Five reasons to invest in store labor Labor was 43% of retail operating expenses based on our last US census data, but retailers haven’t been spending more on employee training . A 2016 training industry report shows only 32% of those surveye…
In last week’s episode of Forrester’s What It Means podcast, Marc Cecere and Jeffrey Hammond discuss today’s real and potentially dangerous gaps in talent — and how companies are making fundamental changes to strengthen their position in the market. Podcast Transcript Victor Milligan: Hi, I’m Victor Milligan. Jennifer Isabella: And I’m Jennifer Isabella. Victor Milligan: Your co-hosts for Forrester’s podcast What It […]
As our clients know, I’ve been writing a lot about strategies for recruiting and retaining developers, and building shop cultures where they can thrive. In the U.S. we’re currently in a sellers market when it comes to development talent. According to the BLS, firms will need to find almost half a million developers between 2014 […]
Not everyone can be a specialist, and that’s a good thing. Four good sources on why we still need polymaths (generalists, versatility) in an age of increasing specialization, and complexity.
For natural polymaths, check out the bonus link on Maya Angelou, and then proceed as wired.
“The question is whether their loss has affected the course of human thought. Polymaths possess something that monomaths do not. Time and again, innovations come from a fresh eye or from another discipline. Most scientists devote their careers to solving the everyday problems in their specialism. Everyone knows what they are and it takes ingenuity and perseverance to crack them. But breakthroughs—the sort of idea that opens up whole sets of new problems—often come from other fields.”
“Isaiah Berlin once divided thinkers into two types. Foxes, he wrote, know many things; whereas hedgehogs know one big thing. The foxes used to roam free across the hills. Today the hedgehogs rule.”
“The new Generalist is in fact a master of their trade. They bring expertise and experience in several areas, fueled by insatiable curiosity and the ability to “hyper-learn” new concepts and ideas.”
“They complement specialists, by challenging them to think differently, but never compete with them or take credit for their ideas. They approach challenges with an open mind, using a “how might we” mindset rather than come with pre-conceived ideas.”
“Attitude first, not only experience. A “Can-do” attitude and a high degree of motivation are a must. The Generalist must note constraints, but has to creatively encourage ways to work around them.
Intellectually curious (to an extreme level). Can learn and (un)learn any topic (enough to be dangerous) in a matter of hours. Learns on their own as well as from others by asking questions.
Connects the Dots. Can bring in new perspectives and ideas from other disciplines, industries, etc.
Practices empathy. Can imagine the world from different perspective. Those of colleagues, customers, users, etc. Takes time to listen and understand before presenting their own ideas.
Leads by influence and collaboration. Can earn the respect of the specialists, influence new ways of thinking and an open mindset towards new ideas.
Constantly challenges the status quo and encourages new ways of doing things.”
“Monopathy, or over-specialisation, eventually retreats into defending what one has learnt rather than making new connections. The initial spurt of learning gives out, and the expert is left, like an animal, merely defending his territory. One sees this in the academic arena, where ancient professors vie with each other to expel intruders from their hard-won patches. Just look at the bitter arguments over how far the sciences should be allowed to encroach on the humanities. But the polymath, whatever his or her ‘level’ or societal status, is not constrained to defend their own turf. The polymath’s identity and value comes from multiple mastery.”
“There is, I think, a case to be made for a new area of study to counter the monopathic drift of the modern world. Call it polymathics. Any such field would have to include physical, artistic and scientific elements to be truly rounded. It isn’t just that mastering physical skills aids general learning. The fact is, if we exclude the physicality of existence and reduce everything worth knowing down to book-learning, we miss out on a huge chunk of what makes us human. Remember, Feynman had to be physically competent enough to spin a plate to get his new idea.
Polymathics might focus on rapid methods of learning that allow you to master multiple fields. It might also work to develop transferable learning methods. A large part of it would naturally be concerned with creativity — crossing unrelated things to invent something new. But polymathics would not just be another name for innovation. It would, I believe, help build better judgment in all areas.”
All power to the polymath: Ella Saltmarshe at TEDxLSE 2013
POLYMATH BONUS: Growing Up Maya Angelou | Arts & Culture | Smithsonian
“I have a theory that nobody understands talent any more than we understand electricity. So I think we’ve done a real disservice to young people by telling them, “Oh, you be careful. You’ll be a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none.” It’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. I think you can be a jack-of-all-trades and a mistress-of-all-trades. If you study it, and you put reasonable intelligence and reasonable energy, reasonable electricity to it, you can do that. You may not become Max Roach on the drums. But you can learn the drums. I’ve long felt that way about things. If I’m asked, “Can you do this?” I think, if I don’t do it, it’ll be ten years before another black woman is asked to do it. And I say, yes, yes, when do you want it?
My mom, you know, was a seaman. At one point, I was in Los Angeles. I called her in San Francisco and said, I want to see you, I’m going to New York and I don’t know when I’ll be back, so let’s meet mid-state. She said, “Oh, baby, I wanted to see you, too, because I’m going to sea.” I said, going to see what? She said, “I’m going to become a seaman.” I said, Mother, really, come on. She said, “No, they told me they wouldn’t let women in their union. I told them, ‘You wanna bet?’ I put my foot in that door up to my hip so women of every color will get in that union, get aboard a ship and go to sea.” She retired in 1980, and Asian, white and black women gave a party for her. They called her the mother of the sea.
So, yes, we cripple our children, we cripple each other with those designations that if you’re a brick mason you shouldn’t love the ballet. Who made that rule? You ever see a person lay bricks? [She moves her hands in a precise bricklaying manner.] Because of the eye and the hands, of course he or she would like to see ballet. It is that precise, that established, that organized, that sort of development from the bottom to the top.”
Guest post by Amaresh Tripathy and Zack Capozzi Many CIOs haven’t given much thought to the human resources department, but maybe they should. Here’s why: Talent management deficits are derailing CEO plans. In the PwC 2012 global CEO survey, one in four CEOs said, because of talent challenges, they couldn’t pursue a market opportunity or had to cancel or delay a strategic initiative. Moreover, one in three CEOs is concerned that skill shortages will impact […]
Last Friday on Twitter, I was lamenting the compulsion of new people on existing projects to revisit and reinvent every prior decision and action, rather than focus their energy on execution. I tagged the tweets reinvention week. My opening salvos:
Wouldn’t it be cool if new people to a project focused on getting it done, rather than reinvention? #reinventionweek #EntArch
We need to value execution on par with creation. #entarch #reinventionweek
Certainly, there are instances when revisitation is required, and is the mission of the new person. However, in my experience, too frequently the need is driven by ego. Either, in placing a stamp on the project, or in moving the project to the technology, standards, patterns the new person is expert on, and therefore most likely to be seen as a star and/or become a key player.
In our twitter back and forth, Sally Bean offered: “that’s why we need to hire smart lazy people, not smart industrious ones.”
Sally was referring to Field Marshal Bernhard Graf von Moltke’s model on categorizing officers:
• Smart & Lazy: I make them my Commanders because they make the right thing happen but find the easiest way to accomplish the mission.
• Smart & Energetic: I make them my General Staff Officers because they make intelligent plans that make the right things happen.
• Dumb & Lazy: There are menial tasks that require an officer to perform that they can accomplish and they follow orders without causing much harm
• Dumb & Energetic: These are dangerous and must be eliminated. They cause thing to happen but the wrong things so cause trouble.
I hadn’t see this model before. It’s an interesting take on matching talent (or not) to positions. We always think we need “smart and energetic”. Yet, in a multitude of situations, “smart and lazy” is the better way to go.
“In a big company, you never feel you’re fast enough.” Beth Comstock, the chief marketing officer of GE, is talking to me by phone from the Rosewood Hotel in Menlo Park, California, where she’s visiting entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. She gets a charge out of the Valley, but her trips also remind her how perilous the business climate is right now. “Business-model innovation is constant in this economy,” she says. “You start with a vision of a platform. For a while, you think there’s a line of sight, and then it’s gone. There’s suddenly a new angle.”
Within GE, she says, “our traditional teams are too slow. We’re not innovating fast enough. We need to systematize change.”
“The business community focuses on managing uncertainty,” says Dev Patnaik, cofounder and CEO of strategy firm Jump Associates, which has advised GE, Target, and PepsiCo, among others. “That’s actually a bit of a canard.” The true challenge lies elsewhere, he explains: “In an increasingly turbulent and interconnected world, ambiguity is rising to unprecedented levels. That’s something our current systems can’t handle.
“There’s a difference between the kind of problems that companies, institutions, and governments are able to solve and the ones that they need to solve,” Patnaik continues. “Most big organizations are good at solving clear but complicated problems. They’re absolutely horrible at solving ambiguous problems–when you don’t know what you don’t know. Faced with ambiguity, their gears grind to a halt.
“Uncertainty is when you’ve defined the variable but don’t know its value. Like when you roll a die and you don’t know if it will be a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6. But ambiguity is when you’re not even sure what the variables are. You don’t know how many dice are even being rolled or how many sides they have or which dice actually count for anything.” Businesses that focus on uncertainty, says Patnaik, “actually delude themselves into thinking that they have a handle on things. Ah, ambiguity; it can be such a bitch.”
“Technology forces disruption, and not all of the change will be good. Optimists look to all the excitement. Pessimists look to all that gets lost. They’re both right. How you react depends on what you have to gain versus what you have to lose.”
Yet while pessimists may be emotionally calmed by their fretting, it will not aid them practically. The pragmatic course is not to hide from the change, but to approach it head-on. Thurston offers this vision: “Imagine a future where people are resistant to stasis, where they’re used to speed. A world that slows down if there are fewer options–that’s old thinking and frustrating. Stimulus becomes the new normal.”