Friday, September 25, 2009

Systemic thinking and… resumes… markets… processes… and innovation…

When one thinks of say Benjamin Franklin, what are we thinking about? What comes to mind? A few possible answers, in no particular order:

+ the person on the hundred dollars bill
+ a printer from Philadelphia before and during the US independence war years
+ the editor of the famed “Poor Richard’s Almanac”
+ the person with the interesting kite electricity experiment, inducted into the UK Royal Academy of Sciences without having asked to be
+ an inventor of a stove he never patented, since he was against diminishing access of the potential beneficiaries of the stove to its benefits (heating, i.e. improvements in quality of life)
+ the person who facilitated (‘recruited’ really may be a better word) the arrival of Baron Friedrich von Steuben at Valley Forge under George Washington’s command of the early and yet very much untrained Union Army (von Steuben helped train it, which contributed much to the “forging” of a true army, and thus to the later emergence of the new Union victorious against the much better trained initially British professional army)
+ the early winner of a first in kind US government contract to print exclusively early “federal money” (as little power said money had compared to the much more valued and circulated British pound)
+ a lover and follower of Socrates, and promoter of his precepts and methods
+ the “inventor” of voluntary fire-fighting companies
+ the “inventor” of the free public library in the US
+ the person who established University of Pennsylvania
+ reputed founding father of the US, and signatory of the Declaration of Independence
+ the name of many avenues, bridges and places in Philadelphia
+ the name of the Philadelphia “Benjamin Franklin Institute, a great Science and Technology hands on museum

There would probably be many more answers… but who was truly Benjamin Franklin during his time?

I would propose as food for thought an even more interesting question: what about in our times? If Benjamin Franklin needed a job today, and was applying for one, what would his resume say? What would his chances to get a job be? And what kind of a job?

One can picture the interview process, if he ever got to one…

What is your area of expertise?

You seem a bit lost… let us try a few helping questions…

Education… you seem to have none. We may have some serious trouble here. Maybe you should be seeing a career counselor. They can help you with looking at what degrees may be good for you to grow your career. There are so many programs today available to you, adapted for non-traditional students to get them back to and through college. Ah, wait a second, you haven’t completed highschool. There are those programs too…

… you say you can compensate lack of education with experience. I don’t know about that… But you seem determined… let’s see then…

Sales… Do you have any sales experience? Any major company you have worked for in sales? What was your rate of meeting quotas?

Marketing. What is your marketing experience? Did you work for any major firms? What ratios/percentages of improved market penetration did you achieve? Who can we get references from to confirm these figures?

Branding? What major players in branding have you worked for? Are you “branding specialist” certified?

Printer? Who prints these days anymore? All the newspapers are dying. But, have you had any experience with major newspapers? The NY Times, the Boston Globe? Maybe we could try and fit you in with a small postcards and stationary print shop, but you will need to get certified…

And it could go on like this…

What would the first line on the resume say? Would it be maybe something like this:

Benjamin Franklin
Good to everything and not good to anything

Let us not forget some of the answers we didn’t yet include above.

Benjamin Franklin was also:

+ the “inventor” of mass marketing (in print—fitted to time)
+ a pioneer in applying systemic thinking to small business problem solving (avoiding mud on streets by hiring a street sweeper and improving the rain water collection system would have a major beneficial effect on maintaining customers flow on the street during rainy days, whereas without these process improvements there was little if any business on the street during and/or after bad weather), much before there was/were (a) fancy name(s) for it
+ a pioneer in small business coaching
+ a pioneer in ethics in business practice, and thus in customer empowerment vis-à-vis businesses
+ a potential “early adopter” of a book written many years later, Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”.

Would this help him in his (mental experiment) “interview” process today? Transferable skills? We wonder…

While we ponder on that question, another few forgotten “definitions” are:

+ a reach resource of know how in today’s world
+ someone who is by far not sufficiently well studied and/or understood in schools and universities or training programs today. Less than 10 % of specialty/majors university students in 2008 in a university in the Greater Philadelphia area have read by/about Benjamin Franklin in either highschool/college. Out of those 10 %, less than 20 % could give any more than three definitions about who Franklin was/is out of those listed above. This represents under 2 % from total—but this is from a self-filtered pool/sample. What would the figure look like if calculated from a representative random sample of actual total population?

What are these facts telling us about the labor market today? About what systemic critical thinking would teach us if we looked thoroughly enough at analyzing systematic talent scouting, promotion and development in the environment we live in? What does this do to our ability to optimally utilize resources, primarily intellectual capital? What does it say about (forget renewed, just maintained) innovation capacity of humankind? And what can we do about all the (sources of) bottlenecks we would identify once we look at things seriously?

[Source for most of the proposed answers above is in part Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography, freely available here:

Maybe this could be a must read before one goes on to buy say Stephen Covey’s “Seven (then eight) Habits”, and so many other modern well praised books]

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