The Serendipitous Career Path

At the NFAIS 2017 Annual Conference Program, Judith Russell, Dean of University Libraries at the University of Florida, referred to her career path as the result of serendipity. I found this fascinating and refreshing at the same time.

We live in a world where children are commonly asked, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" and where college students (and their parents!) often stress over what major to pursue, and where employees are yearly asked, "Where do you see yourself in 5 years and what are your goals to get there?"

Additionally, take into consideration and combination the career advice I've received in my life. "Work hard and you'll get noticed and promoted," said my baby-boomer parents. "You will master any skill with 10,000 hours of practice," said one of my mentors, highlighting a 1993 psychology paper popularized by Malcolm Gladwell's book "Outliers." (That's about 5 years of focused practice, by the way!) "Focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses," says Tom Rath in "Strength Finders." And "Follow your passion," supposedly taught to every Millennial (fyi, I'm not technically a Millennial).

All the sudden, I feel like an angst-filled, rebellious teen. Stop telling me what to do! Stop asking me so many questions! I don't know! Sorry, I digress.

Debate and Playing Nice

At any company where small scrum teams operate, the typical buzzwords are teamwork, collaboration, commitment, cross-functional, and self-managed. (Bleh!, buzzwords.) But what about tension, disagreement, conflict, and debate?
"What we need is collaboration where tension, disagreement, and conflict improve the value of the ideas, expose the risks inherent in the plan, and lead to enhanced trust among the participants. It’s time to change your mindset about conflict. Let go of the idea that all conflict is destructive, and embrace the idea that productive conflict creates value. If you think beyond the trite clich├ęs, it’s obvious: Collaborating is unnecessary if you agree on everything. Building on one another’s ideas only gets you incremental thinking. If you avoid disagreeing, you leave faulty assumptions unexposed."
Remember when I wrote about asking "Why?" in a previous post? Well, that's why you ask why, to solve the right problems, build better products, and nurture stronger teams. Debate is important, healthy, needed. Bring it!
Now, I'm not saying that you should go into all your standups, grooming sessions, and retrospectives ready for battle, ready to pounce on the first thing you disagree with. There's still a grace to introducing disagreement and starting a healthy debate on a topic.
After years of intensive analysis, Google discovered the key to good teamwork: being nice! And that involves the concept of “psychological safety,” a model of teamwork in which members have a shared belief that it is safe to take risks and share a range of ideas without the fear of being humiliated.
"Google’s data-driven approach ended up highlighting what leaders in the business world have known for a while; the best teams respect one another’s emotions and are mindful that all members should contribute to the conversation equally. It has less to do with who is in a team, and more with how a team’s members interact with one another."
Wait, I have to be nice to everybody I work with? Yes, you need to be respectful, empathetic, and start with "the benefit of the doubt" in mind.
Luckily, my colleagues engage in healthy debate while everybody plays nice. Which is important because, 'The Rise of AI Makes Emotional Intelligence More Important.'