“Know something about something…”

What is this thing; lifelong learning? David Brooks called it the ‘question-driven life’, and the late diplomat Richard Holbrooke delivered one of the best defining quotes: “Know something about something. Don’t just present your wonderful self to the world. Constantly amass knowledge and offer it around.” 

Lifelong learning = Curiosity

Recently, in a response to a consultant survey, Michael Dell, the chief executive of Dell, Inc. identified curiosity as the one attribute a leader will need to succeed in the future.

Journalist and questionologist, Warren Berger reports ‘Why Curious People Are Headed To the C-Suite’ for the Harvard Business Review.

“Dell was responding to a 2015 PwC survey of more than a thousand CEOs, a number of whom cited “curiosity” and “open-mindedness” as leadership traits that are becoming increasingly critical in challenging times. Another of the respondents, McCormick & Company CEO Alan D. Wilson, noted that business leaders who “are always expanding their perspective and what they know—and have that natural curiosity—are the people that are going to be successful.

“These days, a leader’s primary occupation must be to discover the future,” Panera Bread CEO Ron Shaich told me. It’s “a continual search,” Shaich says, requiring that today’s leader keep exploring new ideas—including ideas from other industries or even from outside the business world.”

OK, you’re not the head of a multi-national corporation, but you have questions, and not just about the technical aspects of work. It’s the human stuff that’s a bit more difficult to unbundle.

There have been continuing education and extension programs catering to adult learning for a hundred years. Most are connected to an academic institution and offer ‘lite’ versions of curricula taught to college students.

In the summer of 2008, ‘philosopher of life’ Alain deBotton founded ‘The School of Life’ in London a few blocks walk from the Russell Square Underground Station. Since then it has evolved into the new model for lifelong learning, employing non-traditional faculty to deliver programing focused on “developing emotional intelligence through the help of culture. We address such issues as how to find fulfilling work, how to master the art of relationships, how to understand one’s past, how to achieve calm and how better to understand, and where necessary change, the world.”

In the Marchmont Street location, and recently opened global sites, professionals come together to learn, share and evolve in a safe space of respectful interaction. This past weekend, SOL offered a ‘pop-up’ sampling of programs in Los Angeles. I attended three of the five sessions led by philosopher and trust consultant, Brennan Jacoby.

On a beautiful California Saturday morning, a diverse group of students arrived at the Design Matters Gallery to begin a day of three, 90 minute sessions. The content informed, inspired and provoked lively discussion.

The School of Life model works because talented faculty deliver contemporary topics, using an instructional technique that allows for the right balance of introspection, sharing and networking. Sessions seemed to end too soon, with attendees lingering to continue conversations.

For the Los Angeles weekend the topics included: How to Find A Job You Love, How to Be Creative, How to Think Like an Entrepreneur, How to be Confident and How to Have Better Conversations.

The School of Life is a catalyst for the question-driven life. If you’ve decided your ‘wonderful self’ is not quite perfect yet, and you’re “ready to amass knowledge and offer it around”, set you lifelong learning GPS on London, or visit the website to begin your quest.

 

 

 

The week@work – The Pope on climate change and more, Disney reverses a decision and the importance of staring out the window

This week@work has been spent planning a European adventure. For the next two weeks I will be taking leave of our conversation on work and career. I will continue to share thoughts and articles on Twitter. Please follow @Eileen Kohan or @workthoughts.

Before I go, let’s take a look at the week@work. This week included the major story of Pope Francis’ encyclical, Disney ABC Television reversing a decision on layoffs and the insights we gain from staring out the window.

Elizabeth Kolbert commented on the content of the encyclical in The New Yorker “A Papal Message That Spares No One”:

“…though its focus is on man’s relationship to nature, it also has much to say about man’s relationship to his fellow man and to himself—little of it laudatory. The vision that Pope Francis offers in his encyclical is of a world spiralling toward disaster, in which people are too busy shopping and checking their cell phones to do, or even care, much about it.

“The pace of consumption, waste and environmental change has so stretched the planet’s capacity that our contemporary lifestyle, unsustainable as it is, can only precipitate catastrophes,” the Pope writes. At another point, he says, “Many people will deny doing anything wrong because distractions constantly dull our consciousness of just how limited and finite our world really is.”

According to Francis, the problems of environmental degradation and global poverty are intimately related. Both can be traced to a way of thinking that regards the world as a means, rather than an end. This way of thinking rules the marketplace—“Finance overwhelms the real economy”—and dominates our data-driven culture: “Technology tends to absorb everything into its ironclad logic.”

The Guardian noted: “He says iPhones and all our other gadgets are getting in the way of our relationship with nature.”

“Real relationships with others, with all the challenges they entail, now tend to be replaced by a type of internet communication which enables us to choose or eliminate relationships at whim, thus giving rise to a new type of contrived emotion which has more to do with devices and displays than with other people and with nature.”

And finally, the pope’s tweet: “The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.” Proving you can distill 180 pages into 140 characters.

Variety reported on the decision by Disney executives to keep 35 tech employees who not only been notified that their jobs were being eliminated, but they were expected to train their replacements.

“The Disney ABC Television Group has reversed course on cutting jobs for up to 35 application developers, two weeks after informing the employees that they were being laid off.

But the Disney ABC TV Media Technology and Strategy development team subsequently decided to rescind the layoffs. First reported by Computerworld, Disney ABC spokesman Kevin Brockman confirmed the plans on Wednesday.

When the layoffs were rescinded, some of the affected employees had already started training their Cognizant Technology replacements in what’s dubbed the “knowledge transfer” process.”

For more detail on this story, check the NPR interview with Computerworld senior editor,  Patrick Thibodeau.

The last story this week is from The School of Life on ‘The importance of staring out the window’.

“The point of staring out of a window is, paradoxically, not to find out what is going on outside. It is, rather, an exercise in discovering the contents of our own minds. It’s easy to imagine we know what we think, what we feel and what’s going on in our heads. But we rarely do entirely. There’s a huge amount of what makes us who we are that circulates unexplored and unused. Its potential lies untapped. It is shy and doesn’t emerge under the pressure of direct questioning. If we do it right, staring out the window offers a way for us to listen out for the quieter suggestions and perspectives of our deeper selves.”

“…some of our greatest insights come when we stop trying to be purposeful and instead respect the creative potential of reverie. Window daydreaming is a strategic rebellion against the excessive demands of immediate (but ultimately insignificant) pressures – in favour of the diffuse, but very serious, search for the wisdom of the unexplored deep self.”

The lessons of the week@work – Looking from space we share the same ‘home’ and the responsibility to care for that common home. How? Taking time off, paying attention to nature, disconnecting from technology and reclaiming our humanity.