Sunday, April 26, 2009

Linked In

If you read the post from February 3, you'll know that Emma Gilding, anthropologist and business innovator, has begun a new blog - Thru Their Eyes.

Emma and I have very similar attitudes about the way people learn -- particularly about learning in business. She's made me a guest blogger.

I republish the post here to save you time from clicking around.

Corporate Training: is it Good for Innovation?

Even before the global economy found itself in peril, professional development seemed the solution for all organizational ills. If you find a hole in your process, fill it by prescribing a set of skills within a specific context or task.

Too often, training is the result of short-term thinking. An organization needs results quickly, so trainers limit a class to a narrow set of parameters. Then a particular problem can get solved immediately.

Don’t waste time making connections between contexts or tasks – why bother addressing problems that might arise later?

This is not helped by the fact that trainers tend to see their own goal exclusively to give clients exactly what he asks for rather than expanding offerings to include what they need.

Give Them the Fishing Rod (Not the Fish)

Training offers answers. But does it explore the questions in enough depth to do anything but maintain the status quo? Wouldn't it be better to improve the way business is done rather than just treading water?

Learning, on the other hand, focuses on process. It offers the facility to make connections among different contexts, resources, and so on. In fact, it's what makes a skill transferable. But more important it's learning, not training, that makes innovation possible.

On the other hand, the results of training are much easier and faster to control and quantify. They demand no messy emotional investment (read: engagement) that is required for inspiration and innovation.

So with training, you know what you get. But is what you want?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

More on Doug Rushkoff: The Dark Side of New Media

Worth watching is a Frontline piece on South Korea's approach to young people's addiction to computer games.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Meeting Douglas Rushkoff

I met Douglas Rushkoff at a party the other week. Turns out we have a lot of good friends in common, and it's strange we've never met before. I've always been a big fan.

Because Doug is that very unusual combination of fascinating and generous, his arguments are almost impossible to resist. Even when you might want to disagree.

Doug gave a talk at Ofcom recently, and it's worth mentioning.

I'm perhaps most impressed by the way that Doug avoids jargon in order to unify what seem like unlike concepts. He breaks down ideas and examples so that anyone -- in any field -- could understand it.

In fact, Doug's communication style is proof of concept. For him, the rules of the current economic models should be redesigned to benefit people before corporations. That, in turn, will benefit the economy in ways we haven't seen since the Middle Ages.

So if you believe people create their own economic models, then you need to be able to speak to everyone.

How generous is THAT? How productive -- And how unusual.

I'll be interviewing him for an article tomorrow, and I'll let you know what I learn.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Good: This Time With Feeling

Good and Bad

Last night, I saw a screening of a film called Good, the journey of a professor in pre-war Germany from ordinary citizen to SS officer.

I note it here only to reinforce the notion much discussed in this blog that emotional reactions are the basis for intellectual convictions -- and if one doesn't take notice (and responsibility) for the first, one can not answer for the second.

All sound obvious? Take it out of context and apply it to business. Still a commonly held notion?

Yes, But Did It Work?

The film succeeded because it persuasively demonstrated that value and intolerance rose and fell according to the rise and fall of the pride in identity of ordinary citizens.

Strangely, this seemed clear for all the characters except the lead, Halder. The film failed because one had no idea what he felt, and though he behaved in ways that implied conviction, it was impossible to be clear about what he thought.

Jason Isaacs, who spoke after the premier, explained that the cinematic format precluded clear articulation of Halder's feelings. I suggested that it's really more a question of what the director chose -- cinema is a pretty plastic medium.

In any case, any popular political rallying point -- that creates a strong sense of identity and belonging -- persuades just from these causes. Not a surprise? Again, what happens if you apply this principal to other contexts?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Unemployed? A Perfect Excuse to Rebrand

Every economic and political crisis has its opportunities. It just takes some imagination to find the ones you can make the most of.

Who said that luck happens when opportunity meets a ready mind?

When Last We Saw Our Hero . . .

I was recently asked to help a company to create marketing collateral for their current services. This organisation specialises in outsourcing particular financial functions for small to medium sized businesses.

In order to make the most of the marketing opportunities, I suggested that that they activities and collateral that will expand their brand.

With expertise in all aspects of finance, why not take the opportunity to find the cream of the financial market's unemployed, retrain them, and place them in new jobs?

In a world where there are hundreds of talented financial people who are newly unemployed, you have a market keen for any way to find a job.

Likewise, companies need talented people -- always. And they would prefer to outsource functions that require high overhead in salary, benefits, and so on.

So why not make a business of rebranding people from the City? You make money training. You make money placing people. Win-win.

You Who Have Lost Your Jobs: This Is Where You Come In

You who are smart and agile, this is your chance. The current situation allows high-level thinkers to take advantage of the opportunity for new career directions by re-branding yourselves.

What are you most passionate or curious about? What sorts of businesses or business functions have you demonstrated an impact other than whatever was contained in your job description? Where can you get that extra expertise quickly and efficiently to fill in gaps for a job you'd like to have?

Speaking from Experience

My own career path has been entirely about re-branding in order to explore and learn exactly what interests me. I worked in the theatre, I earned a PhD in drama, I became a journalist, I worked in Silicon Alley and consulted, worked at PricewaterhouseCoopers as strategist and negotiator for the global website, and then I ran a charity for children in London.

Contrary to those who advocate single career paths, employers have not found me flaky. In fact, I've found the threads that connect my passions allow me to see things new in ways that make me seem more, rather than less, committed and qualified. Cross-disciplinary thinking and making connections among unlikely resources is high in demand. In fact, my research shows that in every field employers are looking for people who can show this sort of creativity.

And those who do this can find great success.

Re-branding is a big topic, and I'll get back to it in later posts. For now, there's a great (if old) Fast Company issue that offers some very good ideas. Check it out.