Adopting a ‘Company Culture’

As the idea of a “company culture” evolves, we are starting to define it based on the behaviors of workers. Previously, trendy companies came up with catchy mission statements that were meant to capture the meaning of their existence. Just ask a baby boomer. They will tell you “company culture” is something puppet-mastered by the CEO of the company and most of the workers don’t buy into it. But now, “company culture” connotes something deeper. It is a reflection of the purpose, values, behaviors, and strategies of an entire organization.

In The Culture Engine, S. Chris Edmonds suggests that leadership creates a standing constitution defining each of these elements in relation to the company’s trajectory. Everyone is expected to follow it as the law of the company.[i] And this is only the beginning, in the near future, we dig much, much deeper. Everything we do will be measured. As we work, our micro-behaviors – eye movements, twitches, etc. – are monitored by productivity technologies (some of which already exist).[ii] Leaders will have access to our inner-most emotions. Personally, I think these futuristic applications are excessive (but then again, perhaps I am like a baby-boomer making sense of where we are now).

Constitution

(The graphic is meant to illustrate concepts in the blog. Though it represents my values, it does not necessarily represent the values of TheProfessionalWebsite.)

I created a constitution according to Edmonds’ suggested approach. I found it to be worthwhile. There are some generalities. For example, I bet most companies value teamwork and describe some similar behavior expectations. Another example, all technology companies value innovativeness. But it really comes down to defining the behaviors; this involves addressing subtleties and working through the fine-print definitions with an inner circle. Once the constitution is ready, the benefit comes in getting an entire company living and breathing every word of it. Throughout the book, Edmonds provides ample evidence adopting a company culture pays off. Here is one stat:

His clients have experienced a ’35-40 percent engagement gains in 12 to 18 months’ (page 30). (Higher engagement increases creativity and productivity.)

Gregg Lederman is an expert on organizational branding. Love the story about how he rebranded an iconic ice cream parlor in Rochester. Buckman’s was seemingly on its last legs when Gregg and his partner took it over. They decided to take control of their customers’ experience: “Think summer, baseball, dirt, grass, ice cream!” Their plan involved breaking things down into behaviors and expectations (similar to a constitution):

We made the company mindset meaningful to employees by translating it into fifteen nonnegotiable behaviors that every employee could and should do.[iii]

Altogether, getting a company to adopt a culture based on behaviors and expectations is a strong step forward. It is something most companies did not think of twenty years ago. You cannot control your workers’ attitudes and perceptions, but you can control how they behave (point made by Edmonds). Moreover, new technologies are making all of these desired workers’ behaviors measurable and accessible to management. For example, every sales pitch a person makes can be caught on video, phone records, and online communications and then be dissected by someone in management. In the future, it will be interesting to see how “micro-analysis” of behaviors impacts the relationship between workers and their leaders. No one likes to be micro-managed, yet it is worth getting a company culture right. Edmonds makes clear that once the constitution is ratified, those who do not follow it should be asked to leave the company!

My tidbit… Regarding company culture, everyone should have similar internal and external behaviors. In other words, practice what you preach to customers. Workers should use the services your company offers and practice the underlying methodologies.

[i] S. Chris Edmonds. The Culture Engine. (Wiley, 2014).

[ii] http://www.wsj.com/articles/in-people-analytics-youre-not-a-human-youre-a-data-point-1424133771

[iii] https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/best-practices-drive-results-gregg-lederman

Intelligences

This summarizes the main concepts drawn from the series of blogs on intelligences.

Using Intelligence Competencies to Identify Skills

Generally speaking, you can map skills to various intelligences: cognitive, emotional, creative and contextual (and in the diagram below I also include skills related to using artificial intelligence). I say generally because there is some overlap where skills require multiple intelligences. Understanding intelligent competencies and then mapping them to skills is useful for the planning and building stages of a Skill-Based Approach.

During the planning stage, you derive a list of skills you will need to pursue your career aspirations. This is no different than any other type of career planning, although once you decide what you want to do, you translate what you have into skills.[i]

Intelligence To Skills

Intelligence To Skills

Here are some examples:

  • The results of an IQ test determines powerhouse skills – something you concentrate on building throughout your career.
  • The results of an EQ test might indicate what ‘soft skills’ you must work on to be successful. If you have a high EQ, find ways to apply your emotional intelligence –  perhaps in leadership or human resources.
  • If you are creative, build skills that draw on your talents.
  • Understanding intelligences also helps you understand how you might learn best, so you can create a personalized plan to build your desired skills.

In A Skills-Based Approach to Developing a Career, I discuss how to translate the results of a personality, interests, and strengths test into a career development plan based on building and validating a skill set; here, I suggest how to use the results of intelligence tests.

There is value in translating your career development into skill sets; it defines your career plan in a universal language everyone understands. Educators and employers know skills, so talking in skills effectively bridges your education and employment experiences. Skill sets are also being used in most of the social media profiles, job board profiles, and personal websites. Finally, most professionals must commit to lifelong learning and validate their skills in some way. I suggest adopting the Skills-Based Approach methodology. It is a progression in four stages: planning, building, presenting, and validating. Each stage has proposed ways to achieve its objectives. The beauty of a skills-based approach is its simplicity and flexibility.

I loosely use three intelligences – analytical (which I call cognitive), creative, and contextual – from Sternberg’s Triarchic Theory of Intelligence. I added artificial and emotional intelligence because both are receiving considerable attention nowadays and I think are distinguishable from the others.

[i] Ryan Frischmann. A Skills-Based Approach to Developing a Career. (Trafford, 2013).

It’s Not All About How Smart You Are…

Individual intelligence is commonly associated with cognitive intelligence, though emotional intelligence is also getting a lot of attention nowadays (especially among leadership gurus). Going forward, a collective intelligence – the combined intelligence of systems and a network/team – becomes more important than individual intelligence. It makes more sense to compare collective intelligences, because teams and their intelligent systems are the actors of future competition.

Intelligences

Intelligences

Here are the definitions of some of various intelligences I have come across:

Cognitive Intelligence (IQ, GMAT, GRE, LSAT, etc.) – “the set of all mental abilities and processes related to knowledge: attention, memory and working memory, judgment and evaluation, reasoning and computation, problem solving and decision-making, comprehension and production of language, etc.”[i] People with a high cognitive intelligence often brandish the results of related tests on college and employment applications, some even put it on their LinkedIn profile; it is a status symbol in our society. Stereotype of someone with a high IQ: a brainy genius who you ask to solve a problem.

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) – “the ability to monitor one’s own and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different emotions and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior.”[ii] In Emotional Intelligence 2.0, Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves break emotional intelligence into four areas – self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management – and provide strategies to improve your EQ. A distinction they make frequently is you can improve your EQ, but cannot improve your IQ. Many of the leadership and personal branding experts assert that a high EQ is more valuable than a high IQ in most professions. Stereotype of someone with a high EQ: a social magnet who you ask to coordinate gatherings.

Creative Intelligence (CQ, curiosity quotient) – capable of ‘generating original ideas’, open to new experiences, and inquisitive. People with a high CQ ‘stir the pot’ by challenging the status quo. Their ideas are not necessarily rooted in complex thinking (requiring a high IQ), but rather tweaking or thinking out of the box. In a HBR article Curiosity Is as Important as Intelligence, the author concludes: “CQ is the ultimate tool to produce simple solutions for complex problems”. Stereotype of someone with a high CQ: an edgy designer who you ask to create concepts.

Contextual Intelligence – “the ability to understand boundaries of knowledge and adapt to other environments.”[iii] Understanding the nuances of different cultures and their social norms is critical as we become increasingly interconnected. Understanding variations in seemingly similar applications is important as the competition between new technologies stiffens. Stereotype of someone with a high contextual intelligence: a street-smart diplomat who you ask to understand a culture.

Artificial Intelligence (Turing Test) - the intelligence of machines or software. Artificial intelligence is becoming a reality, some current applications include: feeding content in social media, asking IBM Watson questions through Verse (an email collaboration platform), and nudging by personal assistants on cell phones (Siri, Cortana, Google Now, etc.). It is a commonly accepted notion that AI becomes pervasive in our everyday lives. Though many outspoken leaders, Bill Gates, Stephen Hawking, and Elon Musk, have recently voiced concerns about the dangers of future intelligent systems.

Collective Intelligence (a variation of IQ to accommodate teams) – this is the combined intelligence of a team and/or intelligent systems. With advances in technology and communication practices, leaders need to think in terms of a collective intelligence as they build teams and introduce technologies. A collective intelligence can be predicted. It is strongly correlated with “the average social sensitivity of group members, the equality in distribution of conversational turn-taking, and proportions of females in the group” – not strongly correlated with the individual intelligence of its members.[iv] It is also worth noting that online communication (driven by technology) has similar correlations to collective intelligence as face-to-face communication.[v]

There are various forms of intelligence: cognitive, emotional, creative, and contextual. Fortunately, it is not just about how smart you are – personality, ingenuity, and street smarts are as valuable. Artificial intelligence (AI) is a reality. Leaders should optimize the collective intelligence of their teams.

[i] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognition

[ii] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emotional_intelligence

[iii] https://hbr.org/2014/09/contextual-intelligence

[iv] http://www.sciencemag.org/content/330/6004/686.full

[v] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4267836/

Benefactors of Free Community College or Technical Training

Providing universal access to higher education is a step in the right direction – whether or not the tab is picked up by federal and state governments. (Theoretically, non-profits, employers, and educational institutions could also chip in to make this happen.) President Obama recently proposed America’s College Promise where the government provides two years of community college for free. According to some early estimates, this proposal has a $60 billion price-tag.

If all states participate, an estimated 9 million students could benefit. A full-time community college student could save an average of $3,800 in tuition per year.[i]

Free Community College

Free Community College

Of course, there are many benefactors of this proposal: low-income families, less mature teenagers, veterans looking to validate skills, and ‘middle-skill’ professionals.

It is difficult for low-income families to put a student through college. Sure there are currently loans and grants offered for the families in need, but cutting the ‘red tape’ and telling these families everything is free is inspiring. If the proposal is accepted, more low-income students will go to community college.

Many teenagers are just not ready to enter a traditional four-year, on campus college program. They are not ready to take full accountability for their learning – attending class, doing homework, and balancing a social life. America’s College Program stipulates each student gets a mentor and must maintain a C+ average to stay in the program. A majority of community college students stay at home.

A proponent of America’s College Promise says it would benefit our veterans. They will be able to build upon their ‘technical skill and management expertise’ from serving and earn a degree – making them better job candidates. [ii]

Sixty percent of graduating high school students attend a two or four year degree education. It’s expected that as many as 25 million of all new job openings in the next decade will be for middle-skills jobs. In a 2014 survey, Accenture found that 69 percent of about 800 human resources executives said that middle-skill talent shortages “regularly affect their performance.”[iii]Clearly, this program would affect a large segment of the American population. It sets a new bar for education achievement of Americans.

Some other thoughts on the proposal:

  • Akin to another public initiative of adding one to two more years to high school. Both programs are designed to get students college credits and prepare for the final two years of a bachelor’s degree. It is not only about saving on tuition, but also giving students more time to mature for a higher order learning experience.
  • In a circuitous way, we are already paying for a large chunk of unpaid student loans. The federal government takes the burden of reparations for students who default on their loans, so our tax dollars are being used already.
  • Many community colleges face challenges to keep their doors open. One example is San Francisco Community College that almost collapsed without outside stimulus. A federal funding plan guarantees a revenue source, which makes it easier for community colleges to build a healthy foundation.
  • Skills gap due to a lack in technical skills. The program should increase the number of skilled workers. Community colleges offer accelerated programs to build these much-needed skills – engineering, programming, etc.
  • Puts pressure on the traditional four-year programs to reduce their tuition. Students have the option to take two years free at a community college, then transfer their credits and finish the last two years to earn a bachelor’s degree.
  • Provides resources to improve graduation rates by assigning a mentor. Community college dropout rates now hover somewhere between 66 percent and 80 percent.[iv]

Thinking in term of a Skills-Based Approach, there are alternative ways to build and validate the same technical skills; some of them include online training, certifications, apprenticeships, internships, coding camps, etc. Perhaps the program should cover two years of community college and other equivalent ways to build necessary technical skills. (Put a cap on the total expense and limit all programs to two years.) The president has also proposed the American Technical Training Fund, which is meant to expand beyond community colleges to other training institutions.

America’s College Promise guarantees everyone has access to higher education and training, so it increases the chances Americans find gainful employment and enjoy fulfilling lives. Moreover, it gives lower-income families a chance. For this reason, the essence of the program, I hope universal access to higher education becomes a reality – regardless if the president’s proposal gets approved (which is unlikely).

[i] http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/01/09/fact-sheet-white-house-unveils-america-s-college-promise-proposal-tuitio

[ii] https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/obamas-college-plan-the-most-important-since-gi-bill-dan-smolen

[iii] https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/free-community-college-answer-shortage-middle-skill-workers-selingo

[iv] http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/20/opinion/david-brooks-support-our-students.html

Skills-Based Approach: Slide Show

Improve Your ‘Collective Intelligence’

I recently talked about humans using machines to improve a ‘collective intelligence’, but another way to improve ‘collective intelligence’ is through teams or networks; so the two terms together:

INTELLIGENT SYSTEMS + NETWORK/TEAM (YOU AS A MEMBER) = COLLECTIVE INTELLIGENCE

Collective Intelligence

Collective Intelligence

With social media, you engage with a network and build concepts collectively. Someone has an initial inspiration such as a blog or article post and then a network responds through commentary. That initial concept usually evolves into something deeper and richer. This exchange is especially effective in LinkedIn, perhaps because professionals’ reputations are at stake. In A World Gone Social, the authors summarize it:

By sharing knowledge and best practices, the community grows, collectively.[i]

Professionals are able to claim a concept (something they are researching or thinking about) and attract interested parties through a network. The best ways to distinguish the concept is to create a hashtag, something all of the social media platforms use for conversations. Of course, a traditional search in social media or Google on the concept also works. Once there is a following, you have effectively created a feedback loop – an effective way to collectively build a concept.

Your network also feeds you relevant content, stuff they have created or curated. Intelligent systems also feed you content through algorithms. Because of the massive amount of content produced on a single day, you cannot read everything. Much of your ‘daily knowledge gain’ is based on what content is fed to you. Many of us get our daily news from Twitter and Facebook.

But probably the biggest gains in ‘collective intelligence’ comes from groups working together and using technologies to solve problems. A well-cited article Evidence for a Collective Intelligence Factor in the Performance of Human Groups has two strong conclusions. First and foremost, it is possible to measure and sometimes predict a group’s collective intelligence. Second, it is strongly correlated with “the average social sensitivity of group members, the equality in distribution of conversational turn-taking, and proportions of females in the group” – not strongly correlated with the individual intelligence of its members. To the ballyhoo of those trying to improve team dynamics, it turns out motivation and cohesion are also not good predictors. [ii]

The takeaway is leaders should improve the ‘collective intelligence’ of their teams. Introducing new technologies and applications could be an effective way to improve this ‘collective intelligence’. Moreover, they should create a structured environment where all team members have equal time to share their ideas. Perhaps flatter companies where team members have an equal voice and status is the optimal structure; this is something the authors harp on in A World Gone Social. Social networks and technology make it possible to do all of this virtually. In the future, ‘collective intelligence’ will be more commonly referenced than ‘individual intelligence’.

Intelligence in all its forms relates to personal branding. Think about it. In an evaluation of a person’s reputation (personal branding is synonymous with reputation management in many ways), two things always come up: that person’s smartness and how well he or she works with others. Your maximum level of expertise with a skill set is largely determined by your individual intelligence (and to some extent your collective intelligence). Your identity and connectedness defines what networks you can tap into to maximize your collective intelligence.

[i] Ted Coine and Mark Babbitt (2014). A World Gone Social: How Companies Must Adapt To Survive. New York: AMACOM.

[ii] http://www.sciencemag.org/content/330/6004/686.full

Online Personal Brand: Slide Show

Transition to a Digital Classroom

The traditional education model is being disrupted by a new technology laden model. In the few books I have read on the future of education, every expert predicts this transformation – where technology delivers personalized and adaptive learning, levels educational gaps, and centers on reaching competencies. In Getting Smart, Tom Vander Ark summaries the advice of a public school CEO:

A perfect storm of reform… abandon seat-time requirements, stop buying textbooks, use open education resources on inexpensive tablet computers, and stretch staffing by moving students online for at least part of the day.[i]

Digital Classroom

Digital Classroom

Funding for education comes largely from property taxes, so wealthier communities have significant advantages over poorer communities; some of them include: scope of extracurricular activities, quality of teachers, and availability of learning resources. (As a high school soccer official, I have learned you can tell a lot about a community by the state of the school building and facilities and a general vibe from team members and the coach.) Vander Ark suggests considering funding education on a ‘per student’ versus ‘per community’ basis to address an achievement gap. Online learning is scalable and cost-effective so might help make education more egalitarian. Moreover, online and blended learning programs translates to less time sitting in a classroom at a school; therefore, some of the expense associated with maintaining a ‘brick-and-mortar’ facility goes away.

Vader Ark talks about the ability for students to learn at their own pace. Students who get bored in the traditional, sit at a desk for eight hours a day might get more stimulated by using online learning resources. Perhaps it becomes easier for students to graduate high school earlier; once students satisfy the required competencies they get a high school degree. Students might also take AP courses to satisfy college electives, which results in saving a couple of years of tuition. Other students might travel, intern, or participate in the community to learn more about themselves. (This extra time for self-exploration might be an effective way to address many students being immature and lacking focus with what they want to accomplish in college.)

Applying the Skills-Based Approach methodology in education makes sense for a number of reasons:

  • Vander Ark talks about ‘playlists’ in a curriculum. Students, teachers and parents participate in planning what skills a student needs and how to build them to reach a desired competency. The end result is a ‘playlist’ – a sequential, personalized, and adaptive learning approach.
  • Self-guided learning. There are no boundaries in building an expertise with a skill set. If a student identifies a core-competency or passion, he or she continues to build necessary skills online. The rigid, time sapping structure of subjects tied to grades is less relevant.
  • Competency based learning. Teaching experts all talk about the need to move away from learning based on grade levels where students are largely grouped based on age. Rather, students should learn based on how they learn best and what motivates them. It is more effective to tie competencies to the building and validating of a skill set – especially as students learn at varying rates and levels.
  • Gamification. It does not matter how students build skills, so learning through games is an exciting way to introduce intrinsic and extrinsic motivators. Badges are an excellent ways to present and validate an expertise with particular skills. (Vander Ark discusses Tony Roland’s, CEO of Mangahigh, realization that “gaming was really luring kids into skills-based learning”.)
  • Plethora of online learning resources. Students might learn from online courses, games, social media communities, video tutorials, and digital media (e-books, whitepapers, blogs, articles, and slideshows). It is practical and efficient to think in terms of skills when you are building skills from many different sources.
  • Threads education and career planning. Skills are tangible, something you can continue to build and validate after you graduate from high school and college. Think skill sets throughout your life – education, employment, and other experiences.

 

[i] Tom Vander Ark (2014). Getting Smart: How Digital Learning Is Changing the World. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Coding As A ‘Universal Skill’

Writing code is becoming a universal skill with boundless opportunities. Thinking like a computer – in logic, functions, loops, and objects – has its advantages. Computational thinking is rooted in logic and mathematics, but also requires creativity and ingenuity. With a basic proficiency, coding is a lot of fun. You can think of something – a game, puzzle, graphic, or web page- then write a program to create it; all you need is a computer and the Internet. Perhaps children start programming imaginary worlds rather than using traditional wooden building blocks.

One initiative is the Hour of Code, which to date, claims to have had seventy-five million participants. The concept is to expose a novice to programming. According to the website:

“Every student should have the opportunity to learn computer science. It helps nurture problem-solving skills, logic and creativity.”[i]

Coding

Coding

There are a few reasons why exposing children to programming is advantageous. First, as mentioned in the directive above, there are many transferable skills related to programming: problem solving, computational thinking, and novel thinking. Second, the results of programming – software and hardware applications – are used in every discipline and subject. It is useful to have basic coding skills. Third, there will always be high demand for programmers. Programing knowledge is a good career safety net. Finally, like learning a foreign language, children build coding skills faster.

Of course, there is an element of inspiration. To develop a passion for something, you need to be exposed to it. Moreover, many of the Internet startups start with a concept and then the founders spend countless hours programming it. You cannot predict when and if you might come up ‘that concept’. For example, Mark Zuckerberg was a psychology major at Harvard when he got the ‘Facebook concept’; he then utilized what programming skills he possessed to build the platform.[ii]

Future creativity might be stifled if we do not have an underlying concept of how programs work. Many of our current applications are extremely complicated and require years of knowledge to even make a contribution. It makes sense to get students learning about programs early in their education.

College students are padding their degrees by taking ‘certificates and coding boot camps’. According to a study, liberal-arts graduate can nearly double the available job opportunities by adding relevant technical skills.[iii]

Coding is powerful because you can program just about any concept: business processes, games, websites or mobile applications, and productivity boosters. All it takes is an understanding of how programs work, an underlying framework, and some imagination.

I learned basic coding skills in college as part of a computer applications minor. I practiced coding in my first job out of college where I created an order entry application for a small company. Throughout my career, I have coded a countless number of solutions: a mass distributed application for insurance appraisal offices, music store for a rock band, art gallery portfolios, sales and profitability application for a foreign multi-national, a personal website platform, a video gaming league, summer camp registrations, etc. The thing I love about coding is its flexibility – you can code just about anything; there is a solution to every problem.

[i] http://hourofcode.com/us

[ii] http://www.quora.com/How-did-Mark-Zuckerberg-train-himself-to-be-a-programming-prodigy

[iii] http://www.wsj.com/articles/college-diplomas-with-a-side-of-specialized-study-1416589926

Original Image © Depositphoto/  olly18 #7682758

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