “forever young,” even as some near 70. Most of all, what came across onscreen as well as in Greenfield-Sanders’ portraits was an unapologetic affirmation of the essential Boomer mantra—yes, it is still all about ME.

Then came Gen X, the supposed slackers who are now running things.

For a small, and supposedly lost, generation, Gen X’ers have found their way to positions of power. (…)Gen X’ers, incidentally, are among the most highly educated generation in the U.S.: 35% have college degrees vs. 19% of Millennials.

We all know that everything moves faster these days — whether products, attitudes — or generations.

So, without more ado, meet Generation Z, which encompasses those born between 1995 and the early 2000s.

They present a new challenge to bosses, especially since they bear little resemblance to Millennials.

The question for most bosses and bosses-to-be is this: having finally wrapped their heads around Millennial dos and don’ts is it worth the effort to add Gen Z to the repertoire?

Unequivocally yes.

Actually, you don’t have much choice, since there are 79 million (and counting) of them.

Image credit: Kathryn Yengel

Ducks in a Row: The Cult Of Me

Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/joannaleeosborn/9802436943/

The “cult of me” isn’t new.

Through time, all generations were self-absorbed, but due to sheer size, the Boomers are the original me generation.

Gen X wasn’t much better and in 1982 Steve Wozniak financed The US Festival. According to Glenn Aveni, director of a recently released documentary about the festival,

“Woz felt the 1970’s were The ‘Me’ Generation and that it was time for the world to embrace a less selfish credo, one of unity and togetherness.”

Great music, but little effect.

Millennials come next, slightly more of them (75.4 M to 74.9) and most happily carry on the focus on me.

Tech has driven that focus across all generations via selfies and social media to the point that for millions their experiences, meals and even their lives exist only if they constantly post them online and they are liked, shared, and retweeted.

There was a time when I allowed myself to be more than what could fit onto a 2-by-4-inch screen. When I wasn’t so self-conscious about how I was seen. When I embraced my contradictions and desires with less fear of embarrassment or rejection.

The focus on me has led to a focus on being happy — polls and articles measuring happiness, and comparing happiness.

Back in the day, the Boomers considered everything a challenge that must be overcome. Fast forward to now and Millennials, especially those in Silicon Valley, see the world as a series of problems to be “hacked” (modern times call for modern words).

Which, to put it politely, is a crock.

Andrew Taggart thinks most of this is nonsense. A PhD in philosophy, Taggart practices the art of gadfly-for-hire. He disabuses founders, executives, and others in Silicon Valley of the notion that life is a problem to be solved, and happiness awaits those who do it. Indeed, Taggart argues that optimizing one’s life and business is actually a formula for misery.

This is important, because, in many ways, it’s Silicon Valley that is shaping much of our world — even for those of us who choose not to actively participate.

But I doubt Taggart and his ilk will change that attitude or the obsessive focus on “my world.”

Scott Berkun, a former Microsoft manager and philosophy major who has written multiple business books on the subject, says philosophy’s lessons are lost on most in Silicon Valley. Many focus on aggrandizing the self, rather than pursuing a well-examined purpose. “If you put Socrates in a room during a pitch session, I think he’d be dismayed at so many young people investing their time in ways that do not make the world or themselves any better,” he said.

I never saw life as a challenge or a problem. I prefer a different mantra.

Life is a mystery to be lived — not a challenge/problem to be overcome.

It’s a happy way to live.

Image credit: Joanna Lee Osborn

Ducks in a Row: Humble Or Charismatic

Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/edvinajh/5710373433/

Many of the actions of people such as Travis Kalanick, Donald Trump, Parker Conrad, etc., are deplored, yet they seem to have no effect on people’s opinions.

They go their merry way while thousands of far superior leaders are ignored.

When the subject does come up the usual response involves the infamous “yes, but…”

Why is that?

I finally found an answer that makes sense from Margarita Mayo, a Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behavior at IE Business School in Madrid.

Mayo terms the first type of leader ‘humble’ and the second ‘charismatic’.

Humble leaders improve the performance of a company in the long run because they create more collaborative environments. They have a balanced view of themselves – both their virtues and shortcomings – and a strong appreciation of others’ strengths and contributions, while being open to new ideas and feedback. (…)

[Charismatic leaders], despite their grandiose view of themselves, low empathy, dominant orientation toward others, and strong sense of entitlement, their charisma proves irresistible. Followers of superheroes are enthralled by their showmanship: through their sheer magnetism, narcissistic leaders transform their environments into a competitive game in which their followers also become more self-centered, giving rise to organizational narcissism, as one study shows.

Mayo’s research and the other’s she cites (with links) provide proof of the value produced by the humble leader vs. their charismatic counterpart.

However, I think there is another problem happening in the background that is word-related.

Ask most people if they want to be remembered as ‘humble’ or ‘charismatic’ and most will choose charismatic.

Warren Buffet aside, ‘humble’ is more often associated with dorky, weak, shy, and unassuming.

Not adjectives most people would choose to describe themselves.

Thanks to Wally Bock for leading me to this article.

Image credit: Edvin J.

Story Power

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017

Ask any 21st Century marketer about brand building and they will tell you ‘it’s all about the story’.

Every brand works to tell stories that draw people in; that they want to share.

The obvious social deafness of major brands is hard to fathom, with Nivea and Pepsi being two of the most recent.

Nivea’s “White is Purity” ad was pulled and the entire campaign canceled two days after its appearance on Facebook.

The company provided what has come to be a boilerplate apology.

“We are deeply sorry to anyone who may take offense to this specific post,” the company said in a statement. “Diversity and equal opportunity are crucial values of Nivea.”

Within days it was Pepsi on the social media hot seat for an incredibly insensitive, incredibly white ad focusing on the Black Lives Matter protests.

The ad was pulled in hours, although, as you can see, nothing posted is ever truly deleted; here is Pepsi’s gussied up version of the boilerplate apology.

“Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly, we missed the mark and apologize,” the company said in a statement on Wednesday. “We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are pulling the content and halting any further rollout.”

Nivea’s story was from an agency, while Pepsi’s was developed in-house.

While I’m no fan of social media in general and its penchant for spreading fake news, in this case the lightening reactions actually did some good.

Heineken is another story (pun intended) entirely and has the awards to prove it, so it isn’t surprising that it was Heineken that successfully created the story the others screwed up so badly.

The take-away is that stories are a two-edged sword, so be sure to do them outside the echo chamber or don’t do them.

Image credit: Heineken and Team cast

Ducks in a Row: The Secret Of Good Process

Tuesday, April 25th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/archer10/4455027620/Continuing yesterday’s conversation regarding the need for good process in every size organization — the key word being “good.”

Good process, like all good things, starts with its ability to change, which, in turn, enables all kinds of good stuff.

Process won’t calcify if questioning fundamentals and avoiding the tradition trap is baked into your company DNA and you don’t forget that there are no absolutes.

Just as MAP (mindset, attitude, philosophy™) is the why, process is the how.

And because MAP is constantly growing and changing, process must constantly develop to support it.

In short, process changes to make things happen, whereas bureaucracy is carved in stone and stops them.

Image credit: Dennis Jarvis

Ducks in a Row: Value-Based Compensation

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/gardener41/1452771619/

Yesterday we considered the error companies make by basing offers on salary history, instead of future performance.

That may be about to end, at least in the outliers of Philadelphia and New York City.

In short, the law prevents employers from asking candidates about their current/previous compensation.

Candidates can volunteer the information, but can’t be asked for it by the company or any recruiting process, including third parties.

Doing so opens them up for lawsuits.

Ignoring implementation and legal hurdles, what does it really mean and why do I see it as such a positive?

Primarily because I don’t believe that either performance history or salary history has a damn thing to do with the value candidates bring to their next job.

Companies need to have a hiring range for each opportunity based on the impact that specific position should have on the company’s success.

The low end is based on average performance, while the high end is the result of an over achiever in the position.

The offer should be the highest number within the range based on the hiring manager’s evaluation of the candidate in light of two strong constants.

  1. 98% of star performers become stars as a function of their management and the ecosystem in which they perform.
  2. People who join for money will leave for more money.

Merit raises are then given based on that individual’s actual contribution to the company’s success, as opposed to some number from HR.

This puts most of the responsibility on the hiring manager — exactly where it belongs.

Image credit: gardener41

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