I’ve been reading the book, “The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace”, by Ron Friedman, and was struck by this part on Google’s 20% time.
“With 20 percent time, there’s always another product in development. For Google the gambit has clearly been paying off: Gmail, Google News, Google Earth, and AdSense—an advertising vehicle that nets Google $10 billion in revenue a year—are just some of the products that were developed during 20 percent time.
Which raises the question:
Would Google be nearly as profitable if its employees sat around waiting for Larry Page and Sergey Brin to tell them what to do?” – Ron Friedman
I thought about this statement in regards to a moment I had in a session I was leading at a conference. A long time friend of mine, Beth Still, had sat down in the session (although it was not necessary for her to be there as she could have easily led the session), as I shared some ideas for empowering use of social media for both teachers and students. In my workshops, I always encourage people that if the session doesn’t work for them, they are more than welcome to leave (but not in a threatening way, more in the idea of the Edcamp model of “voting with your feet”), or they can work on things that they are interested in learning. With the world at their fingertips, and time being a very precious resource, I want people to make the best of their time that works for them, not just what I want them to learn. The only thing that I expect is that they do not infringe on the learning of others.
As I am sharing ideas, Beth is totally immersed in working with another teacher sharing and helping her through the process. They were creating a new Twitter account, a blog site, and she was fully immersed in working with someone who was extremely committed to learning. Neither of them were listening to me, and to be honest, I didn’t really care. They were getting a ton out of their time, not just the session.
The power of this was not only for the person learning from the wisdom of Beth, but Beth as will. As she gave me a ride home, she was invigorated about the experience for herself and the contagious excitement of the teacher for learning something new, and feeling empowered to go on with the learning after the fact.
Can you imagine if I asked them to “pay attention”, or even asked them to take their learning outside? I fear I would have caused deflation in both of them, for the sake of my ego, over their learning. The impact they had on one another was great to watch and I was proud of not only my friend, but also that it happened in the space that we were all working. It was great to see the after-effects of their time together.
This is something that I truly believe and shared in the book, “The Innovator’s Mindset“, when I talked about moving from a culture of compliance to empowerment (engagement is not a high enough bar in my opinion):
“Compliance does not foster innovation. In fact, demanding conformity does quite the opposite.”
People learn to wait for people to tell them what to do, because the culture dictates it, not because it is innate. Does your culture promote innovation or creativity (with actions) or does it promote compliance? If it is the latter, this will eventually trickle down to kids. We should not only prepare kids for the real world, but hopefully develop them as the leaders of today that make a better world. They won’t do this by waiting and being told what to do.