“I am young, I am British, and I love my career.”
That, is my BHAG – my big hairy audacious goal.
What is your BHAG?
If you are here, you are probably interested in that possibility of a startlingly lovable and enjoyable career. So welcome!
- If you are young, we would like to hear your stories.
- If you are British, we would like to hear about exciting opportunities that don’t get attention from the mainstream media.
- If you have thoughts on careers to die for, we want to know!
Who am I?
I am a work psychologist. I am not young, and I am not 100% British.
I have had an interesting career doing work I love – helping people coordinate their careers with the careers of other people.
I did career guidance & coaching. I’ve computerized HR departments. I’ve facilitated strategic planning for turnarounds. I’ve provided redundancy counselling. I’ve mediated pay negotiations. I’ve selected pilots and army officers. I’ve selected apprentices and executive directors for the C-suite.
All this is the glue of large hierarchical organizations. These are the systems behind the traffic lights that allow us to flow through a large organization without bashing into each other. These are the systems you only notice when they go wrong. Like Victorian children, good psychologists are seen and not heard.
Where am I going?
Work has changed though. The financial crisis is shining a spotlight on changes that have been coming for a long time. The changes were partly the cause of the crisis as well, but only because they were ignored by business leaders who didn’t understand them or willfully ignored them
Young people of today will have very different careers from my generation. Opportunities will be different.
#1 We know, for example, that most work in the west is knowledge-based or service oriented. More importantly, we are on the brink of massive discoveries in the all of the sciences. TED talks give us a leisurely and enjoyable way to keep up to date. Because science is where the future lies, if you have the opportunity for a scientific education, take it!
#2 The world has got smaller. Young people travel readily. You will also work across borders more. You will take assignments across borders and work with people all over the world using the internet. China, India, Russian and Brazil are the the countries of the future. Learn a second language! This is no time to live in mono-lingual world!
#3 The internet changes more than our scope. Facebook and Twitter may seem like play-things but they represent an important social innovation – the power to talk directly to each other. As internet thinker, Clay Shirky, says: Group action just got easier. Suddenly, large organizations are not as powerful as they once were. This is a shock to people whose career was tied up in conquering and commanding a large organization. The collapse of the newspapers and broadcast media is all over the news as I write. Importantly, younger people who grew up with Facebook, Spotify and other platforms expect direct, egalitarian interaction. They are ready for new types of organizations and they will move smoothly into the organizations that displace the old powerful hierarchies. Play on social media. Get used to it!
#4 The world has also become more respectful of the individual. As “bosses” become less relevant, so too does the Victorian notion that one person knows best. We no longer have shape ourselves in someone else’s mould. We are free to ask: what do we love to do and who wants to do it with us? Whether it is to sail around the world alone or make a new scientific discovery, we have to ask ourselves what it will take to do what we want to do. We have to take ownership of our dreams and have the courage to invest in what we believe is worthwhile. This brings responsibility as well as opportunity and the freedom, and requires skills that few of us developed in the past. We have to learn to manage ourselves and bring supporters and collaborators around us. This is true for the magnificently talented and the ordinary, the scientist and the artist, the crafts person and the sales person. Writing an engaging story is your job now! Don’t wait for someone to write it for you!
#5 And we have new ‘technologies’ blossoming in this atmosphere. Boeing is trying to build aeroplanes by making the fuselage in one place and the wings in other and bolting together the big pieces like so many pieces of Lego. Mining companies are throwing open their geological records and asking the public to find the veins of gold that they missed. We come to care about design and the experience of the user. We like to make activities playful and sociable and fun. Where obedience might have been the currency of work in days gone by, today the currency is fun. He or she who creates fun wins!
How do work & organizational psychologists contribute to these changes?
For individuals, we have a clear role in helping each one of us take charge of our dreams and to take the first rather scary steps of gathering people around us. For this, we use positive psychology and interventions like gratitude diaries. We also freely put poetry and stories to work and and encourage people to organize their stories as an epic tale using the Hero’s Journey.
When we talk about groups and organizations we are less articulate. We will bring forward many of the techniques of the past. We’ll also study the work of internet watchers like Clay Shirky. We’ll study the work of contemporary anthropologists like David Logan on Tribes.
But then we are on our own trying to figure out what new organizations will look like. What traffic lights will be needed to aid the smooth flow of people through the organization? How will we design the systems that deliver traffic lights that go on and of at the right times?
This blog is a chronicle of my thinking in that direction. It is a patchwork. In the spirit of the age, I don’t try to produce a finished product. I just write every day making notes about what I hear on the radio and read on the web. I note. I connect. And I sort. Eventually, I understand.
What a work & organizational psychologist does for you
When I understand, then I can explain.
And then I can deliver the services needed by individual performers and the managers who help them coordinate.
When they have an issue, I help them resolve it quickly with
a) A clear model to organize the questions
b) Vicarious self-efficacy through the stories of other people at a similar junction
c) Continued social support by sticking with them till they are done.
So, to work!
What are the issues of working in the 21st century? Who is taking a playful approach to their work? Where are they? And how can pursue the work we love?
Do leave comments. Only 10% of readers comment. Wouldn’t it be great if the British internet were different and 20% or 30% of people felt free to add their voice to the debate?
12 October 2009