Wednesday, January 19, 2011

On Becoming a Leader

Image from: 1.00 FTE

One of my favorite bloggers, Art Petty, has a post about the Nine Key Professional Capabilities Required by Our Times.   While I agree that all of his capabilities are important, they miss what has to come first.  Developing a hard skill.  In this brave new world, managers need to develop (or better yet, have developed before they become managers) a hard skill.

Let me define what I mean.  A hard skill is the ability to do something that takes time to learn (I'll go with Gladwell's 10,000 hours), some measure of talent and some exposure to something that prevents you from being exposed to other things.

For example, coding.  It probably takes about 10,000 hours to become a competent developer.  Also, you need some mental ability and intelligence.  And finally, cultivating your coding skills prevents you from doing other things. [Editor: For you, that would be dating.]

Carpentry, plumbing, wiring a network, becoming a CPA, learning the sales process etc. are all examples of skills.  The days of being a manager (or leader) who has an MBA and can do some analysis in Excel are gone.  The days of middle management are gone.

If you want to be a manager or a leader in this brave new world, you have to be able to deliver something which requires cultivated skills in addition to being an authentic, empathetic manager/leader.

Facts are facts.  Between China, India, the Philippines, Brazil and the rest of the developing world, there are about 3 billion more people that you have to compete with to be a manager/leader.  Americans and Europeans have a much higher standard of living, however, people from the developing world are willing to work much harder and will happily adjust you out on your keister.

If you want to become a leader, first develop a skill.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Progress and Prudence

To move forward, an organization must set goals and and execute projects with confidence.  However, this must be balanced with prudence, the possibility that you could be wrong.  This prudence cannot present itself as waffling or the inability to make a decision.  Nor can it manifest itself in an endless run of started, but abandoned projects.  Instead, it must balance the requirements to drive progress with prudence.  That's why I like Richard Rorty's quote so much:

"To accept our own fallibility is to embrace ‘the permanent possibility of someone having a better idea.’"

— Richard Rorty

Move forward with the best current idea, but be permanently open to the possibility of someone having a better idea.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Writing Knowledge

Bas de Bar has a great post about context.  Context has so much to do with meaning and the knowledge a reader gains.

Is the measure of quality writing the measure of transfering context?

If you think about the hierarchy of knowledge:

1. Data
2. Information
3. Knowledge
4. Wisdom

Data and information are supplied by the writer, but the reader has to do the interpretation.

As a creator, you create/write the information.  The better the writer, the easier it is for the reader to clearly interpret and gain knowledge.  You can't write context, but a good writer supplies it.

For example, Ernest Hemingway won a bet in the 20's about who could write the shortest story.  His complete story was six words:

"For sale: baby shoes, never worn"

Everything you need to know is conveyed in those six words, even though all he supplied was information.  He did it in such a way that the reader supplies everything else, yet everyone understands what happened.

Maybe the better one becomes as a writer, the better one can pass context along with the information.  And the better one can pass context, the better chance the reader has of gaining knowledge.