Tuesday, December 22, 2009

An Officer and a Creative Man

I found similar mindsets ...
[19 December 2009 - New York Times - Op-Ed by Mark Moyar - h/t Dan Pink] ... The American corporals and privates who traverse the Afghan countryside today are not at issue. They risk life and limb every day, with little self-pity. Despite the strains of successive combat deployments, they keep re-enlisting at high rates. The problems lie, rather, in the leadership ranks. Although many Army and Marine officers in Afghanistan are performing well, a significant portion are not demonstrating the vital leadership attributes of creativity, flexibility and initiative. In 2008, to better pinpoint these deficits, I surveyed 131 Army and Marine officers who had served in counterinsurgency operations in Iraq or Afghanistan or both, asking them each 42 questions about leadership in their services. The results were striking. More
... in a group of individuals working on graduate degrees in homeland security. Many of them come from, or currently work in, the military or law enforcement. Most of them were strong, hands-on implementers -- doers, who like to try things out and get things done. These, indeed, are necessary skills for doing such work.

However, there were very few individuals in that group with strengths in identifying problems to solve and seeing new opportunities to pursue. Nor were there many in the group with strengths in defining problems in new ways, seeing the big picture and putting ideas together in new combinations. (There is a shortage of these people in many types of organizations, by the way.)

The good thing about such insights, and those mentioned in the New York Times op-ed above, is that by identifying the mindsets of work teams we can intentionally improve how these groups work together. This can include hiring people with complementary strengths and skills, or being deliberate in the existing group to address gaps in thinking. If we want more-creative, more-risk-taking, more-flexible, more-adaptable, more-open people in schools, the military, the government, and business, then we need to be teaching the art of creative thinking in schools and organizations. These are skills that we can both teach and learn, as has been demonstrated starting in the 1950s by people such as educator E. Paul Torrance.

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