Friday, January 19, 2007

Very Informal Learning: From Portland to Geneva in Four Minutes

Even skype chat offers learning conversation opportunities. This is what you can type in a chat window in four minutes between Portland and Geneva...

[10:33:55 PM] Andy says: How can one work situation with all the money and talent be such a torture chamber and another situation with a few fairly tolerable people turn out to be such a great job and incredibly productive?

Gillian says: Because work is all about relationships and when they are good, work is generally higher quality, and when they are bad the same positive correlation is often true.

Gillian says: And I think we have a lot more control over our work environment than we think. There is a nice little book about the Seattle Fish Market called "Fish" which is all about making great workplace environments. You should check it out; you can read it in about 2 hours.

Andy says: I'd throw trust in there somewhere. This latest gig has really let me make my own mistakes and fix them. It's kept me interested the entire time. There has been no second guessing and back stabbing that just kills any and all ambition.

Gillian says: Yes, and I think that trust is fundamental to a good relationship.

Andy says: Yeah, my boss really has done that well. The gal I work with could make soooo much money somewhere else, but he leaves her (and me) alone to get the work done.

Gillian says: And she would rather have a good working environment with a little less money than a bad working environment with loads of money - good for your boss.

Andy says: Yeah, my boss doesn't have any money so a good work environment is all he has to offer. You know how non-profits work.

[10:37:09 PM] Gillian says: Yep, I work in a non-profit.

Organizational Talent Scouting: Finding Julie Andrews

Recruiting senior staff for a global knowledge organization these days is very much like casting a movie. First you need a good idea of the movie you want to make, then you need to cast it with the right talent. If you have a choice of actor profiles, in order to have a good movie, you would look for a great actor, rather than someone that necessarily has experience doing what the character does. For example, Julie Andrews did not need to have experience being a nanny to be a fantastic Mary Poppins. She is talent and she can play a variety of different parts very well - she knows how to prepare herself (go talk to some career nannies), she can learn her lines and part, she can work with the director to improve the script, she can innovate and shape her role around her own assets for maximum effect, she has chemistry with others, and she can breathe energy and life into her role - here, her job.

In a fast changing world, organizations need to be able to continually adapt to new conditions, new information and developments on the global stage. You need your senior staff to have widely applicable skills to be able to change as their roles change. Having a very specific experience base might be less important than having the skills to learn the job, the motivation to improve the context, the creativity to shape it to maximise their assets, the contacts with the subject matter experts, and the ability to work with others to get the job done well.

Need a new senior staff member? Advertise for a Julie Andrews. (After all, wouldn't you like to work with someone who believes that, "In ev'ry job that must be done there is an element of fun. You find the fun and snap! The job's a game...")