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Is Your Company Creating Careers?

For decades, we’ve been making an effort to help young people make better career decisions through our mentoring internship program. We’ve had 600+ interns from the US and internationally. Several years ago, we launched the Mentoring Internships program to help larger companies adopt our approach.

Over the last months, we’ve noticed a number of other programs focused on helping you people and we though we’d share a few.

With increased longevity – people living to 100+ – more people also ending up needing geriatric services. This is a professional marketplace not on the radar of most young people. Accordingly, a Geriatric Career Development program was developed to give teems a pathway to a career, and provide the host with a supply of workers in an industry with exploding demand.

The New Jewish Home, an elder-care non-profit in NYC launched the program to train teens to work in a nursing home, while providing mentoring school tutoring, college prep and life-skills training. (See details.) The program accepts NYC public schools beginning in the sophomore year as long as there is genuine interest to work in the field and to graduate high school. Over the years, almost every student in the program has graduated from high school and 94% are enrolled in college or employed. Two students have gone on to medical school and two others are pursuing Ph.D. degrees in pharmacology.

Recently, there was been discussion at the federal level on spurring the creation of apprenticeship programs to give people an opportunity to learn trades. Not everyone wants to go to a 2-4 year college to work in an office, fast-food establishment or some other company where the liberal arts training has little applicability to what they will do. For centuries, Europeans have been offering high school students the option of hands-on learning in trades like construction, plumbing and electrical, with the prospect of joining the firms. Maybe the time has come to adopt more apprenticeships.

Bloomberg Business featured one company whose pitch is “Want a $1Million paycheck? Skip college and go work in a lumberyard”. 84 Lumber Co, one of the nation’s largest building-supply chains spent millions on this message. It pays manager trainers about $40K a year; those in charge of top-grossing stores can earn $200K a year, and some earn more than $1Million, including bonuses.   With skilled and high-paying blue-collar jobs going unfilled, their program offers a solution to meet the need. While society today encourages millions of young people to take out loans to pay for college degrees, studies report that about half of the students then fill jobs in which they’re not really using the skills the acquired (e.g., learning Roman history may not be  helpful for a fast-food burger server.)

What are you doing to help young people explore their career options to make the best possible decisions?

Share with us your experiences!

There’s No Such Thing as a Stupid Question

As a straddle the worlds of teaching students, working with CEOs and their teams, and studying the psychology of aging, I am amazed at how more-or-less the same issues appear in all of them. The power of questions is one example.

Discovery requires being curious and asking questions.  We begin our lives as children unfettered when it comes to asking questions: Why is the sky blue?  etc. As we get older, schools and other socializing institutions ty to reduce the number of questions we ask. One seventh grade teacher had students put on their desk a note saying “Is this a stupid question?” as a way of limiting questions in class (He was a science teacher!)  As I teach university students in the US and China, I increasingly see a few students who ask almost all the questions and the rest shying away from doing so.

In companies, I experience newer (and younger) workers often refraining from asking questions. Asked why, some respond that they don’t want to “look stupid”, even though they concede that without the critical information they may make a (stupid) mistake. As I work with people 60+ through Age Brilliantly, including the “elderly” (over 85) the pattern of not raising questions continues for many.

Yet, in all cases, asking appropriate questions can save people time and energy, and have positive effects. Indeed, Meika Loe, who researched the “oldest old” (over 85) in Aging Our Way, notes a key lesson she learned: asking for help enables autonomy and control – as long as it’s on the (asker’s) terms.”

We need to change the culture our hour homes, schools, workplaces, etc. to encourage people to ask appropriate questions more often because they empower people to make better decisions, do better work, and feel more confident about themselves.  In my office we have a note saying “there is no such thing as a stupid question!”  We celebrate breakthroughs that come from a good question asked to encourage more of them. But it’s not enough.

What are you doing to create cultures to encourage people to ask more and better questions?  Share your experiences and ideas.

What Really Matters to Your Audience

What’s more powerful as a motivation for changing: recognizing the consequences of our actions on ourselves or the consequences our actions may have on others? Adam Grant, in Originals: How Nonconformists Move the World, suggests the latter may be more important.

As you probably know from prior research (e.g., The Checklist Manifesto), hospitals have discovered that they can substantially decrease the incidence of patient’s negative health consequences with one simple action: getting doctors and nurses to wash their hands In a study he and David Hoffman conducted, they wanted to know which of two signs (displayed near soap and gel dispensers), would encourage the health care providers to wash more often:

  • “Hand hygiene presents you from catching diseases”
  • “Hand hygiene prevents patients from catching diseases.

The first focused on consequences for the provider; the second for the people that the provider serves.

The first sign had no effect. The second increased medical professionals washing 10% and led to 45% more use of soap and gel.  Why?  Understand the logic of the consequences. In the first, the doctor/nurse thinks about their situation:  “I spend a lot of time in the hospital, I don’t always wash and rarely get sick, so they doesn’t affect me.” In other words, we know ourselves, tend to overestimate our invulnerability.  In the second case, the question is what should a person like me do in a situation like this?’ The cost-benefit equation isn’t only about one’s probability of getting sick, but what’s right and wrong: do I have a professional and moral obligation to care for patients, especially those I can’t monitor as often as myself.

What’s the implication for you?  When you’re presenting a message to the audience – whether in an ad or a presentation – you need to think not just about the immediate message but what else your audience cares about how the message may trigger additional considerations. We saw this phenomenon recently in an ad that Pepsi produced starring Kylie Jenner that upset many people and led them to pull it immediately (see).  It’s critical that you go through a two-step process: figure out what you want to say – and be prepared to deliver an authentic message, and then consider the “mental setting” of your audience (be audience-driven) before designing the actual pitch.

Have you gone through similar experiences? Are you concerned about one in the future?  Share with us so we can help you deal with your audience’s sensitives.

Innovation and Location: They Go Together!

After years of sending manfuacturing to offshore facilities, America has realized that it’s damaged our economy. As US factories close, millions of jobs were lost and many workers were not able to find other sources of work. The trade deficit ballooned and it may have reduced our innovative edge. Indeed, President Trump campaigned on a platform to bring jobs back to America and won the election.

Gary Pisano  and Willy Shich, in “Producing Prosperity: Why American Needs a Manufacturing Renaissance”,  suggest that another key benefit of moving some manufacturing back to the United States is to revitalize innovation.

Theses Harvard businness professors, argue that when a company loses it’s capability to manufacture, it also loses the ability to innovate and compete. “ Instead of job creation, we believe that the central objective of a national manufacturing strategy should be keeping America’s innovation capabilities healthy, because innovation drives productivity and productivity drives wages.”

Pisano notes that the trend to deindustrialize the US started with the globablization of supply chains. Companies thought they could move manufacturing elsewhere to be cost-competitive, yet keep design (innovation) here.  Solar power technologies offer an example. While solar cells (Photovoltaic (PV) cells) were first invented in the United States in 2012, only 3% of PV production was based in the US and Canada; 81% is Asia, with China and Taiwan leading the market.  “Once you lose the capabilities, you can bring them back, but the level of investment, activation energy to bring back is higher”, says Pisano.

Indeed, Shih discovered this first hand while working with Kodak. “ Because of earlier decisions to outsource camera manufacturing and consumer electronics assembly to Asia, the innovative capability no longer existed in the United States.” Today’s “endangered species” of American industries include semiconductors and rechargeable batteries.

Andrew Liveris, Chairman and CEO of Dow Chemical, notes “without a vibrant manufacturing secor, R&D will be done not by the US but by its major competitors. Over time, that will leave America dependent on intellectual property that’s created by other countries; American’s ability to generate its own growth will atrophy.” (Make it in America: the Case for Re-Investing the Economy by Liveris.)

Two companies that appear to be aware of this great risk include Intel, which controls the manufacturing of its proprietary process for making chips, and Corning, which maintains leadership in all its business, including Gorilla Glass, a very thin, damage-resistance glass display for mobile devices.

The authors make a second important point: that distance matters in certain industries. For example, biotechnology and life sciences are mainly clustered in Boston, San Francisco and San Diego. Semiconductor manufacturing is amassed in Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, Shanghai and Beijing. High-end shoe producers are located in the south of Venice, Italy. Hi-tech and Venture Capital grew in Silicon Valley; the auto industry grew in Detroit, Michigan. Why?  Because these industries form “industrial commons” that operate within an “ecosystem” and share know-how and capabilities. To stay innovate, they stay close to one-another, so there are frequent interactions between workers, companies, suppliers, universities, etc. This also permit these companies to cultivate a workforce to meet expanding workforce demands in these industries, through apprenticeship and internships.

In sum, innovation is fueled by close contact and communication – not by distributing parts of the process to the four corners of the world. We must facilitate the development of ecosystems for design, innovation, teaching , manufacturing, etc. of critical industries so jobs which will enable people to stay creative and innovate new solutions for delivering superior products.

What do you think?  Share examples!

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Dual Purposing

Thanks for your feedback on our blog on life-work integration as an alternative to the work-life balance model that most people adopt. Several people have asked how those of us achieve it, and that’s the point of this article.

The key issue, obviously, is time management. In the Balance model, you block off certain times of each day, week, month, etc. to focus on different aspects of the life, so that at the end of the time period you’ve achieved the balance you want. (Example: no work at home so I can spend time with the family; only making an exception if everyone else is in bed. Or work 5-6 days a week and on the remaining days refuse to work on “office issues.”  The challenge is one of leakage:  How to avoid work from interesting with non-work time.  Once you’ve cracked the door open the invader (usually work) takes more and more time – which means you’re no longer in “balance”.

In the Integration model, you’re also conscious of time, but the key element is built around “dual-purpose” time: how to I engage in an activity in which I actually accomplish more than one thing?

Dual purpose time is NOT multi-tasking. Most research shows multi-tasking is not an effective way to increase productivity. Dual-purpose time is the creation of an activity which, allows you to achieve two or more goals at the same time.

Imagine you want to learn about Chinese culture and language, and also want to take a vacation. Taking a course in China allows you to study in school and immerse yourself in the culture when not in class.

Imagine you want to help people in a third-world country, do a research project (for school credit) and  keep costs to a minimum. Taking a job as a teacher or other service provider in the village allows you to earn money or reduce expenses, and allows you to conduct the research when not actually working.

Another scenario: Imagine you’re a parent and want to write a book or play for a few hours each night. You also want to help your kids get their homework done and also supervise their use of the internet.   In dual-purposing, the solution lies in creating a room in which all of you can work on computers at the same time, and create culture in which people do their work, and also get a change to take a break when needed. In this way, you do your writing, the kids do their homework – and can ask permission to interrupt you to help them with the problem. One parent who did this shared this approach with other parents – who were worried about supervising their kids who worked alone in their rooms at night supposedly doing homework and possibly going to undesirable sites. The parent explained that he never had a fear with his children, because working in the public area also provided a disincentive to meander from acceptable websites to those who weren’t.

As the examples make clear, work-life Integration allows you to accomplish more than one goal during the same time interval, thus increasing your productivity. It does take a little extra time to design the dual-purpose activity, but the rewards of accomplishing both activities at the same time, make it an excellent investment.

What do you think? Have you ever tried it? If so, share your experiences! If not, do so now and then share them with us!

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