The skills gap is real. To this statement there is little debate. What should generate great debate is how we close the skills gap, because the strategies currently employed ignore a pool of talent
Enjoyed this article - nice reminder of the importance of non-cognitive skills - grit, hard work, persistence, growth mindset, motivation… ”Ask any hiring manager what they are looking for in an ideal candidate, and you will quickly hear words like grit, determination, motivation, persistence, adaptability and hard work, characteristics often described as “non-cognitive” skills by academics like the Nobel Prize winner James Heckman. Ask those same hiring managers how they source and identify such characteristics and you get…nothing.”
It’s no secret that I’m an avid reader. Well, maybe a voracious reader. Some people get sucked into playing video games, watching TV or even social media. There’s nothing wrong with that if that’s your thing - I’m not big on gaming but do occasionally like to watch either an educational show, a decent moving or even a mindless TV segment. And, social media, of course, sucks me in - I think that’s just part of the voracious reader in me as I’m reading or skimming lots of online articles.With their redesign, LinkedIn is now great for that; so is Flipboard as it’s a nicely designed mobile app that serves up relevant articles in a easy-to-maneuver way with delightful graphics.
But when my husband tells me to “go have fun today,” you’d think I’d wind up at the pool, beach or shopping. And I occasionally do that. But usually I wind up at Barnes & Noble, and have been known to grab lunch there at the in-store Starbucks. The other day I met a woman who asked me why I was reading a book about Emotional Intelligence and we got chatting and talked for at least a half hour. I found out she was 65 (she certain didn’t look it!) and had recently retired - but she said she is still always learning. The B&N staff are pleasant and helpful, and I’ve found it’s easiest to have them order books that are not in stock. They arrive in about two days so it’s convenient, too.
In times of change, the learners will inherit the Earth while those attached to their old certainties will find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists. ~ Eric Hoffer
I always have more than one book I’m reading at the same time. I thought maybe it was two but confess it’s often 6-8 that are in some form of being read at once. I have one or two in the e-reader, mostly those are sample chapters with an occasional download of the full book which I read either on my mobile or tablet. I prefer, still, the physical book to the e-reader versions because underlining and making notes in the margins is still helpful for me for future reference. Eventually, I’ll switch I guess, but for now, the physicality of holding a book is preferred. Some books you can skim, some you can read what seems like the more interesting or relevant portions first, while others you just know you have to read from front to back, like Adam Grant’s Give and Take or even Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. Just completed those recently and recommend both.
So here are the 5 business books I’m reading now…
Closing the Innovation Gap: Reigniting the Spark of Creativity in a Global Economy by Judy Estrin. I hear she adds a strong call to action at the end.
Look at More: A Proven Approach to Innovation, Growth & Change by local Richmonder, Andy Stefanovich. I can’t believe I haven’t read this already - what was I thinking?!
Conscious Business: How to Build Value Through Values by Fred Kofman. Out of the five listed here, this is the one that I can’t wait to dive into first - it’s also about 300 pages so will take the longest to read.
Working with Emotional Intelligence, one of the many books by Daniel Goleman on the subject. I wanted to read, or at least skim, this one first before reading one of his more recent books mostly found in paperback or on e-reader, The Brain and Emotional Intelligence: New Insights.
Rumsfeld’s Rules: Leadership Lessons in Business, Politics, War, and Life by Donald Rumsfeld. This book was on the “new releases” table at B&N, and the layout was interesting as it was full of quotes and sayings, with substantiating stories. I love quotes especially as they relate to leadership lessons so this book had to make its way with me to the checkout counter.
Ok, that’s it for now. I hope there’s at least one title that you find of interest for your own or for your business team’s reading. You don’t have to be a crazy reader like me nor do you have to think that fun is spending hours (and dollars) at Barnes & Noble. But the summer is always a great time to reflect on your career growth, amp up your business knowledge, or implement one or two concepts from your favorite author.
“On top of always having a great vision there will be a premium on thinking strategically and on being able to come back from setbacks, and maybe above all, on being very good at reading the increasingly ambiguous and uncertain universe we operate in.”—
Michael Useem, professor of management at the Wharton School and author of The Leader’s Checklist. CEOs must analyze where a company is going and anticipate future risks. Strategic leadership means questioning everything, even one’s own ideas, and being willing to change directions. This can be hard for founders who are so set on their original idea.
He changes hearts. [my first poem, #TEDxRVA influenced.]
Take us away.
Feel it. Let it go.
Why are you here?
Be the first to stand.
Be infectious with your energy. Your laugh.
Laugh louder. Clap bigger.
Go deep within yourself.
Go deep in your heart and soul.
What are we changing?
Feel it in your body.
Feel the change. Visceral.
Tension. Balanced with tranquility.
What does it mean to go deep?
Remove the cataracts.
So you can see. Vision.
What picture is he painting?
Vibration. Chapel bells.
Vibration is disruption.
Disruption is the journey. Waterfalls.
Water rushing. Tears. Calm.
Water rushing. Feel the tears.
Tears. Breathe. Exhale.
~ Sally Witzky.
Saturday, April 20, 2013
Note: I had drafted these words while listening to Andy Stefanovich introduce Elew, and while Elew was playing an interesting mix of classical rockjazz at the piano, or in the piano (ha), at the #TEDxRVA event. I wanted to write a blog post from the words but it didn’t feel right. The idea came to me this week to write the words, pretty much as I sketched them in my notebook, into a poem. Maybe I’ll do something with them later. Or maybe I’ll just let them be. I’ve never written a poem before but my grandmother and my uncle enjoyed writing poetry so maybe it’s family infused.
“It’s not about getting what one pays for, it’s about valuing what one pays for.”—
Helayne Spivak, Director, VCU Brandcenter
Friday, April 19, 2013: VCU Friday Forum with Jim Ferguson… Jim had advised students to be careful about doing work / generating ideas for free. He said to ensure you always get paid, even if it is only $1. I am always challenged by this, as I often witness people who do not want to pay others for their ideas and strategic advice.
At TEDxRVA, young VCU students Rob Gibsun & Eric Stanley performed a mashup of poetry and violin, called Untitled Visions. While I had a tough time understanding all the words (my age, I’m sure) and therefore the full impact of the inspirational story Rob was conveying, I enjoyed the artistic side of the joint performance.
And I loved the story behind them, both talented young men who grew up near each other, attending the same church - and then ended up rooming next door to each other at VCU. They then collaborated to create something unique, and so often that’s what creativity is all about. It was very cool to experience.
After they finished performing on the TEDxRVA stage, Andy Stefanovich chatted with them for a minute or two. Andy asked them, “What is the ‘amazingness’ between you - what is the special sauce?” I remember Eric answering that question, telling the audience that…
"Rob always pushed me to keep going so I started to branch out. He changed my life."
Andy reminded the audience that both Rob and Eric were great examples that it is possible. "I believe in engineered serendipity," Andy said.
But I also love Eric’s response to Andy’s question. He said his friend, Rob, pushed him to keep going. And I think that is so important. That we each have one or more close friends or confidants who push us to take that next step. In Eric’s case, that friendly “pushing” caused him to branch out. Even as young as Eric is, he feels that Rob has helped him to change his life for the better.
I’m reminded of a verse from Proverbs 27:17,
"Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend."
Two friends working together yet challenging each other to go the distance. To stay sharp. To believe it’s possible.
It reminds me to ask of myself… who are those people who surround me who keep me sharp? Who continue to challenge me? Who push me to take the next step so that I can branch out? Who are those people who will help me change my life for the better?
Ed Ayers, current University of Richmond president and American historian, delivered a thoughtful talk at TEDxRVA on March 22nd. A little while later, Bill Martin of the Valentine Richmond History Museum delivered a similar talk.
Thinking about the correlation between the history of Richmond and the current-day creative juices flowing around our city was simply an interesting juxtaposition that I hadn’t spent too much time considering. But it worked. And I think we’re just scratching the surface of what this could mean.
It seemed to be a combination of wanting a deeper understanding of history and asking better questions. Pushing harder on both to see what we could create today.
Reviewing my sketchpad, I noted that Ed Ayers said that the American Indians were originally referred to as The Naturals. Yes, I know, it sounds like a Robert Redford film. But it made me wonder how our thoughts might be shaped differently if we referred to today’s creative class in Richmond as just that - the naturals. Would we think more organically about creativity?
He also reminded us that Shockoe meant The Rock. So what if Shockoe became thought of as our Richmond’s rock center or foundation of creativity. If I remember correctly, the good book reminds us always to build our house on the rock, not the sand. With a quick Google search, I find that is in Luke chapter 6 verse 48 - it was like a man who dug deep to build his house on the rock and when the floods came and the water vehemently beat on the house, the house withstood because it was built on a rock. I began to think that Richmond’s history could lay a terrific foundation for creativity in so many ways.
Not sure where this came in the context of his talk, but I have notes in my sketchbook where he said to trust your gut. Your intuition. Make your own decisions because you’re probably right, even if others don’t think so. He talked then about regrets. He said that creativity is not just about the future. At one time, Richmond was invented. And reinvented. And we can reinvent #RVA again. There’s a lot about Richmond’s history that is really good. Yet it also has a dark history. He said there’s no way around history - you have to go through it. So as we reflect back, we learn that we can reinvent #RVA in a way that is on purpose, connecting to our past like a river that ebbs and flows. Maybe there’s a reason we have a river running through our city - it can provide the context for making connections, building bridges and understanding fluidity.
I circled another note I wrote when Mr. Ayers was talking. He said creativity is like finding one another. It’s about redemption, too - redeeming this city - building from the rich history that we’ve all shared. How do we think about our place in history? In my notes, I also wrote that he referred to the Golden Age of this city. I don’t know if he was referring to then or now. Perhaps it could be both — our history and what we’re creating right now as we make history. He said that you can’t create what we now have - meaning we can’t create today the history we have. Of course, not. Yet if we could, would we change it I wondered?
He said we can make some natural connections which are so full of possibilities for us in order to both overcome and to fully leverage our past. He said our history gives us the hope we need because we understand life’s hardships due to what we’ve been through. I thought, well, here we are whether we like or dislike our city’s history and then I thought about the fact that there isn’t a “dislike” button on Facebook. Some things just are and we have to choose to accept and learn, or ignore.
A few other speakers took the TEDxRVA stage before Bill Martin of the Valentine Richmond History Museum spoke. But I couldn’t help connecting these two speakers within this post, even if it means this post becomes longer than, well, a post.
The Valentine is a touch of innovation, Bill said. Creativity can’t be about the thing that has always been before. But how do we create this new sense of place? How do we reinvent? How do you reinvent yourself? As he began to tell the full history of our city in 50 objects while photos flashed on the big screen behind him, he stressed that it wasn’t about the stories we know but about the stories we don’t know. He encouraged us to find the untold stories because it is then, in pushing to discover, that we find ourselves.
What do we value as a community, he asked. It was an interesting question he posed and then followed with a reminder that we have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. I remember smiling as I was sitting there listening to him deliver that last line. I remember because he paused, ever so slightly, for the audience to take that in. I smiled because a month or so before I had rewritten my company’s core value statements and had wanted to work that line in. Exactly that line - we are comfortable with being uncomfortable as we learn and grow. It was a first draft and the ensuing discussion was rather funny - people didn’t like the word uncomfortable and we ended up with a rewrite that seemed to work better for our purposes. Ok, I got off track a bit.
Bill once again stressed the importance of the untold stories. We’re finally acknowledging (I circled that word in my notes) that tension between what we know and what we think we know about our past, he said. The tension is where real creativity occurs. It’s about finding what we can do from what we’ve always been. It’s about mixing it up and finding something special, he said.
Here’s what seemed most interesting… When he began his TEDx talk, Bill referred to the fact that he had been at the Valentine for 18 years and he said that at some point it becomes about transforming yourself and not believing you were told everything. I loved that perspective. Then he told of his personal story about having a discussion with his mother not long ago. He told us that he was 60 and his mom was 90, and it was then that she decided to tell him that he has (or had) a brother. So there’s a personal belief behind his story that unless you know more - unless you push to know more - unless you push back against the story… Be bold, he says, because there’s one thing you don’t know - find the one thing that you don’t know because that one thing might be just the thing that make a difference. A huge difference. In your life. In solving a problem. In finding the creative solutions that just work. Naturally.
What is it that we know about Richmond’s history that can lead us to co-create a place in time - now - which future generations will reflect back (like we are) as an inspiring time in history? What is it that we don’t know about our city - or ourselves - that could be the one thing that makes a huge difference - impact at full throttle - that changes our course in such a way that redeems our past and creates an infinitely better place?
I am intrigued. I hope this conversation continues.
It’s been a very busy few months, especially the last two. At my day job, we’ve been working on a new direction for the Retail Merchants Association, which culminated in Thursday’s board approval of the strategic platform. Not just an upgrade…but a whole new OS.
After the board meeting finished at 10am, I made the final revisions to my AMA-Richmond slides and headed over to UofR’s Jepson Alumni Center to get ready for the AMA monthly luncheon - where 3 local entrepreneurs talked about their start-up journey. They kept it real. Bob Tarren, director of marketing & communications at VMFA moderated the panel, so it was nice to sit back and enjoy. The AMA-Richmond team is also buzzing with energy the last few weeks with talks of new branding and how we kick off our 51st year. They’re an AMAzing group of people.
After returning to the office, I had another meeting in the afternoon and then started winding down for the day, looking forward to capping off all the recent hard work with a ticket to #TEDxRVA on Friday.
#TEDxRVA was nothing short of brilliant in every way. In reviewing my sketchy notes, I think it would take me a year of blogging at least once a week to share with you all of what my mind absorbed in that one day. I will share more on that later - yes, I’m making a commitment to write more, and my tumblr blog seems like the best avenue right now. After all, several tumblr staffers work out of the Corrugated Box building, right here in the #RVA. But you knew that.
So, you’re probably still waiting for me to tell you about my pivotal moment. Well, it wasn’t quite a moment as much as it was the whole day on Saturday. I committed to do nothing except relax. I didn’t read nor did I sleep. It was like my mind was full and overflowing…nothing more could fit…and it was time to let go. The house was quiet. I allowed my mind and body to rest, renew and recharge. I drank lots of water and even made some delicious orange herbal tea. I took deep breaths and exhaled…deeply. I didn’t get hungry until the evening. It was like I just wanted to soak up all the goodness of the last couple of days and reduce the tension of the last few months. I was hydrating, oxygenating and re-calibrating.
Sometime late on Saturday afternoon is when I realized how much I was already looking forward to Monday. It was time to shift gears. To shift not only our thinking but our conversations. To seek new relationships. To converse in different locations. To mix it up and mash it up. It will be the start of something terrific. A time to create anew. To work differently. To ask different questions. To collaborate more fully. To create unity. To get up and get on with life. To make impact and to receive joy.
I never gave any advance thought to this part of the journey but I find the timing of this shift to be so perfect. #TEDxRVA following the day after RMA approved the new strategic direction. The first day of Spring with Easter falling early on the calendar. So many organizations like RMA and AMA and many others all talking about renewal all at about the same time. I feel like I’m being lifted up by the energy around me and that collectively we’re moving to a new place that we’re creating together.
Many, many people inspire me but in this moment, Les Brown says it best: It’s possible.
Let’s make it happen. Whatever it is, let’s make it happen.
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