Monthly Archives: September 2011

A Quick David Kelley-let

A few years ago I was in the habit of asking random creative leaders the question, “What should future artists and designers know?” straight onto my iPhone. I’m certain that I will lose all these recordings someday (given that my computer’s hard disk failed recently) so I will try to trickle some of them here. This is a 3-minute piece where David Kelley (co-founder of IDEO) expresses the desire for more designers to know how to communicate better with executives as their time has come to address the C-level-folks. Personally, the reason why I got my MBA was to understand “best practices”- and “quad-chart”-speak to demystify what I heard from many business colleagues, and was relieved to know we were essentially saying the same thing — just in different languages. -JM

Productively fail

Today I had my first teleconference with a new council I’ve been invited to join – the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council (GAC) on New Models of Leadership. I had previously served on the GAC on Design, and it’s interesting to be within this new space of leadership where “creativity” is usually perceived as not a norm (as it is in the design field). I’m on the council to contribute my perspective on what we can learn from art and design in leadership, and can see how I was completely wrong about how experts on leadership are adopting creativity as it pervaded our discussion today. One of the experts on entrepreneurship shared the notion of “failure” as an especially important aspect to manage for a successful entrepreneur where risks are usually enormously high. An innovative CEO shared how he requires all managers that apply to work with him to submit their “failure resume” – because he wants to evaluate their own self-awareness. I shared the art and design world perspective as voiced by Rocco Landesman, Chairman of the National Endowment of the Arts” on how artists teach us how to “productively fail” as exemplified by the critique process they learn in art school. But my absolute favorite was from a member of the council that is in the sports arena:

“Many times leaders in the public sphere are criticized for some mistake or failure as if it was the worst thing imaginable to happen. But as a coach of a hockey team I’ve learned that if you as a leader are not willing to feel any pain you are not willing to risk anything — you are not reaching high enough and far enough. I tell this to my players all the time — if they’re not failing, they’re not trying hard enough.”

The diversity of the group is incredible, and I’m looking forward to learning more. -JM

Prized Thinking

Almost ten years ago I was vacationing on Cape Cod with my family when I was reading through the obituaries (the beauty of vacation is that you can get so bored that you read absolutely all parts of the newspaper at least five times) and found this story about the late Professor Martin Deutsch. He was someone who was long reputed as having missed the opportunity during his life to win the Nobel Prize, but having done amazing things nonetheless. His attitude towards this prevailing attitude was particularly endearing:

“My attitude to prizes is peculiar, not clearly pathological but peculiar,” Deutsch wrote. “I’m really glad that I did not get the Nobel Prize in 1956. It would have spoiled my life.”

He recalled a story from when he was a child on summer vacation with his family and how his mother had entered him in a potato-sack hopping race for children. He had the chance to win, but he lost intentionally:

“I was leading. I recall that I deliberately slowed down in order to come in second. The reasons for this action were quite complex but an oversimplified description could be that I did not want to give my mother the satisfaction of saying, ‘My son, the sack race winner.'”

To be ultimately known for the quality of your work, instead of the quality of the prize for your work, seems like an elegant way to aspire to live one’s life as someone who makes things. -JM