Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential. Winston Churchill
You may have heard about the financial slide in which my alma mater, Sweet Briar College, found itself. Or not. The board of this fine women’s college, located in Virginia, actually voted to close the place in 2015. Fast forward to now it’s been totally turned around. Meredith Woo, originally from Korea, is the new boss. She’s committed to redesigning the entire (liberal arts) college experience, a small piece of which is this “Living With Art Initiative“. It’s a plan to hang art everywhere from the many thousands of objects in the Sweet Briar College Art Gallery’s permanent collection. By lottery, students select a framed piece to decorate their dorm rooms.
President Woo wrote to students, “I want visual art to be a major part of the Sweet Briar experience for each student.” What a cool experiment. As Laura Pharis, a studio art professor and multimedia artist put it, “Looking at the art just kind of puts you in a better place…I do believe that being around art changes you.” I like this innovation, It shows creative thinking but Higher Ed needs more than art on the walls.
Another higher ed story…
My youngest daughter is a sophomore Gamecock. I learned from her that students routinely spend the class immersed in their laptops, many texting on the laptop during the entire lecture. So the professor is speaking to the backs of the laptop screens — the college classroom normal. (Glad I’m out of there.) Some professors are forbidding students to open their laptops during class. Learning theory supports that writing notes by hand is better for learning. But now students don’t learn to write or read cursive, so that option may not work universally. Higher ed is broken but my focus is improving professional development here and now.
Anyway…. how do students pass if they don’t pay attention to the professor??? This unlocks the potential of no one.
Do expensive classroom lectures unlock human potential?
What if lectures are recorded, and students watch them from home (like homework)and spend classroom time on exercises? This is what I have done to reorganize software (electronic medical record) training for physicians and providers at a local hospital. They watch elearnings before class, in class they document typical workflows, and finally take a quiz. It’s an innovation called the Flipped Classroom Approach.
I’m also obsessed with Ming Chan (speaks Mandarin, Cantonese, English plus some French, Spanish and German). She was an East Asian Philosophy major at Wellesley who went on to study computer science at MIT. Now she’s Executive Director of Ethereum Foundation in Switzerland. Regardless of how innovative crypto currencies actually develop, and I believe they will, blockchain technology is here to stay. It will increase transparency in the banking/financial industry. Eventually.
How do you keep up?
These are just 3 tiny examples of innovation related to learning and money — two of my favorite topics. And these are the stories that let to next year’s theme.
(You know, like how restaurants have themes?)
Mixonian Institute sports an annual theme which unfortunately has little relationship to food or restaurants. I have goals and milestones but the theme is much deeper. The theme I choose determines how I show up and my expectations for others. My theme lets you know and lets me know what to expect from me.
Choosing a Theme Helps Unlock Your Potential
A theme sets the feeling and direction for goals, resource allocation and all other decisions. A company (or department or personal) theme helps the communication overload: it directs everyone’s focus.
Goals are binary. You either make them or you don’t. Themes guide through through millions of micro decisions from what to wear, how to organize your presentation to which events you’ll attend.
Three years ago the theme was the Year of the Introverted Executive, followed by Conversation Imagination, then BrandYou. Clearly you need continuous effort to unlock your potential — your theme gives direction for that effort. Without further ado…
The Mixonian Institute theme for 2018 is Conversation Innovation.
(I’m not turning my hair blue.)
“Conversation” refers to conversations and presentations and in Mixonian’s case, our trainings. I especially embrace the concept of “microvation” which are small innovations. Innovations are small improvements. You don’t have to re-invent an industry to successfully innovate. So far, what it means for the Mixonian community is you get accelerated learning, relevant topics and more client engagement. All in the service of behavior change.
: More simulations of how to apply what is taught in the workshop
: Training through shorter lectures and workshops (= more frequent but shorter exposures)
: More focus on the 20% of the content that has the highest leverage
: Use of learning boosters
: More video clips
: Better snacks
: More surprises (*evil laugh*)
What about a theme for your company or department or team for 2018? Set the tone and the direction in a new way that’s not binary the way traditional goals are. What are you obsessed with these days? How do you want to show up next year?
For unlocking more potential in 2018 with witty wisdom from the Mixonian, click here to subscribe to our biweekly newsletter. Want to be blown away with how Elon Musk is disrupting the semi truck business (and another industry)? Watch this slightly awkward but still powerful presentation. (17 mins)
Photo by Tanja Heffner.