Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Who picks up trash lying on the floor?

A "rare responsible person", according to Netflix's HR team, the kind of person they look for, along with "self-motivating", "self-aware", "behaves like a business owner". You have to bring in the right people for your company and the job. It's very difficult to create an open trusting culture, one where rules are limited, when there are people in the organization looking for loopholes. And we want a low-rule workplace because we want people to think and for that people have to be treated like adults. People have to be free to make common sense decisions about when to start and end work, when to take a day off, and when a project should be dumped to make room for something better. Managers and leaders cannot and should not be babysitting.

Most intelligent dedicated people chafe under the constraints companies tend to place on employees to prevent the few who cannot be trusted from taking advantage of the company. Yet, as an instructor, I find myself loading up on rules and requirements because every semester some student finds some way to use the creative freedoms I put in place to serve his own ends -- to demand a grade he really hasn't earned, to demand less rigorous learning, to nibble away at the integrity of the learning objectives. How can I strip away the requirements I've put in over the years so that I can get back to the creative freedom necessary for my students -- and me! -- to bring our authentic selves to class and to free our minds for learning?

Can I teach to the "6"? I once heard a singer say that she used to feel demotivated when she sang in nightclubs --she'd be on stage singing her heart out and most of the people would be talking over her, drinking, laughing. What was the point, she thought, in giving it her all when she was just background noise? A human radio. Then her grandfather advised, "sing to the six" -- there are 6 people out in that audience listening. Sing to them. She was able to renew her love of singing.

I need to teach to the 6, and not let those who seek an easy "A" derail my method. Netflix hasn't had any problems laying off people who don't produce at a high level; no one has sued and remaining employees report that they appreciate working in a place that doesn't hang on to deadwood. Can't fire a student, though. And sometimes it seems you can't even give them a B. What happens when the B-students who scream they want an A get fired? I wonder? I'd bet they don't get hired by the Netflix's of the world.

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