As schools explore how to educate students and prepare them for a future that we can only imagine, organizations have similar questions. How do we create a product or service to address the needs of markets that don’t exist yet and how can we develop the skills required to do this?
The focus of most organizations is on developing skills and know-how to address different scenarios. Rote memorization of facts or of the latest management theory is useless if it is not combined with the skills and empathy needed to adapt to new or uncertain circumstances. As humans, we need to think, discern, and curate rather than just memorize and consume. It’s what makes us human, differentiates us from robots, and characterizes us as creators, builders, and makers.
Enter: “The Maker Movement.” In an MIT Sloan Management Review article on makerspaces, the author states that the “maker movement is a cultural phenomenon that celebrates shared experimentation, iterative learning, and discovery through connected communities that build together, while always emphasizing creativity over criticism.” With Make: magazine and “Maker Fairs” (part county fair, part science fair, and part innovation) entering cities and shared spaces since 2005, the movement has spread. But it’s not the movement that is interesting so much as the idea of making space for humans to connect things. A leading international school once described a Makerspace as an open space, both physically and symbolically, for members of their learning community to dabble, tinker, create and learn. The space serves as a connection point for curriculum, life skills, extracurricular classes, expatriate families, corporate partners, and community members. Some schools that don’t have a physical Makerspace instill a maker mindset in their students by having resources (including time, space, and teachers) available to fit students’ study schedules.
The woodworking shops of old, a mechanic’s workroom, the coffee salons, or a child’s playroom are not too removed from these modern connection spaces. While Makerspaces are examples of connection points, other physical and symbolic spaces can also provide us the opportunity to create, connect, and learn. A technique used by some entrepreneurs is reserving a 3-hour space away from the distractions of email communications, phone calls, or “management meetings” to create. Making space for us to be human fosters a culture of learning, experimentation, and entrepreneurship. It also connects us to ourselves and to others; creating a sense of empathy with those around us and those in our organization.
Educational makerspaces typically fuse together different curricula or subject areas such as computer science, design, art, engineering, mathematics, communications thereby promoting cross functional learning and practical application. Tinkering and “making” are powerful ways to learn and connect with others. Makerspaces in cities, universities, and organizations are inclusive spaces that communicate philosophies like “tinker, design and create together.” They represent examples of making space for humans by harnessing our need for play, for exploration, and for creation.
Defining such spaces – whether physically or metaphorically – can build confidence in questioning or rethinking the status quo; they connect opposing models to create something new or innovative. Pablo Picasso is known for his originality and pioneering the Cubism movement, a revolutionary style of modern art that Picasso formed in response to the rapidly changing modern world. His studio was a space overflowing with creativity. Nevertheless, a lesser known side of Picasso is that he also mastered traditional painting. He was a Master and an Innovator; two characteristics of some of the most prolific thinkers of our age. Roger Martin in Opposable Mind: How Successful Leaders Win Through Integrative Thinking (2007) describes opposing models as “the richest source of new insight into a problem.” When we combine opposing thoughts and questions from different areas, or when we combine Mastery with a relentless sense for exploration and learning, we are connecting otherwise disparate ideas that can generate phenomenal outcomes.
I have heard it said that learning from things yet to happen is key to strategic resilience. For this to happen, there must be a space for learning and making. An organization that learns is able to grow and adapt by connecting new ideas, concepts or innovations. The keen learners of knowledge are respectful of both scholars and craftsmen (makers) and therefore see their organizations as learning organizations. They make space for connections between ideas, people, and actions.
Peter Drucker in “Management and the World’s Work” published in Harvard Business Review (1988) stated that it is “also management’s job to enable the enterprise and each of its members to grow and develop as needs and opportunities change. This means that every enterprise is a learning and teaching institution. Training and development must be built into it on all levels—training and development that never stop.”
All inventions and movements start somewhere. And great innovations start with addressing a “job to be done” by combining different pieces and solutions. Whether in the office, outside, or in a Makerspace, we need opportunities to learn by doing, and spaces to do this in, if we are to prepare members of our society to address the needs and jobs of tomorrow.
Several months ago I took a productivity course. It was a well intentioned effort to improve productivity by learning the processes and best practices of the world’s most productive people.
As a writer and observer, I learnt much more. I learnt about the “maker” and “manager” schedule. I learnt about the importance of scheduling time for creativity and writing. I learnt about establishing a discipline in doing certain things that would eventually turn into routine or habit.
My promise at the end of the course was one related to gratitude. I wanted to establish the practice of being grateful and therefore I proposed to chose one person in my LinkedIn network to thank every Friday.
Despite my greatest of efforts I didn’t manage to meet my goal (yet!). But it did have surprising consequences and helped me be more aware of gratitude in general.
In a world of “me” it is nice to be grateful and to express gratitude – whether or not it is part of a habit forming exercise or not.
Thank you to you – my blog followers – for years of reading, of support and of encouraging me to explore the next market or horizon.
I am truly grateful.
Spoon feeding in the long run teaches us nothing but the shape of the spoon.
– E. M. Forster
The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new. – Socrates
Aristotle said “Where your talents and the needs of the world cross; there lies your vocation.”
This statement applies just as much to one’s profession as to one’s purpose. It crosses real and perceived work and personal boundaries. It applies to organizations as well as people. It ties to a purpose where others can thrive and grow. What you produce has merit; has purpose; helps fulfill the needs of another.
A few months ago I met Sara an artisan bread maker. She loves making bread and takes pride in her creations. She tests new processes, times, temperatures and ingredients. She is extremely good at what she does; making bread. She is extremely good at filling a need; making wholesome creations that help people feel special, loved and cared for. She makes bread that fills our bellies as much as our souls.
The “market” may be saying that people buy bread from factories and where and when it is convenient for them; or maybe that the business purpose of small ventures should be to be acquired and to grow. To sell as much as they can. To make a profit or to make a million more of something.
But there is a group of clients and friends that crave this particular bread maker’s creations. A tribe of people that don’t want to buy bread the “usual” way, and that waits for the next iteration of the barley loaf or multigrain sourdough.
Her work, her art, her talent and her passion collide with an unwavering need. It may be a niche market, an unconventional need, but it exists and it is important.
When you find your talent and where it fits in the world, hold onto it; although it may take on many forms, locations and iterations, it is what truly makes us unique and human. It is your gift. Your bread. Your purpose.
I took a month long hiatus from blogging to travel, write and explore some options for professional change in 2018. It was refreshing to see different landscapes and experience a glimpse into what major change looks like.
I am back in Quito; writing from my home in sunny Tumbaco where my laptop sits surrounded by the beautiful green mountain and blue Quiteno sky.
Experiencing different perspectives is always enriching. It helps educate and embolden us to think differently and make unexpected connections between things.
Moving forward, I am thirsty for change – not for the sake of change in itself but rather for how it exposes us to different perspectives; encouraging us to find better problems to solve.
I spent the holidays at home in Quito, Ecuador this year. I read, I wrote and I learned some really interesting things through in person conversations and online courses. In short, I became a little wiser as I rang in the new year! I share 3 nuggets of wisdom that represent my first post of 2018. May the new year bring you health, connections and opportunities to be present!
Health is the basis for growth.
In all aspects, staying healthy is preferable to dealing with health consequences after the fact. This applies just as much to organizations as to personal physical health. Health is a smart medium/long term strategy.
Connections are gold.
Connections create opportunities that would otherwise not exist. After posting a note about this on LinkedIn last week, I received an overwhelming response from people (some connections, some not) all over the world. Connectors connect interests resulting in value creation and problem solving. Without connections (and the platforms and people that connect), innovation and growth would not be possible. Blockchain (and distributed ledger) provide some interesting opportunities for transparency, connection and efficiencies.
Being responsible means you are response – able.
Even if we are trained to blame others or the weather or some third party when faced with something we are unable to accomplish, doing so means that we are giving up our ability to provide a solution or “own” the situation. Taking responsibility even when other factors played a significant part, means we are “response-able”; a great takeaway from philosopher Fred Kaufman.