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Shaping experiences and the WHY

Do you ever consider WHY you do what you do? Really take a moment to reflect on what shapes your beliefs & ways of working? If you wonder why that's such an important question I strongly recommend looking up one of the most popular TED talks of all time, the one from Simon Sinek.

Below I'll share my background story about change and leadership including two dramatically different experiences in education. It's the Why I once started Remember the Talent.

Why Remember the Talent?! I am a millennial who has to deal with constant change.

Born in 1982 – according to some definitions anyway – I am an early millennial. It is said that my cohort will soon become the largest in the work force. Futurists say this "generation Y" will have had 14 different employers by the age of 38 with up to 5 jobs at the same time. 80% of the jobs essential for the economy in 2030 do not exist today. Just an impression of our environment and economy rapidly changing.

"It is not the strongest of the species, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change." Charles Darwin

To face future challenges I believe we need all the talent and life long learning skills (creativity, critical thinking, entrepreneurship etc.) we can get. It calls for individual leadership and collective social impact.

Adapting to change - for me, professionals, entrepreneurs, managers – starts with knowing and leading ourselves; seeing and, when necessary, breaking our own patterns to constantly learn and grow. Fully embrace our talents. Only then, are we able to lead a team, a company or any other collective towards the unknown future.

I love to work together with teams, entrepreneurs, and managers to create more awareness of personal styles, beliefs and behaviours and the impact on others. By experimenting and reflecting we add to our skill-repertoire and increase sensitivity, flexibility and collaboration. The ultimate goal is to adjust to change quickly and improve creativity and decision making capability on a collective level. Again: very much needed considering future developments.

How to deal with constant change? Two shaping early experiences in education…

In my professional development I am highly inspired by thought leaders such as sir Ken Robinson who has taken thinking about education and continuous learning to the next level. Before I had ever seen his TED talk however, I worked at two very different schools during college. In this practice field I experienced what works and doesn’t work when it comes to learning and leadership. it fundamentally shaped my views and beliefs.

One school I worked at was an expensive private school. Children at this secondary school were mostly sent by their upper class parents to get the highest degree possible (VWO) via the fast route. However, most of these students had problems with concentrating, sitting still, preparing for exams. They had many other talents but there was no room for those. At the time, I wasn’t really aware of labels such as ADHD, dyslexia or autism and that probably wouldn’t have made a big difference. It was one of the hardest times I ever had – especially because of the parents and their high expectations. These children would have the most expensive things, would be brought to school by taxi yet often lacked attention and love. All we were focused on at school was preparing for tests, very unmotivating. I remember one time a student got violent with me out of pure frustration. I couldn’t blame him.

The management wouldn’t respond to my questions or suggestions. Complaining teachers got fired. Very ‘industrial age’ really – a reminder of a time when a top-down hierarchy in the fabrics was the only way to efficiently bring knowledge and information across. It might not surprise you: this school no longer exists.

The other school I worked at, was a more practice-oriented ROC with a rich diversity of students from all sorts of cultural backgrounds. This ROC was at the border of discovering more experiential, competence-oriented learning. As a team we received the invitation of the leadership to try new ways of teaching. The message: ‘we don’t know what works best, you as teachers and students probably do and we trust you.’ As a result we took the opportunity to build on what these students already liked and knew by creating ‘practices’ in which they could develop their talents at home, at work or at any place outside of school. A student who was talented in taking care of others and had artistic interests would have a different self-created assignment than the one who would lighten up diving into mathematics or scientific facts. We used less and less books and traditional tests. Grades were a combination of self-assessments, 360 feedback and our observations during class. To sum up: our approach became more and more interactive and exploratory, just as our leadership approached us as team. I was able to learn quickly and truly loved it!

How are these two very different experiences relevant in my work now?

3 strong beliefs and 3 levels of change

1. I need to fully build on the knowledge and talent within the group. It is the only way to stimulate creativity, critical thinking and continuous learning skills.

2. I want to Lead by example in the way the leadership at the ROC did.

3. I see how different levels of interaction are relevant so always look at the system as a whole. Just consider how in the secondary school: parents, students, teachers, the management all influenced each other as an ecosystem of distrust, hierarchy and lack of personal attention. To change this was not just a matter of changing school policy or the teachers.

The last insight is one of the main reasons I choose to work on 3 different fields, regularly at the same time:

  • Personal leadership, on subjects like self awareness, personal effectiveness, impact on others, next generation leadership.

  • Team spirit, on themes such as team roles, collaboration, team dynamics or (more) autonomous, multidisciplinairy teams.

  • Organisational impact, for example: future thinking (vision and scenarios), innovation, strategizing, entrepreneurship.

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