Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Revenge of the Right Brainers

Status: drinking Crooked Tree I.P.A., listening to I Kissed a Girl by Katy Perry and Tube Snake Boogie by ZZ Top, thinking that everyone who knows my wife should ask her what her nickname is because of the 5-letter code that put on all the bills in her name and worrying that when Erik leaves I will fall into a deep depression marked by a cessation of coffee drinking.

I went to Great Conversations at the U of MN tonight to listen to Daniel Pink, author of A Whole New Mind and Johnny Bunko (a manga career guide for Millennials with advice about how to fail and that if you have a plan for your career, following A to B to C, you might as well discard it, it won't matter by the time you get somewhere between A and B. They should probably hand out a copy to each kid under about 28 that walks in the door at work), talk about what he sees as the changing nature of work. To sum it up, I think he sees us all becoming more like Millennials, where we no longer focus on a job, or on a career, but on a breadth of skills that encompasses the ability to tackle several careers. His assertion that if you're trying to create modern spaces for students or workers, you should tell them the budget and just give them free reign to redesign, falls right into the Millennial habit of wanting to contribute (meaningfully) to everything they touch in ways that cut across traditional work boundaries.

In some respects, it was more motivational speaking than business, but he addressed some of the ways different generations learn and what should be common to them as far as what they get out of work to feel engaged. Namely that you should give your employees the ability command some sort of autonomy (read Drucker circa 1950 - he makes the same assertion in his chapters about how repetitive motion jobs of the hands or brain actually decrease productivity), encourage/allow them to achieve mastery (don't do the same thing if you can help it, focus on getting rid of all re-iteration), and give them purpose (also Drucker, if you equate it to knowing your objectives and line of sight. Very Millennial in the sense that they want purpose. Very dawning-retirement age Boomer as they struggle to make sure they leave a legacy as individuals). He had a nice quote about the last point, commenting that your work should not be unhinged from the real world. And he appended that it was important to model these ideals in yourself if you wanted to see them show up in others. I think Drucker would point to that as a sign of the ethical manager.

Pink also gave a few good anecdotes about education and innovation, noting that if you walked into a school now, you might not notice any difference from the school you attended 20, 30 or 40 years ago. I think it's a valid point that lack of change doesn't mean we long ago reached the nadir of school design, but that we're modeling schools to prepare kids for our past, not their future. Overall, it was a good reiteration of some of the very same themes I was hearing and pondering during the MN High Tech Association Innovation Conference.


Anonymous said...

Hi. Thanks for the post and for coming out to that U-M event last night.

On the Johnny Bunko book, you gave me an idea. Want me to send you, say, a dozen copies -- and you can pass them out to some of the under-28 folks who are working for your company?

Let me know if that appeals.

Dan Pink

Jonathan Steele of Speechmastery.com said...

You mentioned...'but that we're modeling schools to prepare kids for our past, not their future.'

Although true in many cases, you should consider Clayton Christensen's Seeing What's Next. The education provided today is vastly superior to that of the past.

Even my college degree was partly completed in my home office, several tests at a testing center, a workshop in another State and the 3 day Final in yet another place.

The best part, 10K worth of degree was mine with no time lost from work, very little driving or drive time (when gas was cheaper) and my education surpassed those taking traditional education.

While getting the degree, I was also able to get advanced certifications at the same time.