9 competences you need in your workforce today and tomorrow

If you are looking to hire someone to join your company or to develop existing people who will regularly bring added-value (in the long-term), you need to think about more than technical or functional skills. In my opinion, the 9 following competences are absolutely key to sustainable success in today and tomorrow’s business environment…

 

THE CONSTANT LEARNER

It has been said for decades that the only constant is change. Clearly that hasn’t changed. If we cannot be sure about what tomorrow looks like, then the following three competences are important:

  • Open-mindedness is the ability to receive and treat new information without overbearing prejudice. Many of us spend the majority of our waking lives on autopilot, doing things just like we did yesterday, set in our ways and thoughts. Open-minded people are able to put their own convictions on hold and see things differently in order to deal with new ideas. They are conscious of their own habits and convictions, they listen well and they tend not to mix up their own perception with reality.
  • Self-learning is the ability to define, follow-up, deliver and evaluate learning goals in an autonomous way. Today’s workers must be able to acquire and assimilate knowledge, learn new skills and question their own attitude without the necessary intervention of a learning department or teacher. Specific skills here include goal-setting, self-coaching and identifying infinite learning opportunities.
  • Problem-solving skills and scientific reasoning are required in order to figure things out where no answer currently exists. Workers must have the ability to correctly assess and define a problem. They must have a minimum of business acumen and creativity to propose multiple hypotheses and a sufficient scientific process to create “experiments” that will allow them to isolate, test and understand problem causes and potential solutions.

 

FUNCTIONING WELL IN TODAY’S UBER-SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT

In today’s working environment (the “New World of Work”) the possibilities are endless. We can gather and share information from and to everywhere in a click. We have unprecedented access to other people. We are mobile within markets and across functional and geographical lines. The following three competences are all about getting and giving the best in that environment:

  • Personal Knowledge Management is a collection of processes that a person uses to gather, classify, store, search, retrieve, and share knowledge in his or her daily activities. Faced with the enormous noise of information coming in from everywhere in multiple formats, today’s workers need to be able to make sense of it all and put the noise to effective use for herself and others, today and in the future.
  • Networking skills allow workers to effectively analyse, evaluate and improve their own networks in order to receive and give more value. With a clear long-term mission and good social skills, effective networkers can assess, create and maintain well-functioning networks. They know the right people (who know the right people..) and can establish trusting useful contacts over a variety of face-to-face and virtual platforms in order to achieve their goals.
  • Commercial communication and personal branding. As businesses become more “intrapreneurial” and workers get involved in more cross-functional, multinational projects, the ability to understand the situation, values and needs of other people and position oneself and one’s work “commercially” in terms of benefits is key to being accepted and being useful. No-one can sit back and say that “sales” is for someone else. As Daniel Pink has said, to sell is human and we’re all doing it, whether we know it or not. The product/service branding approach of matching key messages to target audiences can today be equally well applied to individuals – effective personal branding helps other people to see your own value more easily.

 

BRINGING VALUE TO THE BUSINESS

A constant learner who is able to function well in an uber-social environment is not worth anything if he doesn’t really understand how business is happening and what can be done to achieve goals. He needs three additional competences:

  • Business acumen or business intelligence is the first foundation for adding value to an organisation. In the past, only the management needed to worry about the universal drivers of cash, profit, growth, people and assets; everyone else could “just” focus on his job. But as environments, people, projects and processes change rapidly, there is more need for workers who truly understand their own work and how it influences the bottom-line and delivers on company strategy. If you don’t understand the core factors that make your business successful, you will not be able to identify opportunities, solve problems or articulate solutions that bring any value.
  • Strategic thinking is the ability to identify priorities based on current position in relationship to the end-goal. Technical or tactical experts tend to have a good grasp on which is the best way to achieve a certain action, but strategic thinkers more easily identify those actual actions which really need to be taken at this time. Although top-management may be responsible for defining the company strategy, each individual needs himself to be able to regularly and effectively assess their own position (in terms of S/W/O/T etc..) and look for recurring themes and priorities. In this way, they can strategically choose relevant action and next concrete steps.
  • Proactivity is the ability to stop, think and choose, rather than simply reacting to circumstance. A close-cousin of both strategic-thinking, open-mindedness and problem-solving ability, proactivity requires self-knowledge and a specific attitude, in addition to specific knowledge of the environment and mission. Faced with unacceptable results, the proactively-reactive person will assess the situation and processes/programs in order to create change which he or she believes he can orchestrate. And the truly proactive person will “in advance” take the initiative to assess risks to the mission and think about how to do things differently and how to have a maximum impact.

 

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Default to believe, then conditioned for stability

When we are young we believe anything. If, like me, you have small children you have already seen this in action. They will believe literally anything. They can believe anything.

This inherent naivety or open-mindedness is key to development. Without it, we cannot discover or learn anything new. We need first to be able to treat new concepts before later discarding them as “wrong” or ill-fitting to our own reality.

 

As we grow older, we develop the capacity to distinguish fact from make-believe. We know (spoiler alert!) that Father Christmas probably doesn’t really come down the chimney and we congratulate ourselves on our ability to be reasonable.

But being “reasonable” is in itself the first pre-requisite for being closed-minded and too much of it leads to lack of innovation and inability to change. Copernicus was unreasonable, as were the people who wanted to put a man on the moon and anyone who thought a computer-game couldn’t load faster than a Commodore 64 did it.

 

So why do we trade pure open-mindedness for “reason”, new for old and creativity for stability?

I suspect the answer is about security or “blending-in”. and it is highly linked to values. Classical schools still today prefer to teach everyone to the same curriculum and anyone who doesn’t fit in has failed. Seeing things differently is not the point. Most corporations don’t do much better. Idioms like “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it” and the wish to maintain current processes in the name of “quality” and customer satisfaction are designed to ensure that things get done the same tomorrow. Attached to our own ideas of what is “good”, we start to live on autopilot.

 

Wouldn’t a little more childishness do some good?

 

 

Goal-setting alone goes nowhere

This is an angry blog-post, fuelled by failure and feeling lost.
Trying to “get what you want” and “achieve goals” has driven me mad.
At the age of 35, I’ve had enough.

It may have started with my parents, who either pushed me towards goals or didn’t stop me from my own endless pursuit of the achievement of goals. It continued in school, where top grades were sought out for no reason but their own apparent top-grade value. And since day one in the corporate world, it has been shoved down my throat by Covey-inspired managers …and later reinforced by performance bonuses and general back-slapping. It hasn’t stopped. Goal, goal, goal. Do, do, do. Achieve, achieve, achieve.

But in a world where it is “good” to achieve targets, I fear that this achievement itself has become some kind of altar at which people like me pray. But where is the god of purpose for which this altar was erected? Without that, the prayer of achievement loses all sense.

 

When you get into the process (and life) of setting goals and achieving targets, it is fun. You can put ticks in boxes and say “I succeeded”. If you have an app like “Lift” you can share your goals and your success with other people, who will congratulate you for being like them and achieving what you all set out to do.

But I wonder how many people installed “Lift” and did like I did, just browsing though the habits and goals to choose from and picking things that sounded cool, then setting their goals? Or sat down on New Year’s Eve (or performance-review day) and asked themselves “What goal can I have for next year?” Like an achiever’s buffet-bar. Eat all you can.

In my own case, with the “Lift” app, it would surely have been better to actually have a real goal in mind (or better yet, some sense of purpose) before downloading the app and then use it’s social reinforcement mechanisms to help me get it done. But that’s not what I did. I heard about an app that let’s you share and track goals and thought it would be “good” just because it helps you share and track goals and because that is in itself a “good thing”. I think I am obsessed with (or at the very least, attached to) achieving. And apps that help you achieve are “good”. But what am I actually achieving? What is it all working towards?

 

And so I write this angry post: Goal-setting and achieving targets is bad. Dangerous. Goal-setting should be a means to a purposeful end, but for workaholic, other-oriented, self-esteem-seeking people like myself, it becomes the end in itself. And it is an end which goes nowhere when you lack any sense of what is “good” or purposeful outside of the goal itself.

 

As of today, instead of setting goals outside of myself for things to get, be or do I am going rather to focus on looking inside and stripping away everything I don’t want to get, be or do. I have always been told that I should create smart goals that are positive and focus on what I want to achieve. But since I now reject goals and don’t really know what I want to achieve, I will just be negative. I will instead focus on what I don’t want and just see where that takes me. Instead of trying to make a pretty garden with no clear vision of what “pretty” is, I am just going to focus on pulling out the weeds.

 

Maybe when everything is stripped bare and I’m left with nothing to be, have, do or achieve, I’ll know who I really am, what I really want and what can be done.

I suspect that then I will probably no longer care about goal-setting and achievement.

Just the garden itself.

 

 

Gardening for happiness

A young woman was dissatisfied with her garden. She didn’t find it pretty.

One day, she stumbled upon the local garden centre and went inside.

Hearing her unhappiness, the garden centre employee proposed: “Why don’t you add some flowers?”

So the young lady bought roses and begonias, daffodils to plant and many other varieties of colourful flowers. She went home and planted them and waited a while, but even when all the flowers were in bloom, she still wasn’t satisfied. She still didn’t find it pretty.

 

Some time later, she went back to the garden-centre. A new employee suggested flowers and the young lady explained what she had already planted. In reply, the new employee said: “Perhaps you could put a bench and some other furniture and ornaments?”

So the young lady bought a bench, an ornamental watering can, some solar-lighting and many other things to fill up her garden. She went home and put everything in place, sat back and looked at her new garden. But she still wasn’t satisfied. She still didn’t find it pretty.

 

In despair, she drove back to the garden centre the next day, only to find it shut. As she walked back to her car, she stumbled upon a little old lady and explained her situation. She told how she didn’t find her garden pretty, how dissatisfied she was and all she had done with the flowers and the ornamental furtniture.

The lady replied: “Why don’t you try a little weeding ?”

 

 

Experimenting with Dice Life

I am always “Dan Steer”.
My preferences, habits and “personality” are recognisably quite stable: “Dan Steer”.
As I go through life, those things can change. Sometimes slowly and occasionally, or sometimes might I prefer something radically different. I might break an old habit or seem to be happy or sad. But the thin red line remains “Dan Steer”.
Can this be changed?

 

Having recently re-read Luke Rhinehart’s book “The Dice Man”, I decided to experiment with other forms of Dan Steer (note, no inverted commas here). In the story, the author is fed up with life and bored of always doing the same things with the same people in the same way. So one evening, he thinks of 6 things he might do and decides to toss the die to see what will be his fate. 2 of the options are normal habitual activities, the other 4 are not (no spoilers here… read the book!). When he casts the die, he is instructed to do something new. As the book progresses, the author realises that in fact, he no longer has one stable “him”: He has become a radically new person made up of all kinds of new preferences, habits and “personality”.

 

The book evokes the idea that people are always capable of numerous actions, preferences, habits and “personality”. But at any one time, we can only choose one approach. We tend to choose the most comfortable for ourselves going towards what we already prefer and avoiding what we don’t. We repeat whatever actions seemed to work before and, mostly, get the same results.

 

But what about all those other things we could have done? What about the things we didn’t do? Or didn’t think of? By using the random element of rolling a die, Rhinehart does 3 things which are highly important for self-development and happiness:

  • He thinks a little bit “out-of-the-box”
  • He gives himself permission to do other things which come to mind, but might have been too quickly judged or dismissed as “not best”
  • He does not get stuck on deciding what is “best” or “not best” because any judgement he would make would be made by the normal “him” (preferences, habits and “personality”)

 

So, I’ve been experimenting with this. Instead of living on autopilot with all my normal behaviour, I have started to introduce a little random dice-life from time-to-time. Now, I am not going to list all the occasions I have already played with, but here’s a few things I decided with the die, rather than just doing my normal thing. Recognise that this is a list of inhabitual things, chosen in a new way:

  • I had a bath with bath-salts, instead of reading email
  • I decided that a quote I was working on would be done gently over 2 days, instead of in 1 twelve hour day
  • I read a bedtime book to the girls (normal). The book was chosen by one daughter (she rolled a 5), we read the book on the bed of my other daughter (who rolled 4), with their mum (3) and no-one was allowed to cry afterwards (the die landed on an even number).
  • I worked in the kitchen, rather than my office.
  • My smallest daughter is no longer afraid of spiders. She rolled an even number and just accepted the result!

 

None of these things are to me particularly remarkable in themselves (except the last… I’ll come to that). But they are all new options. They are all different iterations of Dan Steer, chosen in place of the standard activity of “Dan Steer”. Here’s what would have happened if “Dan Steer” had decided:

  • I would have read email at 20h30
  • I would have attacked a big important project in the usual “Dan Steer” fashion of “go, go, go” and tried to do it all in one day
  • Either I or my wife would have read one of the same books in the same place, while the other one tidied up dinner and the bathroom
  • I would have worked in my office as usual and I wouldn’t have seen anyone between 9am and 8pm.

 

What impressed me most was my 4-yr old. She used to say that “she” was afraid of spiders. In my mind, this seems as if the first 4 years of her life had decided already decided how the next 80 to 100 would be. In fact, not even the first 4 years of her life, but the last 30-odd years of her mother’s spider-fearing life, handed down through various screams and “go-and-get-your-father” reactions. When I asked her what she wanted to roll the die for, she replied: “To see if I’m afraid of spiders”. I asked her which numbers would be which outcomes and she gave 2 in 3 chances to “not being afraid” and only a 1 in 3 chance to “being afraid”. Then she rolled. The die said “not afraid” so she is not afraid anymore.

 

What seems so important to be about all this – the reason I am writing it – is the following:

  • In the case of my 4-year old, the options she gave herself and the possibility given to each had an immediate impact on the outcome she got – be careful how you set and weigh the options for things in your own life
  • I am reminded that each habit or belief has grown out of previous experience, or maybe the experience of others – if you want to kill your sacred cows, start by naming assumptions you have and thinking about where (or who) they come from
  • If you do the same things, you will get the same results – if you are not happy with the results you are getting, change some of the inputs, even randomly
  • If you don’t try it, you can’t (dis)like it – who knows what other sides of you you MIT find when you give yourself permission to drop the usual “you

 

So, go forth and experiment.

Or, as Rhinehart would say: “Die will be done”

 

 

 

The trouble with passion and purpose at work

Passion and purpose. Everything you need to get started with motivation. Right?

Many HR professionals and leaders seem convinced today that the key to motivating workers is to unlock and release their passion. But will it work?

At the ASTD2013 ICE this year, I heard from 4 people about this topic and my first impression was one of inspiration (again) and awe (again) at how right they were, how amazing their stories were and how cool the results they got were. But today, no longer under the influence of conference-buzz, I’m not so sure. MAYBE only one of their stories is relevant…

 

Person number 1: Sir Ken Robinson told us that people need to find their “element”. The “element” is the true passion each person has that is the driving spirit of intrinsic motivation. Find it and work is no longer work – it’s joy for which you are paid. Sound great!

Persons number 2 and 3 Jon and Owen from “The Passing Zone”, confirmed Sir Ken’s speech: If you really love it and want it, just do it and great things will follow. They told me that it might be tough, but that you shouldn’t worry about going for it.

But how is this relevant for leaders and the HR folk who want to motivate people? I worry that it is not. Is it possible to use the idea of passion and purpose to motivate people in an organisation? Or is it a dream that will create lots of buzz, but ultimately go nowhere?

 

Maybe if we back-track a little and define motivation, it may help. Two possibilities come to mind:

  • Verb “to motivate” = to give someone a reason or motive to act
  • Noun “motivation” = something you have that drives you to act

Thinking of the verb, we could imagine that HR and leaders will need to find the ways in which they can push or pull people working towards awesomeness. In the past, they may have focused more on carrots and sticks, but today the tendency is to talk about unlocking passion and purpose. But how exactly are they planning on doing this? My passion is surfing … Good luck putting that to work!

Thinking of the noun, motivation is something you have (or don’t have). It’s not something you will give to me. If I am not passionate about accounting, you can’t make me passionate about it. And if you aren’t interested in my music passion in your company, we are in trouble…

 

So here is the problem as I see it: Passion and purpose is what motivates people and the best results come from finding it and unlocking it. HR and leaders need to release this passion. But you can’t give it to someone. So what do you do?

 

I see two approaches:

 

Person number 4 at the ASTD conference was Rick Lozano, who told us that one day his manager asked him: “What are you passionate about?” Rick replied “I like developing courses” and his manager said: “That’s not what I mean. I mean “passionate”…” Rick hesitatingly replied “music” and his manager instructed him to find ways to bring THAT to work.

Read my TU100 session notes here to find out what he did

This first approach is an example of a manager (leader, HR..) using the concept of passion to motivate someone and get better results. I love the story and seeing how Rick has integrated music into his work as a trainer is very inspiring. I just don’t believe that those kind of stories are so evident or possible in every job. If a call-centre agent loves stripping (I met one!) she can’t put THAT to work. And how can the average banker bring his love of circus, golf or fishing to work?

 

The second approach is, in my mind, the only real workable solution and probably the one intended by Sir Ken Robinson: Schooling for and spotting passion and recruiting passion for your company.

What would this mean? Firstly, it means that at school, we need to create environments that allow each individual amazing little human being to figure out what they love. Robinson spoke about this in his famous TED speech. To achieve this, we will need to let go of our wish to produce standardised “good” students who pass all the same tests to all the same standards.

Then we will have to help people who have found their passion to put it to work. We will need to help people to navigate the vast myriad of existing and future possibilities in order to find the place to add value to the world via their work.

And companies will need to do a better job of recruiting the right people for the right jobs. They would not recruit for knowledge and skills and spend their time trying to motivate people to be passionate. They need to look for the people who have the right passion and drive already and (if necessary) develop the missing knowledge and skills later .. ..whilst just trying not to screw up the natural motivation that is already there.

 

In my opinion, if everyone were doing what she really loved and doing it well the world would indeed be a better place. We need to help people find that passion before they look for work, then recruit to get the right people in the right jobs. The rest will follow all by itself…

Are you feeling passionate at work?

 

 

Boldness, Decision and Action

Look at this picture. What’s wrong with it?

20130615-205046.jpg

Looks tidy, right? Nice Paul McCartney poster? Nobody died..

This is the small room at the bottom of the stairs in my house. Opposite the sofa you can find my guitars. Sometimes I sit and play there. The door goes through to the entrance of the house and my wife’s office.

But what is that pile of DVDs doing there? We don’t have a television in that room and “all my other DVDs” are nicely organised in their own little space.

 

THAT pile of DVDs is what is wrong with my life and what is wrong with the lives of many other people. THAT pile of DVDs is unfinished, indecision and procrastination. It is the annoying remains of a DVD-classifying and tidying job. No-one knows where to put them and no-one has made a decision. Every time someone sees them, small silent curses are made about what the hell they are doing there, followed (in my case) by mini-anxiety about having to deal with them, but not being sure what to do and where to put them.

In life, many people have their own “pile of DVDs”: The thing at the bottom of the to-do list that isn’t getting done, the dripping tap in the bathroom or the CV that still hasn’t been posted for that job opportunity.

These things remain unfinished and undecided as we procrastinate our way around them. It seems easier to ignore them than to take action. But they niggle away at our souls because they are not in their right place. When I wake up and come down the stairs, the first thing I see is those damn DVDs. And when I go to bed, they are the last thing that crosses my path before sleep.

 

In some cases, the consequences of inaction are quite small: The untuned piano and out of place DVDs will not change much. I don’t lose any sleep and nothing bad will come of it.

But in others cases, the consequences of inaction can be far worse: That niggling image of more important unfinished business eats away at you, causing insomnia and anxiety. What will I do about the wall that looks like it might fall down? How will I pay my credit-card bill? When will I finally get started on living my dreams?

 

In all cases, until there is a boldness, decision and action, nothing will change. The boldness is about daring to move forward with things. The decision is about what matters most, your priorities, the things you want out of life and how you want to feel about yourself. And action is about taking small steps towards satisfaction, one-at-a-time.

 

Sometimes it takes a shock to the system to force you into action: The wall falls down, the bank freezes your credit-card or burnout leaves you depressed and out of work.

In many cases, one of the following ideas might help:

 

Regarding my DVDs, it was Tony Robbins’ idea that got me started: I have been focussing on almost everything else in my life but those DVDs and what that means to me is the same as what my ever-fattening belly means: I am letting some other things go to shit. Action? [Pause from writing]

 

…OK… 30 minutes later they are gone. Some have been put in the children’s rooms.. Disney and The Gruffalo. The music ones have been put with my CDs. And the rest are in the big cupboard with things to sell on eBay. (That last idea is my answer to David Allen’s question: “What is the next concrete action I will take?”)

Whilst tidying, I contemplate the importance of Seth Godin’s idea and realise that it often seems easier to do nothing, plod along and get the same results. Going for gold is scary. What will it look like? How will it work? What if I fail?

 

But if you want to tidy those DVDs, fix the scary threatening wall or find the job of your dreams, you need a little boldness, decision and action to get you on track.

If you knew your brain, you would develop talent differently

Retaining and developing talent is not what you think it is.

ASTD2013 session M106 was led by David Rock from the NeuroLeadership Institute. Based on the meta-research of thousands of Neuro-science studies, the NeuroLeadership Institute says that we can really do a much better job of helping leaders make decisions and solve problems, regulate emotions, collaborate with others and facilitate change.

Today, we are talking about developing talent. To structure to his session, David spoke around his 50,000 foot view of talent development, which is a 5-step process…

(Note: For what follows, I have not quoted the scientific research or resources referenced by David. Please contact him directly for that. Just take everything noted here as true, with the assumption that its all proven by the neuro-science.)

There are different kinds of talent philosophy and you should think about your own

Some people think that leaders are naturally born and there is nothing you can develop. You are either born “smart” or you are not. You can’t change much. With this point-of-view, giving feedback and “stretch-goals” is considered dangerous because there is no point trying to develop people. It will only make things worse. The brain feels threatened by such approaches.

Others (like most of today’s attendees) believe that leadership competences can be acquired and developed. By using assessment and development, coaching, training, performance management etc.. we can help people improve.

Interestingly, David Rock adds that each individual’s capacity for personal development may depend on which of these philosophies he or she believes in. We are primed to grow (or not) based on our perception and those with the growth mindset have, for example, much better more active brain responses to feedback and performance evaluation.

You need to know which are the most important talents to develop in today’s leaders

David says that in the past values, strengths, general and emotional intelligence were considered as the most important talents to develop in leaders.

Today values, strengths and general intelligence remain important, but emotional intelligence is a turn-off phrase for managers. New talent ideas to develop include self and social regulation, adaptive intelligence, network intelligence and global mindset.

But in addition, given our highly networked mobile connected environment, David adds that we must now pay even more particular attention to assessing and developing team talent. He says that collective intelligence is far greater than the sum total of the intelligence of its individuals. This is proven and must be remembered. I see an interesting link to what Shari Yocum said yesterday about analysing informal social networks

Assess talent correctly

David says that classic assessments may not be the best way to search out talent. Most of our approaches to assessment only assess people’s ability to do assessments. In other words, clever people who can spot patterns in the assessment process come out better.

He adds that classic interview processes also fail for recruiting (or developing) real talent. The people who perform best in interviews are the people who perform best in interviews. In my own experience, I have seen countless engineers and techy people who fail miserably to express (read “sell”) themselves in interviews. But they would have otherwise been a good match for the competences required.

Add to that the fact that everyone assessing the talent of others will be massively biased and its clear that these approaches to talent assessment are doomed to failure.

What does David suggest? At the NeuroLeadership Institute, they recruit people by giving them concrete measurable tasks to perform that are as close to the reality of the work as possible. An editor is given a document with 100 errors and asked to edit it. A salesman is asked to go out on the floor and sell something. An engineer is asked to design something. As a side-note, reading “Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google?”, you can see that Google suggest the same approach…

Develop talent. (And its not about performance management)

According to David Rock, you can forget about performance management and performance evaluation. People are not happy with it, they say it doesn’t create any significant change in performance and rarely reflects employee contributions. This seems SO wrong. Why?

Firstly, Rock says that humans are not wired for feedback. Getting feedback activates some of the same parts of the brain as dying (!!!). It is scary. And we are not capable of listening properly to people. Especially not if they are different to us. Which everyone is.

Secondly, there is too much focus on the process within performance management and not enough on what happens during the actual conversation and dialogue. The Neuro-scientist knows that status, certainty, perceived autonomy, relatedness and fairness all have an impact on our (in)ability to have good dialogue. Which is one of the building blocks of effective for most performance evaluation moments.

Finally, having performance evaluations once a year is not going to work. Intuitively, we already knew this.

So what can you do about all this? David Rock says there is SO much we could do (and encourages you to read his research) but adds that if you could only do ONE thing today, it should be to help the leaders involved in talent development, performance management and evaluation to understand the impact they have on others and what is going on in the brain.

Thanks for reading!
D

Ken Robinson on your element, education and unique extraordinary life

“One of the most influential thinkers in creativity today” says FAST Company
“Knight of the royal realm” says the Queen of England
“Keynote speaker to kick off the ICE” says ASTD2013

According to Ken Robinson, it is early. Too early. Having spent the night trying to remember how to sleep, he is not sure it’s actually a pleasure to be at ASTD2013 today. But he is here. And he’s got a message to share.

Referring to the chainsaw juggling duo The Passing Zone who introduced Tony Bingham’s speech this morning, Sir Ken reminds us that we each have deep talents and you have to work to find them. When The Passing Zone were at school, neither of them had an idea that they would spend the rest of their lives juggling. They didn’t get taught it at school and they would never have said it would be their future.

The Passing Zone love what they do. They have passion. What is your passion? Sir Robinson says that every person IS something. Every person has talent that speaks to them, that animates them. When we find that something, we will never work again. We will do what we love and get paid for it. It will change everything.

But if you want to discover that passion and talent, you have to create the right environments. He adds that many organisations do not do this. Schools neither.

The school system created during the industrial revolution is supposed to get everyone learning the same things in the same way. As Robinson said in his famous TED talk, the school system was not designed to help a young child discover the joy of juggling, or to feel the wonder of balancing accounts. Or to help a top-class concert pianist realise that, in fact, she wants to be an editor.

Ken Robinson tells us that we are facing an education and happiness crisis. In the US, more money is spent on education (per head) than any other country and class sizes are smaller. Yet more people drop out than anywhere else and less people graduate. And if that wasn’t worrying enough, Robinson also tells us that in the US more drugs are sold for depression and psychological issues than anything else. People are unhappy. And people NEED to be happy.

Why is this? Why are we not making it through school and coming out awesomely happy, working in line with our passion and talents? What can we do about it?

TWO THINGS TO BEAR IN MIND TO FIND YOUR ELEMENT

Firstly, Ken Robinson wants to remind us that we are unique. Since the beginning of time, there have probably been around 100 billion people on Earth. And they have all been different. No-one on Earth has ever had the same life you are leading right now. And never will. As the Dalai Lama said to Ken Robinson at a recent Vancouver conference on world peace through inner-peace: “The fact that you are alive at all is a miracle. So what are you going to do with it?”

Secondly, you have to realise that you are responsible for making your own life. You are given life …but you are not given your CV when you are born. Your own story, successful or not, is a result of your own talent, personal disposition and circumstance. Ken Robinson underlines the importance of this last point and says that we need to create circumstances in which people can flourish, discover their talents and make them grow. We can all be creative, we can all do something special and people need to be given opportunities to explore.

As the folks at the BlueMan Group say “If ordinary people can find their element, extraordinary things can happen.”

Think about it.

DANs closing questions:

  • If you are in learning and development, what can you do to create learning environments that stimulate real creativity and drive people to flourish and bring out their element?
  • If you are a parent, how you do the same for your children?
  • And if you are not awesomely happy yourself doing what brings you strength, fulfilling your own personal quest and working in line with your own personal element, what are you going to do about it?
  • ps Check out my Daily Dallas Weather Reports on http://www.youtube.com/dansteerchannel

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    8 Stress and Anxiety Tips from Tony Stark

    It seems that “not doing so well” is fashionable. Everyone is doing it ..even the superheroes!

     

    Last year, it was James Bond in Skyfall: Wallowing in misery and booze and disillusioned with it all, it took a literal blast-from-the-past to eventually force him to face up to his demons and deal with his stress. And while we still have to wait a month or so to see the Man of Steel retreat from the world and deny his responsibilities, this week’s opening of Iron Man 3 has shown us another hero on the verge of breakdown: Tony Stark.

     

    Tony Stark Stress Tips

     

    But if genius billionaire playboy philanthropists inside Iron Man suits are suffering from sleepless nights and bouts of anxiety, what hope is there for the rest of us? Have no fear! Read on… Fresh from the film (and without spoilers!) here’s 8 top tips for from the world of Iron to help you deal with stress and anxiety:

     

     

    • Take some time out of the city. Tony had a reason to go to “nowhere Tennessee” but you don’t need an excuse to take a walkabout. If you need to get away, do it.

     

    • Sleep more. Even if Tony says “Einstein only slept 3 hours a year”, he’s still tired. Turn off your work and go to bed! Need help sleeping? Check out the “faculty lounge” pages of the US National Sleep Foundation site.

     

     

    • Get a coach. You would think that if “subjective thinking retards intellectual potential” then ego-centric Tony Stark would more like Rain Man than a genius. Fortunately, he’s got his new little friend Harley to help him out. And if you’re stressed and anxious, you may not be able to fogure things out by yourself. Some external input can work wonders. Who do you have to help you think a little differently?

     

    • Share the workload. Fighting the bad guys to save the President, you need a “War Machine” buddy (or whatever you call him!) to help you out. Whatever your job, find someone to share the work with. Here’s “6 Tips for Delegating Success” from @Forbes.

     

    • Listen to some good old rock and roll. In my own humble opinion, the distinct lack of AC/DC in Iron Man 3 may be the single biggest reason for Tony Stark being so highly strung 🙂 Did someone turn off all the rock and roll? And even if the Marvel studios think they know “what the kids want to hear”, everyone else knows that life sometimes can get tough and life sometimes can be a drag … and God gave rock and roll to you.

     

     

     

    So that’s it. Feeling stressed? Slow down and share!

     

    Thanks for reading.

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