I was watching a fantastic video on TED by Gever Tulley about 5 dangerous things you should let kids do. As I was watching it, it reminded me of a Frobes blog I read earlier this week, about the top 8 skills professionals need to master. So – take some of one and some of the other, and have yourself a strategy that will make your business succeed through your people.
I don’t consider these things to be dangerous, but what I realised as I was reading writer Kathy Caprio blog was that most organisations view most of the skills she lists as dangerous because they promote a form of individualism that the organisation can’t quantify, report on or control. I think, however, that playing with them, to quote Tulley, “teaches you a lot more than playing with Dora the Explorer toys”.
Tulley’s first dangerous thing to do was play with fire. Playing with fire, Tulley says, helps a child understand the mechanics that enable the control of one of the most elemental forces of nature.
In her blog, Caprio lists Boundary Enforcement and Work/Life Balance. Personal boundaries (that stem from self-awareness) and a work/life balance are a powerful motivator for any human being. But motivators can both create and destroy – they can give a person the energy to thrive at work, or it can deprive them to distraction. It is, I believe, an elemental force in itself.
Next on Tulley’s list is owning a pocket knife. It is the ultimate, simple multi-tool, he says, it is a spatula and a screwdriver and a blade. If you apply it by following very simple rules, you can do amazing things with it.
What is Caprio’s multi-tool? Career Management. Career management gives people the tools to shape their futures and create the reality they want for themselves. Yes, it can slip and you may get stabbed sometimes and if you use it incorrectly you are risking a lot. It is, however, the screwdriver and spatula and crowbar and blade that will make sure the next job you built is the right one. And the next one, and the one after that.
Next on Tulley’s list is throwing a spear. Tulley says that our brains are wired to throw things, and spear throwing is a rather complex task as far as tasks concerned. It requires analytical skills, predictive reasoning as well as spatial awareness. More importantly, every time you throw a spear, it strengthens the whole system that supports it (whereas if you don’t use it, the whole system will eventually stop working all together).
I would dub Decision Making and Advocating and Negotiating in Caprio’s blog to throwing a spear. Both are skills that require a lot more than simply hurtling a stick forward. Them, too, call for the use of analytical skills, predictive reasoning, spatial awareness, intelligence and emotional intelligence. If you don’t train these skills, the next time you try to throw that spear it may poke someone’s eye out. Better know how to do it right and practice it every once in a while.
Tulley recommends deconstructing appliances because it’s a great way to learn how things work, even if you don’t know how each of the components works on its own or adds to the mix.
I think that Building Relationships and Leadership are the closest to this dangerous activity, probably because I believe that leadership and relationship building are traits that are a bit like a gift or a talent: I believe all of us are born with a finite capability to lead or build relationships. No matter how much training we are given or how many books we read – there will come a point beyond which we will not be able to grow.
That doesn’t mean we should stop trying, though. Hence deconstructing. There may be parts in the DVD player called “Leadership” which contribution we don’t quite understand; just like there may be parts in the printer called “Relationship Building” that don’t quite make sense to us. But each DVD player and printer are slightly different than the next and every time we open one up, we learn something new.
Tulley has a fifth and then a “five and a half”. One is to do with breaking a rule, and the other is to do with understanding that as a person, one has more than one set of rules and behaviours when interacting with the same environment.
I link these to Caprio’s Communication. Good communicators value adaptability. They know that sometimes there will be different rules to the same game and they need to be able to continue to play it and get their message across. They will also know that sometimes, when communicating, rules need to be broken.
Each and every one of these is potentially dangerous because it can potentially leave you, as an organisation, at a loose end when an employee finds out that what you have to offer isn’t what they want.
Some might argue that these may foster an adverse working environment and culture; to which I would suggest that letting these develop themselves, un-guided, carries the exact same risk.
Imagine, though, what it would be like if you had a workforce that manages its own work/life balance, that knows its personal boundaries, that can manage their own careers, advocate for themselves and their causes, make decisions and build relationships. Not only that, they knew and did all that for themselves whilst knowing that your organisation is the best place for them.
In my book the reward far outweighs the risk.