Tag Archives: talent

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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CXOs: Have you discovered the 55-minute guide series yet?

It’s official. Short is the new long (unlike this post perhaps!).

A few years ago, Kevin Keohane and I had the heretical notion that the answer to getting c-suite types to open their minds to the business value of brand and business communications was to merrily swim in the opposite direction to most of our brethren.

Where they tried to persuade people with pseudo-academic tomes full of detailed case studies and examples, we decided to take the path less travelled – short, unapologetically opinionated and no-holds barred synopses of critical insights and what to do about them.

So the 55-Minute Guide series was born, and a long-overdue scan of the books’ pages on Amazon would seem to suggest we were bang on.

If there’s a golden rule of branding, it’s to be authentic – to ensure that the gap between what you promise and what you deliver is as small as humanly possible.

So, even more than the recognition our authors have rightly received for the quality of their insights, what’s really great to see from customer reviews is that we’ve also clearly lived up to the challenging promise of delivering them in a way that people can consume the lot in under an hour – not through dumbing down, mind you, but through ruthlessly weeding out tangential and superfluous elements and focusing on what really matters.

Both are no doubt to thank for 34 amazing customer reviews across the series on Amazon US and UK sites, more than three-quarters of which are 5-star (the rest all 4-star). Here are just a few…

On Indy Neogy’s 55-Minute Guide to better cross-cultural communications:

“True to its title, it’s a brisk one-hour read. Neogy’s new book is a treasure of clarity, brevity, and useful tools to bridge the cultural communication divide. This should be required reading for any Chief Marketing Officer.”

On Mike Klein’s 55-Minute Guide to social communication:

“Mike neatly and cleverly combines some astute systems thinking, with provocative behavioural theory in this very digestible book… The highest accolade I can pay him is that he practices what he preaches. It will take you less than 55 mins to read [and] I bet you’ll keep coming back to it.”

On Geoff Barbaro’s 55-Minute guide to leadership communication:

“The Leader’s Beacon goes a long way to filling an ever widening gap of knowledge. It is easy to read, easy to understand and makes sense. The best bit is that you don’t need to wade through pages of heavy theory… I’ve been able to share it with clients during leadership coaching sessions without any concern about egos. Their response to it was also fantastic.”

On Ro Gorell’s 55-Minute guide to talent management:

“This is a book that can be read in one sitting, and it’s got a good deal of practical information that you can implement right away… If you’re a manager tasked with coming up with a policy to retain valuable specialists in your organisation, you could do a lot worse than spend a Saturday evening reading this from cover to cover.”

On Kevin Keohane’s 55-Minute guide to employee communication:

“The cover of this book is deceptively simple, and it is obviously a short read. But don’t be fooled – this book is chock-full of information. Not a single page is wasted. Anyone in human resources, management, communications, marketing… heck, anyone from any department of a business with more than one employee could benefit from the information in this concise little volume.”

And lastly on my own 55-minute guide to building sustainable brands:

“Distil down all the critical points you might hear from a well-informed sustainable business consultant, using everyday language grounded in practical business fundamentals rather than emotive arguments, and deliver it in a form that even a slow reader can squeeze into an hour (with time left over to make a cup of tea), and you’ll end up with something like this.”

All in all, not a bad body of work. And if you haven’t yet picked up your copies, well then maybe it’s time you should (see the links on the right-hand side of this page). They could well be the most insightful 55-minutes you ever spend.

The Big Lie of climate politics, talent management and the Next Industrial Revolution

There’s a nice interview piece up on CSR Wire right now, the first in a three-part series with Eric Pooley – deputy editor of Bloomberg Businessweek, former managing editor of Fortune, and author of The Climate War.

It happens to have pricked my interest today as, in the course of editing an upcoming new title on talent management in the 55-minute guide series, I’ve just been re-reading a report by Tomorrow’s Company – Tomorrow’s Global Talent: A new talent agenda for the UK.

(Don’t get the link? Don’t worry, all shall hopefully become clear…)

The central tenet of the Tomorrow’s Company report is that understanding what they refer to as the “triple context” (the interdependence of economic, social and environmental sub-systems) is not just essential to success at the level of individual businesses, but also at the level of national economies. The success of UK plc, they maintain, lies in talent-intensive, high value-added sectors, focused on innovation that steers the global economy towards a more sustainable future.

Interesting, then, to read Pooley’s views on the machinations of the “deny and delay” crowd in the US, and their moves to scupper the US Climate Bill by peddling the great myth that sustainability and economic prosperity are somehow mutually exclusive.

It’s a familiar, if completely facile, argument that insists that if we take action on sustainability, we’ll break the bank (erm… didn’t we do that already?!); that doing something good for the environment is necessarily bad for the economy; that all it does is make us less competitive against the likes of India and China.

Aside from highlighting the inconvenient truth that numerous examples (such as Interface) already exist to demonstrate that this isn’t so, it’s even more important to point out that what this kind of argument appears to ignore is the even greater myth that countries like the US or the UK can even begin to compete with India and China on an international scale on the basis of the continuation of business as usual.

Surely – as alluded to by the Tomorrow’s Company report – the basic rules of corporate strategy apply here, as much to nations as to individual enterprises?

Let’s not forget Michael Porter’s definition of strategy – a process of understanding, positioning and adapting a business for the purpose of creating sustainable competitive advantage. (I mean c’mon, people, he even uses the word “sustainable” for chrissakes! How much more of a clue do you need?!)

Countries, just like companies, can be viewed as bundles of productive resources (e.g. fixed assets, people, skills, brands etc.). Each has a unique resource profile that can be leveraged into core competencies, and that can sustain competitive advantage as long as those resources remain valuable and distinctive.

The point is that much of what was once valuable and distinctive about our system of business is no more. The environment has changed. Our competitors can easily imitate or substitute those resources. The ways of the industrial age just don’t cut it any more because, in that realm of Six Sigma and operational efficiency, our competitors have a much better value proposition.

Isn’t it time for us all to accept this reality and embrace sustainability, not just as a moral imperative, but as a brand, business and economic imperative too?

As many people have written, what we’re talking about here is nothing short of the next industrial revolution – a fundamental game change. (As the military analogies so prevalent in thinking on strategy would have it: if you can’t beat them on their terms, then change the rules of engagement.)

Sure, the transition won’t be painless, just as I’m sure it wasn’t at the time of the last industrial revolution. It will create winners and losers. And the vested interests aren’t going to go down without a bloody good fight. But, to elide two of Umair Haque’s more zen-like tweets, here’s the thing:

The real utopia isn’t betterness. It’s the economists’ world of perfect markets, greed, and consumption driving unstoppable prosperity. Being the best in tomorrow’s terms often means being the worst in yesterday’s. Make the tradeoff. It’s how disruption happens.

‘Nuff said.