Peter Gray, research professor of psychology at Boston College, has conducted and published research in a wide range of fields, including neuroendocrinology, animal behavior, developmental psychology, anthropology, and education. He is author of a highly regarded college textbook, Psychology (Worth Publishers), now in its 6th edition. Most of his recent research and writing has to do with the value of free, unsupervised play for children’s healthy social, emotional, and intellectual development. He has expanded on these ideas extensively, for the general public, in his recently-published book, Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life (Basic Books, 2013)– http://www.freetolearnbook.com. He also authors a regular blog for Psychology Today magazine.
Peter grew up mostly in small towns in Minnesota and Wisconsin, where he had a rich childhood play life, which, he believes, prepared him well for adulthood. He did his undergraduate study at Columbia University and then earned a Ph.D. in biological sciences at the Rockefeller University, in New York City. His career since then has been centered entirely at Boston College. His play life continues, not only in the joy he derives from research and writing, but also in his enjoyment of long-distance bicycling, kayaking, backwoods skiing, pond skating, and backyard vegetable gardening.
Here is an excerpt from Part 2 of my interview of him. To read all of Part 2, please click here.
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Morris: Here’s a question I have been eager to ask since first reading your discussion of various parenting behavior types in Free to Learn. Are you talking about a pattern or does the given situation determine which style would be most appropriate? That is, sometimes trust, other times control, and still other times protect children.
Gray: I am talking about patterns of parenting, but the patterns are not all-or-none. Even hunter-gatherers—the superstars of trustful parenting—engaged in some directive-protective parenting when they put the poison darts they use for hunting high up, out of reach of little children, and warned all children about the dangers of touching them. All loving parents feel responsible for their children’s welfare, and there is always some tradeoff between protection and allowing children to learn about dangers by exploring them. Even the domineering style of parenting is necessary in moments of emergency. If a little child is running out into the street—or, for a hunter-gatherer, is about to reach out and touch a poisonous snake–you use your superior strength to pull him away; that’s not the time to reason with the child or let the child learn through trial and error.
Morris: How do you explain the decline in trustful parenting?
Gray: It declined after the advent of agriculture for the reasons I’ve already given. In the United States and other Western nations trustful parenting began to rise again early in the twentieth century and then began to decline later in that century. I elaborate in the book on the reasons for this second decline. In brief, I think this decline has occurred because (a) the increasing demands of school and the expectation that parents must force their children to meet those demands make trustful parenting difficult; (b) increased media attention to the dangers that can befall children when not supervised has led to irrational levels of fear among parents; (c) the rise of experts, who are continuously warning parents of dangers to children, has also led to irrational levels of fear; (d) as families have become smaller and family and neighborhood ties weaker, many people today have had little experience with children before they have children of their own, so they have lost touch with the common-sense understanding that parents used to have about children’s abilities and resilience and need for freedom; and (f) as women have entered the workforce, so nobody is home during the day, it has become harder for neighbors to get to know one another and one another’s children, and there are often no adults at home looking out of windows, which may in fact make free outdoor play less safe than it was in the past.
Morris: What can a parent do to become more trusting?
Gray: The process can start by examining one’s own values. What do you want for your child? Do you want your child to grow up feeling confident, responsible, and in control, or do you want your child to grow up feeling that the world is dangerous and that he or she is a victim of circumstances? It can also start with serious thought about risks and probabilities. If you let your 8-year-old walk by herself to the grocery store a few blocks away there is a chance that something terrible will happen to her along the way. On the other hand, if you drive her there, there is also a chance that something terrible will happen, in the form of an automobile accident. Both risks are tiny. If you regularly deprive her of the chance to do things by herself, the chance is very high that she will not develop the courage and capacity to handle difficult situations by herself, and in the long run that puts the child in more or less continuous danger.
Every decision that you make for your child, or that your child makes for himself or herself, involves some risk. That’s a fact of life. Thought along these lines can help parents realize that their decisions aimed at protecting their children may, in the long run, be creating more danger than would occur if the children were freer to make their own decisions.
To be a trustful parent it may also be necessary to find a good alternative to standard schooling. Our schools have become places where children are least trusted, where they are constantly monitored and directed and deprived of basic human rights; and, more and more, schools are demanding that parents assist the school in such distrustful behavior, for example by monitoring homework every night. Each year, more and more people are taking their children out of school for some sort of alternative schooling or for a variety of home education where the children have more freedom and can take more responsibility for themselves. Many parents see this as a crucial step toward trustful parenting. I also describe, in the book, ways that parents can create safe opportunities for children to play and explore independently of adults.
Morris: Opinions are divided, sometimes sharply divided, about this next issue: The nature and extent of influence (for better or worse) that peers have on a child’s development. Some people insist that peers have a greater influence than do parents; others argue the opposite. What do you think?
Gray: The answer to this, as you might expect, depends on the kind of influence you are talking about and on the life situation of the child and family. In hunter-gatherer bands, and at the democratic school that I have studied, children spend their days playing in age-mixed groups. Younger children learn skills and acquire advanced ideas from older ones, and older children learn how to be caring and nurturing through their interactions with younger ones.
From an evolutionary perspective it is natural that children should be more oriented toward their peers than toward their parents or other adults. Their peers are the people of their own generation; they are their future mates and work colleagues. Parents are often disappointed that their children seem to be more interested in conforming to their peers than in following the traditions of the family. For example, in immigrant families, children quickly learn the language of their new peers and, when possible, refrain from speaking the language of their parents. But this is as it should be. To survive and thrive, children must adapt to the culture of now, not to the old ways of their parents. This also explains why children and teenagers are always the first to embrace any new technology. They learn it from their peers, not from their parents. The parents, if they learn it at all, learn it from their children.
On the other hand, there is a great deal of evidence that children tend, on average, to acquire and retain the religious and political views of their parents. This may be because these are often not relevant to the child’s experiences with other children. Where they are relevant, such as in the case of a child of orthodox parents living in a non-orthodox community, children commonly rebel against their parents’ views.
Parents are very important to children for the secure base and love they provide, but they are not and should not be the sole or even the major source for the child’s learning. The child is naturally motivated to learn from everyone and is especially motivated to look outside of the home to find out what others are doing and thinking and talking about.
Morris: You devote a great deal of attention to Sudbury Valley School, characterizing it as in some ways like a hunter-gatherer band. Please explain.
Gray: Sudbury Valley is a day school with about 150 students, who range in age from 4 to about 18, and currently 10 adult staff members. The school is fundamentally a democratic community, run by the students and staff together. All school rules and major school decisions are made by the School Meeting, at which each student and staff member has one vote. Rules are enforced by a Judicial Committee, which operates like a jury in our larger culture to determine guilt or innocence and decide on appropriate sentences. This committee at any given time includes one staff member and at least one representative of each broad age group of students a the school.
The educational philosophy of the school is essentially the same as that of a hunter-gatherer band. The students are free to play and explore, as they wish, all day long, every day, as long as they don’t break any of the democratically made rules. The rules serve to prevent students and staff from interfering with one another’s activities or damaging the school in any way. Students are not segregated by age or assigned to specific places. They are free at any time to go anywhere in the two school buildings and the 10-acre grounds, and, by signing out and following safety guidelines, they can also go into the adjoining forested state park. Sometimes a group of students will ask a staff member to help them organize a class on some topic, but classes are rare and are never required. Equipment is available for a wide variety of activities. There are plenty of computers, lots of books, a fully equipped kitchen, a woodworking shop, sound-proof music practice rooms, an art room, sporting equipment, a room with toys for younger kids, and so on. The students can use any of this equipment as they wish, as long as they demonstrate that they can use it safely and not damage it.
Many people who hear about this school can’t imagine that students would become educated in this setting. They are “just playing” or “just hanging out and talking with one another.” But if you look closely at what they are playing at and listen closely to what they are talking about, you may be amazed. On their own initiatives, they are involved in extraordinarily sophisticated, complex activities. In their play they learn to read, write, and use numbers. They also discover their passions through play and become experts in the activities that most interest them.
The school has been in existence for 45 years and has hundreds of graduates. One of my first studies of the school was a follow-up survey of the graduates, which showed that they have no particular difficulty pursuing higher education, if they wish, and that, as a group, they have gone on to the full range of careers that we value in our society. In many cases the careers they pursue follow quite directly from the interests they had develop in their play at the school.
I think the school works because it is, for our time and place, an educational setting equivalent to a hunter-gatherer band. Like a hunter-gatherer band, the school provides the conditions that optimize young people’s abilities to educate themselves. These include (1) the social expectation (and reality) that education is the students’ responsibility, not the staff’s; (2) unlimited freedom for students to play, explore, and pursue their own interests; (3) opportunity to play with the tools of the culture; (4) access to a variety of caring adults, who are helpers, not judges, (5) free age mixing among children and adolescents, and (6) immersion in a stable, moral, democratic community. In the book I explain how each of these characteristics contributes to children’s abilities to educate themselves. I devote a whole chapter to age mixing, because I think that is especially crucial. Young children learn advanced skills and knowledge through interacting with older ones, and older ones acquire a sense of maturity and an ability to nurture through interacting with younger ones. The school would not work if the students were segregated by age.
It is interesting to note that none of these six conditions are present in our standard schools. In standard schools we deprive students of all of the conditions they need in order to educate themselves effectively, and then we try to make them learn a curriculum that we, not they, have chosen.
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To read all of Part 2, please click here.
To read Part 1, please click here.
Peter cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:
His faculty page
Free to Learn Amazon page
His Psychology Today blog, Freedom to Learn
Richard Florida is author of the global best-sellers, The Rise of the Creative Class and Who’s Your City? A more recent book, book, The Great Reset, explains how new ways of living and working will drive post-crash prosperity. Other works include The Flight of the Creative Class and Cities and the Creative Class. His previous books, especially The Breakthrough Illusion and Beyond Mass Production, paved the way for his provocative looks at how creativity is revolutionizing the global economy.
Richard is senior editor for The Atlantic and a regular CNN contributor. He has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Economist, The Globe and Mail and The Harvard Business Review. He has been featured as an expert on MSNBC, BBC, NPR and CBS, to name just a few. Richard is Director of the Martin Prosperity Institute and Professor of Business and Creativity at the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto. Previously, Florida held professorships at George Mason University and Carnegie Mellon University and taught as a visiting professor at Harvard and MIT. Florida earned his Bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University and his Ph.D. from Columbia University. His research provides unique, data-driven insight into the social, economic and demographic factors that drive the 21st century world economy.
His latest book is The Rise of the Creative Class, Revisited: 10th Anniversary Edition–Revised and Expanded, published by Basic Books (June, 2012).
Here is an excerpt from my second interview of him.
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Morris: To what extent is The Rise of the Creative Class, Revisited a sequel? To what extent does it plow entirely new ground?
Florida: A great deal of the book has been rewritten or rearranged—this is not so much a revision as a full-blown revisiting of the original book. My team and I brought all the statistics up to date, provided new ones, and incorporated a decade’s worth of new research. I took advantage of the opportunity to address my major critics, too. Finally, there are five completely original chapters, covering the global effects of the Creative Class, quality of place in our cities and suburbs, the widening—and increasingly damaging—role of class and inequality in society, and the political challenges and opportunities that the rise of the creative class represents.
Morris: Were there any head-snapping revelations while writing the book? Please explain.
Florida: One big insight is the worsening inequality and underlying class divide that plagues not just nations but cities and metro areas. You can see it in US cities and metros and also in London and even in Toronto where I now live. That said, the rise of the creative class and post-industrialism needn’t exacerbate wage and income inequality. In fact, the wages and salaries for working and service class members are higher in metros with greater concentrations of the creative class. Interestingly enough, the US is something of an outlier when it comes to post-industrialism and inequality across the advanced nations. In many of them, especially in Scandinavia and North Europe, post-industrialism and the rise of the creative economy has been accompanied by higher living standards and far less inequality that in the US. In the revised edition, I look in detail at inequality across US metros. I find that the class divide accounts for about 15 percent of income inequality, a significant amount for sure, but more is at work. Income inequality across US metros has a lot to do with entrenched poverty, race, weakened labor unions, and an unraveling safety net than it is the result of the Creative Class’s relative prosperity. The solution, in other words, isn’t to roll the Creative Class back—it’s to lift up the classes that aren’t doing as well.
Morris: To what extent (if any) does the book in final form differ significantly from what you originally envisioned?
Florida: Books always turn out different than expected. When I started the idea was to update the data (which was ten years old) and revise and update the existing chapters. But that’s where my research and thinking took me. I certainly did not expect to write five entirely new chapters The whole issue of the creative class going global and the need to include more data and information on the creative class around the world; and also widening inequality and the growing class divide – those are things that needed to be treated in detail. The last chapter – “Every Single Human Being is Creative”— discusses the need for a new Creative Compact based on harnessing the creativity and talent of every single human being. We are at such a critical turning point: our society is changing as fundamentally as it has since the shift from agriculture to manufacturing. The old industrial order of relentless production and consumerism, of brute growth, has proven itself unsustainable; it’s left us with a degraded environment, a broken financial system, and a sclerotic political culture. We have an incredible opportunity to remake ourselves in a better way—for maybe the first time ever, to align human and economic development. But to do that, we need to create new institutions that will both help to develop and utilize everyone’s innate creativity. It won’t happen by itself, and no Invisible Hand is going to guide it.
The University of Chicago economist Raghu Rajan said it well: “The advanced countries have a choice. They can act as if all is well except that their consumers are in a funk, and that ‘animal spirits’ must be revived through stimulus. Or they can treat the crisis as a wake-up call to fix all that has been papered over in the last few decades.” I’m trying to sound that wake up call.
Morris: Please explain the reference to “the key underlying forces that have been transforming our economy and culture” for several decades.
Florida: Our economy is shifting from an industrial to a post-industrial basis—our most valuable products are no longer the natural resources we scour out of the ground, or the durable goods that we manufacture in factories but the things that spring from our creativity: software, movies, medicines, applications. Human beings have always been creative, of course, but now creativity itself—“the ability to create meaningful new forms,” as Webster’s Dictionary has it—is what powers our economy.
As creativity has become more fundamental, it’s given rise to a whole new social class that works in creative fields (the sciences, education, medicine, technology, media, the arts). Many of them have embraced a new ethos and a new set of meritocratic norms that in turn have shifted our whole society.
If anything Creativity is an even more powerfully transformative force than it was a decade ago. The Creative Class has come through the last decade—and through the economic crash of 2008—stronger and more influential than ever.
Morris: In your opinion, why have we not as yet unleashed “that great reservoir of overlooked and underutilized human potential”?
Florida: If a third of our most fortunate workers belong to the Creative Class, the other two great classes are not faring anywhere near as well. The working class, our blue collar sector, has lost a third of its members in just the last decade—it represents just 20 percent of the workforce today, about the same share that farmers held at the turn of the last century (they are less than one percent of the economy today). About half of the workforce belongs to the Service Class—the people who serve our food, cut our lawns and our fingernails, take care of our elderly. Most of them are paid terribly and there are very few opportunities for advancement.
Class and geography have a huge impact on your destiny in the US—if your parents don’t have good jobs and good educations and you live in a state that has a smaller Creative Class share, the odds are that you’ll be poorer, travel less, and receive a worse education than your peers in more creative states. That’s not snobbery or elitism—that’s just statistics. Poorer states have shorter life expectancies too—there is more smoking and obesity, more gun violence, and worse health outcomes across the board.
This is why I’m so passionate about the need for change—for a new Creative Compact, as I put it, that will do for our own epoch what the New Deal did for its own generation.
Morris: What are the defining characteristics of the Creative Class?
Florida: I define the Creative Class by what people do—by the kinds of jobs they hold. What I call the Super-Creative Core of the Creative Class are scientists and engineers, university professors, poets and novelists, artists, entertainers, actors, designers, and architects, as well as the thought leadership of modern society: nonfiction writers, editors, cultural figures, think-tank researchers, analysts, and other opinion shapers. I define the highest order of creative work as the production of new forms or designs that are readily transferable and widely useful—such as designing a consumer product, coming up with a theorem or strategy that can be applied in many situations, or composing music that can be performed again and again.
The Creative Class doesn’t just solve problems—it finds problems that we didn’t know we had. It invents the iPod and then it figures out a better way to organize its music library—and to combine it with a telephone, and an e-book reader while giving its battery longer life.
Beyond this core group, the Creative Class also includes “creative professionals” who work in a wide range of knowledge-intensive industries, such as high-tech, financial services, the legal and health professions, and business management, who engage in creative problem solving. Creative Class people are smart and skilled; they’re often (but not always) highly educated. Three quarters of degree holders belong to the Creative Class, but less than 60 percent of the Creative Class has degrees.
I talk a lot about “creatifying” jobs that are not considered Creative Class, but could be, such as retail sales. With the addition of creativity such jobs can become more productive and earn higher and higher salaries. Services can be creatified too, as their providers become more entrepreneurial.
Richard cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:
To read the complete second interview, please click here.
To read my first interview of him, please click here.
To read my review of his latest book, The Rise of the Creative Class, Revisited: 10th Anniversary Edition, please click here.
The Center for the Edge, part of Deloitte LLP, helps senior executives make sense of and profit from emerging opportunities on the edge of business and technology. What is created on the edge of the competitive landscape—in terms of technology, geography, demographics, markets—inevitably strikes at the very heart of a business. Its mission is to identify and explore emerging opportunities related to big shifts that aren’t yet on the senior management agenda, but ought to be. While focused on long-term trends and opportunities, it continues to be equally focused on implications for near-term action, the day-to-day environment of executives.
To learn more about the Center and its unique perspective, please click here.
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In The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion, published by Basic Books (2010), John Hagel III, John Seely Brown, and Lang Davison explain how small moves, smartly made, can set big things in motion. Their book provides a key to how all of us —individually and collectively—can turn challenge and stress into opportunity and reward as digital technology remakes our lives.
Simply put, our institutions are fundamentally broken.
They achieved enormous success by harnessing 20th century infrastructures. Only a few institutions are beginning to discover the potential residing in newer infrastructures and technologies like social media.
By harnessing new pull practices and developing new institutional arrangements to support these practices, we have an opportunity to turn growing stress into expanding opportunity.
As individuals, we truly now have the potential to remake our world, not in a way that simply serves our needs, but in a way that deeply honors the potential of all of those around us as well as our own potential.
To harness the potential of pull, we must begin with ourselves as individuals and join together in the long march required to transform our institutions. On the way, we will discover that small moves, smartly made, can set big things in motion. To learn more, please click here.
Click here to see a video of John Hagel III and John Seely Brown discussing The Power of Pull.
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John Hagel, III serves as Co-Chairman of Strategy and Technology Center of Deloitte & Touche USA LLP. His distinctive expertise involves perspectives on the emergence and evolution of new business models enabled by the Internet, restructuring opportunities created by e-commerce and new approaches to strategy under high uncertainty. John Seely Brown is a visiting scholar and advisor to the Provost at University of Southern California (USC) and the Independent Co-Chairman of the Deloitte Center for the Edge. Prior to that he was the Chief Scientist of Xerox Corporation and the director of its Palo Alto Research Center (PARC)—a position he held for nearly two decades. Lang Davison is the former editor-in-chief of The McKinsey Quarterly and is the executive director of the Deloitte LLP Center for the Edge. The Silicon Valley-based Center conducts original research and develops substantive points of view for new corporate growth.
What’s the best advice to give man about respecting man’s best friend?
In an interview of animal behaviorist John Bradshaw conducted by the staff of National Public Radio, he says it’s realizing that dogs are neither wolves nor furry humans and that dog owners have certain responsibilities to make sure their dogs are psychologically healthy.
Bradshaw, who has spent much of his career debunking bad advice given to dog owners, is the author of a new behavior guidebook called Dog Sense: How the New Science of Dog Behavior Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet, published by Basic Books (2011). The book details what pet owners should expect from their dogs and what their dogs should expect in return from their owners.
Here are a few highlights from the interview of John Bradshaw.
To read all of it, read an excerpt from the book, and/or watch a video, please click here.
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On common misconceptions about wolves
“The main [myth] … is that wolves are essentially an intrinsically aggressive animal that is continuously trying to take over whatever group they find themselves in and dominate it. And the new wolf biology really exposed that as an artifact — that particular view of wolves came from wolves in zoos and in wildlife parks, where a bunch of unrelated wolves were basically put together and told to get on with it and, not surprisingly, they got on with it by being aggressive toward one another. The new picture of wolf society is that wolves are harmonious animals. They live in family groups. They get along really well together, and they’re almost never aggressive to one another. The aggression comes out when two families meet, so they have very strong family ties.”
On playing tug of war with your dog
“Let’s take a very simple piece of advice that trainers take out, which is you should never allow a dog to go in front of you through a doorway because it will give the signal to the dog that you are submissive and are therefore allowing him or her — the dog — to become dominant. Take another one. Many trainers advise against playing tug of war games because there is a risk the dog will win and the dog, by winning, will think that you are being submissive and he will therefore be able to control you in the future. We’ve done research into a number of these things — including the tug of war game — and have shown that the premise is just completely not true. If you do let a dog win over and over again at tug of war, it likes you. It wants to play with you more than it did to begin with because it’s having fun. If, on the other hand, the dog gets less attracted to you and doesn’t so much want to play with you — again, but there’s absolutely no change of the dog’s behavior outside of that particular situation of play — the dog does not get into its head that you’re kind of a soft touch and that in the future it will be able to control you and whatever you do.”
“There’s still a great genetic variability if you take the dog as a whole. But within a breed, the variation has diminished. So you get all kind of inherited diseases coming up [which are] very difficult to eradicate at the moment while the breed barriers are being maintained.”
On military dogs
“I’ve been involved with training dogs for the military for about a decade now, so I think everybody but me has been surprised by the dog that went in to find Osama bin Laden. They’re very valuable dogs. And I must say, if I was in an environment like that, I would actually much rather have a dog ahead of me than another human being because it’s another set of senses — and particularly the olfactory sense. These dogs are trained to find and then indicate all manners of things. In that particular instance, it would presumably be explosives and ammunitions and guns and so on.”
On dog senses
“They’re colorblind to a certain extent but colorblind humans are not that badly handicapped. Their hearing is a little bit more sensitive than ours in the high-pitched region. But it’s their sense of smell that really distinguishes them from us. And I don’t think we really take up too much recognizance of that. I think dogs have a right to sniff things whenever it doesn’t cause a problem to us. When I meet a dog, I hold my hand out. I don’t stick my fingers right out, just in case, but I just make a loose fist and put my hand out to the dog. If it’s a small dog, I’ll squat down. And that dog will want to come and sniff my hand and lick it if necessary. That’s a greeting, and I think if we don’t do that, I think it’s as upsetting to the dog as if we were talking to somebody that we never met before and covered our faces at that point in time, as if we were trying to disguise who we were.”
Here is an excerpt from an article written by John Hagel III and John Seely Brown for the Harvard Business Review blog. To read the complete article, check out other articles and resources, and/or sign up for a free subscription to Harvard Business Review’s Daily Alerts, please click here.
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No matter how talented or accomplished you are, you cannot always count on attracting and retaining the attention of others.
Too many options compete for everyone’s attention, and they multiply with each passing day. It will be more and more challenging to rise above the noise and hold onto the attention of those who matter to you.
Attention provides leverage. The more people we can attract and motivate to join us on a challenging quest or initiative, the more impact we are likely to achieve. So, what are effective ways to attract and retain the kind of attention that helps us to address the challenges we face? Here are five steps that build on each other.
1. Embrace mystery: Frame really gnarly problems that are relevant to you and need to be solved. Help people to understand why these are such significant problems and why so many people have stumbled in trying to solve these problems. It probably will not attract the people looking for easy answers or silver bullets, but it can attract those who are naturally curious and looking for stimulating challenges.
2. Focus inquiry: Don’t try to suggest answers. Frame interesting questions instead. Help people gain a foothold by posing questions that intrigue and motivate them to start investigating the mysteries that lie ahead.
3. Excite the imagination: Provide some “what if?” scenarios to illustrate the possibilities that await those who manage to come up with creative answers. Paint the pictures but make it clear these are only pictures. Stimulate people to pursue the questions with a lot of energy and creativity.
4. Limit availability: Lots of people will seek you out if you are successful in exciting the imagination. If you try to connect with everyone, the conversations can spread you way too thin. Be more selective in your availability – you will often provide even greater incentive to tackle the problems, rather than simply engaging in conversations.
5. Be authentic: If you try to game this, you will be found out and the backlash will be significant. So, here is the catch – if you are not genuinely engaged in addressing these problems yourself, you will not be able to sustain the attention and effort of others to come up with creative solutions. On the other hand, if you are on a quest yourself, leading by example, you could have a contagious effect and the encounters you have can help both sides to learn from each other.
Do these techniques actually work? Well, think of how Martin Luther King, Jr. excited and mobilized a broad group of people to tackle some very challenging social problems. On a completely different level, one leading tech company in Silicon Valley regularly attracts the attention of the venture capital community by sharing its most difficult technology problems and suggesting that they would buy the start-ups that come up with creative solutions to these problems. Or look at the way professional astronomers have mobilized a global network of passionately engaged amateurs to learn more about the vast universe beyond this one planet.
This kind of attention is priceless and powerful. We will all need to find ways to generate it and harness it. This is not just an opportunity, but increasingly an imperative. We are all experiencing increasing economic pressure as individuals and institutions. In this kind of environment, we not only need leverage, we also need to more rapidly improve our performance. We all get better faster by working with others. To do this, we first need to attract the attention of others. If we fail to attract that attention, we will not get better faster in an increasingly competitive global economy, and we could be marginalized. That is why attention is becoming more valuable at the same time that it is becoming scarcer.
[Note: You may also wish to check out Guy Kwasaki's latest book, Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions, published by Portfolio/The Penguin Group (2011).]
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John Hagel III and John Seely Brown are co-chairmen of the Deloitte LLP Center for the Edge, and have written several books focused on technology and innovation. Their most recent book is The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion, co-authored with Lang Davison, and published by Basic Books (2010).
Here is an excerpt from an article written by John Hagel III and John Seely Brown for the Harvard Business Review blog. To read the complete article, check out other articles and resources, and/or sign up for a free subscription to Harvard Business Review’s Daily Alerts, please click here.
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Mindset is everything. If that statement seems too strong, consider that we bring these basic assumptions to every decision and action we make. Left unexamined, they may unnecessarily restrict us or lead us in the wrong direction altogether. Perception may not truly be reality, but when it comes to how we approach challenges and opportunities, mindset determines the world we encounter and possibilities we apprehend. Achieving the power of pull requires us to make our assumptions explicit and examine them in different contexts — testing, challenging and refining.
In her 2006 book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Stanford Professor Carol Dweck distinguishes two extremes of the mindsets people tend to have about their basic qualities:
• In a fixed mindset, “your qualities are carved in stone.” Whatever skills, talents, and capabilities you have are predetermined and finite. Whatever you lack, you will continue to lack. This fixed mindset applies not just to your own qualities, but to the qualities of others.
• In a growth mindset, “your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts…everyone can change and grow through application and experience.” Qualities like intelligence are a starting point, but success comes as a result of effort, learning, and persistence.
The distinction between fixed and growth mindsets has tremendous implications — as individuals and organizations — for how we address the growing pressures around us.
The Mindset Paradox: The greatest threat to success is avoiding failure. One of the most provocative aspects of Dweck’s work is what it says about our approach to challenges. In a fixed mindset, you avoid challenging situations that might lead to failure because success depends upon protecting and promoting your set of fixed qualities and concealing your deficiencies. If you do fail, you focus on rationalizing the failure rather than learning from it and developing your capabilities. With a growth mindset, you focus on learning and development rather than failure and actively pursue the types of challenges that will likely lead to both learning and failure. This sounds a lot like the questing disposition we have discussed previously.
Mindset profoundly shapes key business practices:
Business Ecosystems. If you have a fixed mindset, you believe that there are a finite set of smart people and valuable resources outside your company. The challenge is how to identify, connect with and mobilize them to deliver more value to the marketplace — static resources tied together in a static ecosystem. The ecosystem benefits from the network effects of adding more and more participants because more diverse capabilities are connected and accessible.
If you believe that both the resources and the ecosystem itself are dynamic, then the role of the ecosystem is not just to connect and mobilize existing resources but to build relationships that help all participants get better faster. This leads to a more powerful form of increasing returns — not just network effects but new mechanisms to accelerate learning and performance improvement — as each participant learns faster as more and more participants join the ecosystem.
Talent Management. A fixed mindset leads you to focus almost exclusively on attracting and retaining talent. The assumption: each person’s skills and capabilities are set. You will tend to devote too many resources to those with a perceived stock of knowledge and overlook (and eventually lose) employees with limited stocks but great learning potential. Worse, because you underestimate the value of learning and development, you won’t likely get the most out of those employees you do value.
With a growth mindset, you understand that individual and organizational capabilities can be cultivated and developed, to improve performance and to expand in new directions. You focus more on talent development, creating work environments and practices that enable employees, regardless of work classification, to develop new skills and to learn by working with others, by problem-solving and experimentation.
Relationship-building. A fixed mindset fosters a zero-sum view of the world: if you win, I lose. With a fixed and finite set of value, the only question is how to allocate it. This perspective fosters conflict and mistrust and, not surprisingly, relationships governed by relative power, tend to be transactional and are rigidly defined to protect each party’s share of the value.
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John Hagel III and John Seely Brown are co-chairmen of the Deloitte LLP Center for the Edge, and have written several books focused on technology and innovation. Their latest is The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion, co-authored with Lang Davison and published by Basic Books (2010).