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Alicia Blain

Entries tagged with “USA Today”.


In today’s USA Today, an article titled:  College offers scholarship for Twitter ‘essay’   written by Luke Kerr-Dineen and Natalie DiBlasio caught my attention.  The University of Iowa held a contest worth $37,000 – the price of a full scholarship to their business school – for prospective students to submit a Twitter entry in place of a second essay.  That means that students would have to get pretty creative with 140 words in order to win the contest.

I thought that was a great example of the type of experimentation that is needed today in both universities and corporations.  As usual, the article highlighted the voice of some detractors that were not in agreement with the experiment.  I find that to be the typical reaction that plagues the leadership in many organizations today.  It’s the need to hold on to the “tried and true” instead of the “trial and error”.

Is it just me or does anyone else question  the intensive focus that is placed on the essay part of the college/MBA applicaiton process by most parents today.  Every one of my Boomer friends who has had a child apply for college has been intimately involved in the application process. Some of them more so than their children. Some have hired professional writers and editors to “review” (read redo) the essays their children prepare.  Most have spent countless hours perfecting the essays.  As Jodi Schafer, the University of Iowa’s director of MBA admission says, this intense focus on the essays has made them “unoriginal and often highly edited”.  I couldn’t agree more.

Doing something creative like the University of Iowa’s MBA program  is doing has 2 advantages:

  1. It gets people comfortable with trial and error.  The University of Iowa had no idea whether this experiment would work or not but you can be assured that going through it will give them a ton of ideas and ways to perfect it the next time or do something different.  They didn’t let the risk of failure stop them.  More universities and companies need to adopt that way of thinking if innovation is going to thrive in the future.
  2. It utilizes 21st Century tools.  Instead of relying on contest tools that were used in the past, the University decided to use the twentysomethings tool of choice to challenge them. After all, these are the tools this generation is comfortable with and will undoubtedly keep using as they get older.  As organizations bring in twentysomethings and begin to tackle the challenge of grooming them to be 21st Century leaders, they will need to get creative in how to employ these tools.  Shutting them down and prohibiting their use may not be the optimum reaction to effectively embracing innovation in the form of new tools.

It’s refreshing to read about how some universities are finding creative ways to deal with the challenge of adapting to the 21st Century.   The article highlighted other creative ways organizations are using social media in contests to help students find funding alternatives for college. It’s a win-win for both the students and the organizations that choose the scary path of experimentation.

What about you?  What new ideas are you trying in the workplace today?  Are you holding on to the tried and true or venturing into the trial and error?  Take a page from the University of Iowa: don’t just think outside the box.  Throw it out and see what new idea takes its place.

Like most people,  I can’t help but admire the creativity, imagination and innovative spirit of Steve Jobs.  Time and time again, he comes up with wonderful disruptive ideas that create a future we would have never imagined. In addition, he has an uncanny ability to spot trends and predict future outcomes before anyone can see them. 

I bring this up because I was reading the USA Today highlights this weekend when I came across Ed Baig’s and Brett Molina’s Technology Live update  where they recap Steve Job’s kickoff at the recent D8 Tech Conference.   He was talking about the IPad and the future of the tablets.  In doing so he made a great analogy. He said that in the future, the desktops and laptops would be perceived very much like trucks:  they will be around and have “some” value.  He clearly believes that tablets will be the wave of the future and acknowleded that talking about a post-PC era makes a lot of people feel ”uncomfortable”.

That got me thinking about today’s leaders and how they are leading our 21st Century organizations.  The future focused leaders are understanding that many factors are coming together to create a perfect storm of change in leadership.  They are struggling with what that change entails because there is no road map, no guiding principles to follow. Nonethesless they are choosing to disrupt and challenge their existing leadership styles to be more effective going forward.  Whether it’s shadowing their young staff or creating Pair & Share programs with other business units to break down those pesky corporate silos or trying their hand at social media, they understand that management experimentation is necessary to fuel innovation to lead effectively in the future.  They are taking baby steps and learning as they go.  In doing so, they are reshaping the leadership principles that will be needed in the 21st Century.

Like the PC,  legacy management principles have been valuable in the past and were innovative in many ways.   But like  the convergence of so many technologies have paved the way for the IPAD, the corporate world has dramatically changed over the years and this requires a shift in leadership thinking.  As Steve Jobs says, it’s uncomfortable to think about a world without PCs . For many leaders it’s uncomfortable to think that what worked in the past won’t continue to do so in the future. But in both cases, it’s going to happen.

So as a leader, do you want to be like a truck that has “some” value in the future or do you want to be invaluable by paving the way for leadership change in the 21st Century?  I’m rooting you’ll want to be the latter.  The future leaders that are in their 20s & 30s today need you to be also.