July 28, 2009

FAIL in order to SUCCEED

I require my students to write a failure résumé. That is, to craft a résumé that summarizes all their biggest screw ups — personal, professional, and academic. For every failure, each student must describe what he or she learned from that experience. Just imagine the looks of surprise this assignment inspires in students who are so used to showcasing their successes. However, after they finish their résumé, they realize that viewing their experiences through the lens of failure forced them to come to terms with the mistakes they have made along the way and to extract important lessons from them. In fact, as the years go by, many former students continue to keep their failure résumé up-to-date, in parallel with their traditional résumé of successes.

A failure resume is a quick way to demonstrate that failure is an important part of our learning process, especially when you’re stretching your abilities, doing things the first time, or taking risks. We hire people who have experience not just because of their successes but also because of their failures. Failures increase the chance that you won’t make the same mistake again. Failures are also a sign that you have taken on challenges that expand your skills. In fact, many successful people believe that if you aren’t failing sometimes then you aren’t taking enough risks. Additionally, it is pretty clear that the ratio of our successes and failure is pretty constant. So, if you want more successes, you are going to have to tolerate more failure along the way.

This is a great video clip of Randy Komisar talking about the role of failure in success... It is a favorite on the ECorner web site.

July 26, 2009

Brainstorming Rules: What TO DO and What NOT TO DO...

These two short videos are priceless! They were created by students at the Stanford Design Institute. The first one shows how NOT to brainstorm and the second one shows HOW to do it effectively. They picked a fanciful problem to solve - saving your chewing gum when you go to class.

The worst case example happens all the time. In fact, I was at a meeting last week with people with whom I don't normally work, and we were "brainstorming" about a new program. One person made a suggestion, and someone else literally responded with, "Go shoot yourself." For anyone who has spent any time polishing their brainstorming skills, they know that the FIRST rule is to defer judgment. This was a great, real life example of how NOT to do it.

Here is a video summary of what NOT to do:

Here is a video summary of what TO DO:


- Defer judgment
- Capture all the ideas
- Encourage wild ideas
- One conversation at a time
- Build on other people's ideas
- Be visual - use words and pictures
- Use headlines to summarize ideas
- Go for volume - the more ideas the better!

July 24, 2009

The "Rule Breakers" Career Guide

The is an interview from the new BNET blog, Entry-Level Rebel. Enjoy...

Tina, what’s one widely held belief about career progress that you think young people would do well to disregard?

Most young people believe that their career path should progress at a predictable rate, with ever increasing responsibilities and compensation. That usually isn’t — and shouldn’t be — the case. I like the analogy that Carol Bartz, CEO of Yahoo!, used when she spoke at Stanford a few years ago. She said that you should look at the progress of your career as moving around and up a three dimensional pyramid as opposed to up a two dimensional ladder. Lateral moves along the side of the pyramid allow you to build a base of experience. It may not look as though you are moving up quickly, but you are gaining a foundation of skills, experience, and contacts that will prove extremely valuable later. Additionally, there are often times when you slide backward. Don’t despair: Your recovery after a failure often propels you forward more quickly than if you stayed on a linear, predictable path.

What advice would you give to a young person who has discovered that what they studied, or what they thought they wanted to do, isn’t really for them? How should they approach shifting direction?

It is both exciting and scary to make right angle turns in your career. The good news is that you continue to build your base of experience as you shift between different disciplines. I started out as a neuroscientist and assumed that I would build a career doing research. I soon learned that I was not cut out for a career behind a lab bench. During my job search I ended up getting an informational interview with a management consulting firm. My hope was that they would introduce me to some of their life-science clients. When I walked in the room I was asked how a background in neuroscience prepared me for a job in consulting. I could have told them the truth — that I hadn’t considered a job as a consultant — but decided to wing it. I outlined all the similarities between management consulting and brain research … and was offered a job later that day! I have learned again and again that the core skills needed to be successful are consistent between fields and that the more you polish those basic skills — such as communication, leadership, analysis, and creative problem-solving — the more successful you will be.

Any suggestions for young people who don’t know what they want to do or what their true passion is?

I have heard this from many young people. I believe that it is really hard to find your passions when you have always followed “the rules.” That is, when you have been programmed to do exactly what others want you to so. It makes sense that after years of responding to what others expect, that you have no idea what really drives you. This happened to me, too. In fact, I was so frustrated by always doing what others wanted me to do that soon after I started graduate school, I chose to take some time off…. I moved across the country to Santa Cruz, California, and decided to be a leaf in the wind for a while. My family was shocked and disappointed. But, in retrospect, it was one of the best things I have ever done. I was finally able to see what I wanted to do when I got up in the morning. I was able to uncover my own skills and interests. And, I was able to experiment with new things that weren’t on the prescribed path. By giving myself the space to figure out what I was passionate about, I became internally motivated — as opposed to externally motivated — and have never looked back.

What’s one practical thing the low man (or woman) on the office totem pole can do at work tomorrow to make their lives easier or better?

When you get to the office tomorrow, take a few minutes to figure out what you can do to make other people successful. Ask someone what you can do for them? It is easy to do and pays off a hundred times over. By making other people successful, you inspire them to want to make you succeed. You never know when you will need a small — or big — favor, and by paving the way by helping others, it is much more likely that others will help you when you need it most.

Your latest book is entitled What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20: A Crash Course on Making Your Place in the World. So the inevitable question: if you could go back and give your 20-year-old self just one piece of advice, what would it be?

I would tell myself that the uncertainty of life never goes away. There are always choices in front of you, challenges to overcome, and failures from which you need to recover. If you embrace the challenges and view them through the lens of possibilities, then you will not only be happier, but will be much more likely to turn the inevitable obstacles into opportunities. The world is always changing, and it is up to you to be flexible and optimistic. With a positive attitude and creative thinking, most problems can be viewed as opportunities in disguise.

July 21, 2009

What do YOU wish you knew when you were 20?

Four years ago, when he turned sixteen, it dawned on me that my son, Josh would be heading to college in only two years. I wanted to share with him what I wished I had known when I left home and when I started my career. So, I created a growing list of things I now know are critically important in making one’s place in the world. This document resided on the desktop of my computer and whenever I remembered another lesson, I added it to the list. A few months after I started this project, I was asked to give a talk to students in a business leadership program at Stanford and decided to use these insights for inspiration. I crafted a talk called “What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20,” in which I wove together these concepts with short video clips of entrepreneurial thought leaders who amplified these ideas. This talk eventually turned into a book by the same name.

My original list included things such as turn problems into opportunities, make your own luck, try lots of things and keep what works, and don't burn bridges. I invite you to add your own lessons to the list... What do YOU wish you knew when you were 20?

July 16, 2009

What is Creativity?

This six minute video clip of Stanford Professor Bob Sutton is one of the most popular on the STVP ECorner web site. Bob gives fabulous examples of the power of looking at old things in new ways, and recombining existing ideas, when trying come up with something completely new.

Five Minutes of Fame

This is a short segment from View from the Bay on ABC TV. The best part was meeting all the interesting folks in the green room.

July 15, 2009

The Art of Teaching Entrepreneurship and Innovation

If you can't find a way to come to one of my talks, or if you want a preview, you can watch the video of a talk I gave at Stanford this past May as part of our Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders seminar series. I am usually one of the hosts, but my colleagues indulged me by letting give a talk about my new book. I hope you enjoy it!

Talks coming up...

For those who are interested in the multimedia version of my book, I have a few speaking gigs coming up in San Francisco... Tomorrow night (July 16) I will be presenting a multimedia talk at an event that is co-hosted by Girls in Tech and Bay Area Women in Film and Media. The doors open at 6:30 and the event starts at 7:00 PM. Here is a link to the program information.

Also, next week (July 21) I will be speaking at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. The doors open at 5:30 and the talk starts at 6:00 PM. Details can be found here.

If you want a preview, I will be on TV on Thursday, July 16. Check out View From The Bay (ABC-7) from 3 - 4 PM. To see the entire program for that day, check out this site.