Saturday, January 9, 2010

I'm Doing this the Right Way, which is the Wrong Way (for a Little While)

Coming back from a long time abroad, you get slammed with cultural idiosyncrasy. And that's not so bad. It means you are sitting on the front, looking at what you used to be and seeing it backwards. You are on the other side of the mirror.

I was muddled for a while. So to take my mind to a focus, I started reading more.

Two books have recently affected my thinking about business, education and the business of education.

In one, "The Global Achievement Gap," I am reminded once again what six years overseas taught me:

Despite the best efforts of educators, our nation's schools are dangerously obsolete. Instead of teaching students to be critical thinkers and problem-solvers, we are asking them to memorize facts for multiple choice tests. This problem isn't limited to low-income school districts: even our top schools aren't teaching or testing the skills that matter most in the global knowledge economy. Our teens leave school equipped to work only in the kinds of jobs that are fast disappearing from the American economy. Meanwhile, young adults in India and China are competing with our students for the most sought-after careers around the world.

Currently reading, "The Power of Unreasonable People." It's by John Elkington and Pamela Hartigan.

The point?

Renowned playwright George Bernard Shaw once said "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world, the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man." By this definition, some of today's entrepreneurs are decidedly unreasonable--and have even been dubbed crazy. Yet as John Elkington and Pamela Hartigan argue in The Power of Unreasonable People, our very future may hinge on their work. Providing a first-hand, on-the-ground look at a new breed of entrepreneur, this book reveals how apparently unreasonable innovators have built their enterprises, how their work will shape risks and opportunities in the coming years, and what tomorrow's leaders can learn from them. Start investing in, partnering with, and learning from these world-shaping change agents, and you position yourself to not only survive but also thrive in the new business landscape they're helping to define.

Also, just found this Education Futures web site that a friend picked out for me and sent me in an email.

Haven't read enough of it to give you a sense of the entire feel of the site, but it's definitely trying to make something of the Obama's huge focus on education going forward. I'll read through and extract some points later. For now, I liked this:

This is a great question: Does the government’s vision of education output products that are meaningful in today’s workforce? My hunch is that research will show that NCLB is failing to produce workers of the caliber the United States needs. NCLB is great at producing automatons that can parrot back responses required for tests (or make great assembly line workers), but not creatives that will power our growing imagination- and innovation-driven economy. Who will hire graduates from the NCLB generation?

You can read more on how NCLB will affect the workplace.

To answer the last question here? I imagine that developing world economies will hire these students from America, unless those students are willing to go to those areas themselves and start their own businesses. But are they capable of starting their own businesses? Aside from the question of, Do you know accounting and the tax laws that determine the success of a business, the real question is can you interact with someone "Other?"

You can go back to the earlier comment I made about the achievement gap. So, are we learning things or teaching our students in primary and higher ed the right things, not only for work, but for work in a wider world? Are we teaching them how to do business outwardly rather than internally, worrying and focusing on what happens in a company?

Work for me has never been about thinking hierarchically. It's been about lateral thinking, making huge jumps in logic, and following intuition, more than it's been about having a strong business plan. Why?

My customers help me do this. A client is the lifeblood of a company. If the client is saying that doesn't make sense to the business model inside a company, then there is something wrong with the business model. The client is the business model.

I can figure out the business mechanics of anything, or simply hire an intern or another employee to focus on those things, but the most important challenge for a manager of a product, who wants to sell that product to the increasingly important client, is to have deepening relationships with people outside of the workplace.

These are the people who can eventually accentuate the worldview you bring into the workplace, and in the end, that worldview is what you are selling, especially if you are selling knowledge products like the kind I sell -- forums, business meetings, information.

As the century deepens, it's the accented worldview that will help you sell, manufacture or develop meaning and products. And in this century, a product without meaning is not a product. It's toilet paper.

I can only get that way by reaching out. It doesn't much matter to me if I don't know accounting.

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