Tag Archives: measurement

Mindset matters

Just over a year ago now, I wrote about the vital importance of ‘metaskills’ as an (possibly even the most?) important avenue of intervention if we are to equip young people with the chops to succeed in an ever more complex and rapidly changing world.

A good place to start this post is exactly where I left off last time, with a thought-provoking extract from Marty Neumeier’s excellent book, Metaskills: Five Talents for the Robotic Age.

Today we find ourselves caught between two paradigms – the linear, reductionist past and the spiraling, multivalent future. The old world turned on the axis of knowledge and material goods. The new one will turn on the axis of creativity and social responsibility. To cross the gap we’ll need a generation of thinkers and makers who can reframe problems and design surprising, elegant solutions. We’ll need fearless, self-directed learners who embrace adventure. We’ll need teachers, mentors and leaders who understand that mind shaping is world shaping – who give learners the tools they’ll need to continually reinvent their minds in response to future challenges.

If you’re anything like me (and since you’ve found your way to this post, I’m guessing you are) you’ll be nodding in vigorous agreement with everything Marty says.

I mean, think about it…

Kids starting school in 2015 probably won’t retire until 2070. Our education systems are meant to be preparing them for this life ahead, yet we can’t even predict with certainty what the world will look like five years from now. The U.S. Department of Labor apparently estimates that 65% of children currently in grade school will end up in job functions that don’t even exist today. Meanwhile, research by the Oxford Martin School on the future of employment suggests that as many as 50% of current corporate occupations will disappear by 2025 as a result of computerization.

How on earth are we supposed to help our children prepare for, and succeed in, such an unpredictable world? For folks like Marty, education gurus like Sir Ken Robinson, and my friends at the Network For Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), the answer is as plain as day…

The secret has to lie in fostering agility, adaptability, and applied knowledge and imagination. That means helping young people to develop typically entrepreneurial skills and behaviours such as initiative and self-direction, communication and collaboration, and creativity and problem solving — fundamentally human characteristics that can help our kids to stay ahead of the ‘robot curve’ (as Marty puts it), to be able to adapt to constantly changing circumstances, to better recognise opportunities, and to remain confident and resilient in the face of challenges.

The teaching of these very sorts of skills and behaviours – fully integrated into the school curriculum – is one of the main reasons my wife and I chose our daughter’s school, and I’m constantly reminded of the difference it can make. Every year, I take part as a judge in the school’s Dragon’s Den-style event (Shark Tank in the US?), where girls as young as six pitch their innovative ideas for new products or services. They never cease to amaze me – not just with the quality of their ideas, but with their confidence, self-assurance and ability to think on their feet – and it seems so obvious that it’s this emotional intelligence, more than their recall of history or trigonometry or whatever, that will stand them in greatest stead in the future.

Cards on the table, this is a fee-paying school and I fully appreciate that these sorts of programs are a luxury not afforded to the vast majority of students. But then that’s precisely why I’m so excited by NFTE’s work on an Entrepreneurial Mindset Index – an emerging methodology for measuring and evaluating the presence of an entrepreneurial mindset among young people and, potentially, to influence policy in such a way that teaching it is given much greater prominence in all our schools.

I’m excited because, IMHO, learning about this stuff shouldn’t be the exclusive preserve of a privileged few. Mindset matters. It should be available to everyone.

If you’re interested in learning more, NFTE is hosting an Entrepreneurial Mindset Summit in New York on 27 October. Check it out.

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If you want to know the weather, look out of the window!

If you’ve been following the CommScrum at all, you’ll know we’ve been giving a bit of a collective kicking to the “Measurement Mad” school of employee engagement of late. Not that measurement is bad per se – far from it – just that it’s so often measuring the wrong things, and in the wrong way.

Take a look at the Gallup 12 questions, for example. Quite apart from the fact that they don’t tell you anything meaningful beyond broad brush indicators of “happiness” (so an employee has a best friend at work; so what?), they make the massive assumption that these supposed drivers of engagement are universal. No concessions to cultural differences. No concessions to strategic context.

No recognition, for example, of the fact that the underlying dynamics, systems and processes – including those related to communication – are (or at least ought to be) completely different for companies whose business is organised around, say, product leadership versus those with a focus on operational excellence; nor that the types and levels of engagement required differ substantially between a team/organisation in crisis, versus a highly-motivated one that’s working well.

Nor do they tell you anything about the things that really matter – i.e. whether the “engaged” state (whatever that may be) actually leads to the kinds of behaviours the business needs and wants to see. That all just seems to be taken as read, as if the Service Profit Chain had made the business case for everyone, and it’s enough just to show how the numbers are up on last year.

The profession’s become so obsessed with justifying its worth to the bean counters that it can no longer see the wood for the trees. If you want to know the weather, you don’t consult thermometers and barometers, you poke your head out of the curtains and look out the bloody window!

Same with engagement – regardless of all the definitions and approaches, you know it when you see it. What’s the buzz around the place? How well are people interacting – within teams and across functional silos? Are things getting done in the way they need to get done? And if not, where are the blockages?

As any designer would tell you, that’s the realm of ethnographic research (read: observation), not surveys and focus groups, so let’s stop this ridiculous obsession with quantitative measurement for measurement’s sake, eh?

Perhaps then companies can stop spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on pointless surveys and spend it on better ways for people to actually communicate with each other and improve organisational effectiveness. After all, that’s what we’re there to do in the first place, isn’t it?