I blog, tweet, and present about technology quite often. I'm hyped up about all the great things it does to make my life more productive and things go faster...but that's all technology has really done - make things go faster. Technology is amazing for the exchange of information, but it's terrible at creating human relationships.
Rather, follow your skills for a meaningful career...because don't you feel great when you're totally awesome at something?
The cheapest career advice you can get is to "follow your passion." This idea sounds cool, but there is so much more to a meaningful career than matching your job to a pre-existing passion.
I love making stuff, but I'm not that good at it. I'm a better leader, so I've chosen to follow that path (but I still make stuff).
No one is impervious to ruts. Even great leaders can feel stuck. When you're stuck in a rut it can be very difficult to see problems from different perspectives and find creative solutions. Thinking outside-the-box is nearly impossible when you're stuck in the box.
I believe that in order to be an effective leader you sometimes need to do the opposite of what conventional wisdom suggests. For it is likely that conventional wisdom is the reason you are stuck.
Here are three ways I change things up to break from ruts:
I'd like to share with you Adam Savage's 10 Commandments of Making:
...actually means, "this isn't important enough to me," or "I don't want to stop doing X to start doing Y."
Time is a nonrenewable resource. Every week the amount of time spent on social media sites like Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube collectively sucks up billions of hours of what most describe as "spare time."
But wait, 10 years ago these sites didn't exist...
I believe in having the courage to disrupt a process that no longer provides value. I feel it is critical to ask "Why?" (here are the 5 whys) to get to the root of a problem. We need to ask "Why?" more often in Extension, otherwise we are doomed. Going along to get along and keep on keepin' on is not an innovative strategy. Drake Baer recently reported how Adobe abolished the annual performance review in 2012. I was inspired by the story of how Donna Morris went against all corporate orthodoxy by replacing Adobe's annual review system with check-ins. Here's what I learned:
The approach I take coming into Extension has been more entrepreneurial, it's just what I know. It's odd to me that many of our titles are "Professor." Yes, we do teach and profess but most of the education we offer is non-credit in the form of workshops and seminars. Often times we don't teach at all, but we lead by organizing small to large events with multitudes of speakers that increase the knowledge and understanding of our clients (that's the goal anyways). And we call them clients, not students. Of course it is fitting, we don't have classrooms and regular students that must attend for a letter grade. We have geographic regions, regular people, and their needs. In business school I learned the difference between clients and customers (you can insert "students" for customers here):
Earlier this month, Beth Kuhel wrote about how Google is setting the standard for attracting, hiring, and retaining top talent. I believe it's critical for Extension professionals to examine and understand Google's hiring practices and standards because we need 21st Century Extension professionals to carry on Extension's great legacy over the next 100 years. Extension needs top talent that embraces change and enjoys the challenge of working in a dynamic environment where everything isn’t predictable. Extension needs more innovators, edglings, and those flexible enough in their approach to solve problems and work with an entrepreneurial spirit.
Sound scary? Face it, the workplace culture that the baby boomers created will not be the workplace of the future.
Last week at USU Extension's Annual Conference I had the opportunity to give a presentation entitled, "Fixing Extension by Utilizing Innovative Technology," with two other colleagues whom I look up to and respect a great deal. While we focused on positive solutions to the relevancy gap Extension faces and how we can close it using various mobile and web apps...I still managed to offend a few colleagues. On the anonymous evaluation sheets I got back, my favorite quote was:
Can you imagine writing a blog when you worked for Nike or Coke & saying the company "is broken?" You would be fired.
In response, "Yes, I can certainly imagine doing something like this." If something is broken, I'm going to say it...and I'm going to give my input on how to fix it. I might even try to rally support. I just can't accept the status quo. I just can't let the Emperor parade on by without exclaiming, "But he isn't wearing anything at all!" Nevertheless I appreciate the feedback, no matter how much I disagree, my intention is to be completely respectful to everyone.
During the presentation I rattled off a list of some of the tools I use to be an effective 21st Century Extension Professional. Did I provide a handout, no. If it's important to you, write it down. I'd rather save a tree than print off a useless handout that will never get used. I did promise to provide a the list, so here it is:
Recently Facebook announced that it's acquiring WhatsApp, a small tech company with a little more than 50 employees and barely making $300 Million in revenues for...drumroll...$19 Billion. The sum is only 13 times Facebook’s entire 2013 net income and more than twice Facebook’s 2013 gross revenues.
But what does Facebook's acquisition have to do with the Cooperative Extension System? There happens to be a leadership lesson we can learn here: Move fast to avoid irrelevancy.