Thursday, July 25, 2013

Survival Hints for Young Creative Weirdos

I love the title of this post.  It is a snippet from a brilliant article I found over the weekend titled, "Hey, Kid: Thoughts For The Young Oddballs We Need So Badly" by Linda Holmes.

Now I don't want to go so far as to making it seem like the world is full of hipsters (those who are different for the sake of being different which in turn makes them all alike...), but I do firmly believe that our culture is really beginning to celebrate the oddities that make us all unique.  And one of the side effects of embracing this diversity is unlocking restrictions on creativity, or things that at one point may have been considered taboo.

The key, which is covered in a just a few points in the article which I'll highlight below, is making sure that people (young, old, and those in between) know that it is OK to be different and think outside the box.

So here are the points from Holme's article with a Navy spin...

Don't confuse what people are getting with what people want

Never settle for "that's the way we've always done it".  Navy leadership will change at the moment you catch your breath from the previous change.  Two to three year tours do not offer much time to get comfortable.  And it does take some time to move from observer to follower to doer to complainer to leader.  If you don't understand why a process or product is working the way it is, good chance is that others have that same question.

Maybe the process once upon a time worked well and something got lost in translation during the turnover for the producer or customer.

Maybe the product isn't being used as it was intended.

Maybe someone put together a useless product just so they could write something on their FITREP...

Whatever the case may be (and maybe you won't ever understand why), there is always time to inspect and adapt.

And one other thought ... higher rank does not always correlate to "SME-ness".  Sometimes you may want to suggest to your superiors what they want.  And with that, listen with open ears to your juniors.

Learn the difference between feedback and criticism

I like the perspective Holme's gives in her article...
Feedback is primarily for you, criticism is primarily not
As a leader, feedback and criticism both have prominent places for the betterment of our Navy.  The highly important objective to always keep in mind, regardless whether the audience is the subject or not, is to keep it constructive.

As a follower, feedback and criticism, again, both have prominent places for the betterment of our Navy.  But there is a focus priority.  Constructive feedback > Constructive criticism > Non-constructive anything.  We are playing semantics here a little bit, but constructive feedback is being tailored to you as almost as a mentor/protege relationship, where constructive criticism is more for the masses.

I will differ slightly from Holme's advise on feedback/criticism that is not constructive.  Do not ignore it.  Learn to handle it.  Grow thicker skin.  Don't take yourself so seriously. Understand where it is coming from and make it constructive in your own mind.  But take it.  Whether from the content or from learning how to emotionally handle it, you will be better off.

Get to know pod theory

This is your JOPA for us Junior Officers.  This is your Coalition of the Doing.  This is your circle of trust.  A win for one is a win for all.  Don't abuse it.

Do a lot

Favorite advise from the column, do a lot.  How can you relate, how can you understand, how can you fail, how can you succeed ... without many iterations?  This inspect and adapt loop we talked about above in "getting vs. want" won't happen if you don't start moving forward.  A kid doesn't learn to walk by just watching others do it, they have to put one foot in front of the other, fall over, and try it again.

How can you understand how to be an Information Warfare Officer if all you ever touch is Cyber?

Read a lot.  Discuss a lot.  Brief a lot.  Dare I say... volunteer a lot.

You may well make your first — and best — art from the things you most wish wouldn't happen

From doing a lot, you are bound to have a multitude of experience you both enjoyed and despised.  But you do learn from every single experience.

This "art" in the context of Navy leadership is the results of your leadership.  I've been told there is an art and a science to being a Navy Officer.  The science is easy, it is doing what we talked about above, checking the boxes.  The art is a little more complex.  It is how you handle and do what we talked about above.  You have to be able to sell yourself.

People won't listen to someone they don't respect, no matter how valid their opinions are.

People will avoid you if you are not approachable and you may miss out on opportunities.

People won't seek out your opinions if they don't know you or your knowledge in a particular area exists.

A painting will never be considered a masterpiece if it remains in the artist's studio, no matter how well it is maintained.

All that said (yes it turned into a long post), I hope we can continue to celebrate the unique interests and traits of individuals, because what good is a team if everyone is the same?


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