Intergenerational Insights of a Contemporary Educator

Monday, November 20, 2017

I teach many different generations of people new software, which is an incredible learning opportunity for anyone. What I have found is that different age groups of learners respond postitively to different teaching methods. I find that younger learners, aged at about 18-25 tend to value their free time so much that, if instructors use it as leverage to learn, they respond extremely well. They hesitate to reach out for one-to-one learning, but excel when given the opportunity to learn on their own time.

My approach to teaching these individuals is rooted in giving them their space and the privacy they need to internalize content through their own volition. I teach creative software, requiring hours of live demos in class. Young learners of this generation find this style boring. They value free time so much that they would rather check their email or work than follow a live demo in class. Understandably so, the last thing these leaners, and any learner for that matter, want to do is sit in a dark room and be guided through a software demo. After a demo, don't bother asking, "Are there any questions?" Young learners will rarely ask anything after a demo, because they haven't faced any challenges yet. They typically want the instructor to stand by and be ready to help while they work individually from the privacy of their own laptops.

To close the loop between demos and time outside of class for these young people I began recording my live demos from class and sharing them online. This accomplishes a few things. One, it gives students the content in a format they could go back and review in a place and at a time they feel most comfortable learning. This is something I wish my instructors had the capability for me as a student but the technology just wasn't there yet. Second, it helps them develop questions on their own time, so they can solve more targeted problems when they have access to me in person. This increases efficiency for their individualized work schedules. Third, it gives them the opportunity to review class content as many times as they need in order to completely understand it. This is a much different learning style than individuals that are in the 40-55 year old age group.

Older learners respond well to learning content through one-to-one attention. For these individuals, it is all about patience and making yourself available as an instructor. In either age group the teacher needs to develop an approachable energy, but this is especially important for the older learner. Teach this learner not through demonstration followed by the assignment of a task, but coaching them through the process as they maintain full control of their computer or mobile device while you watch. This builds a level of comfort with new software for these users and reduces the intimidation factor, helping to maintain focus on learning the concepts.

This group is the opposite of the younger generation in that they don't want you to give them their space. Essentially, the core difference here is that the younger group values freedom in their education while the older group values control in their education.

The only other group I haven't talked about are my peers, ages 26-39. This is a group I do not have a great deal of experience teaching, but know from my own experience of being a learner of this generation, that I learn best by being challenged to find solutions to problems. Not having a defined solution and learning through experimentation is the way my generation seems to learn best. At least that is how I do. We might be something of a life hack generation so learning for us seems to take the form of working together.

Grandma Dot's Words of Wisdom

Saturday, October 7, 2017

I picked up dinner from Crossroads Pizza, a local establishment not too far from where I live. While completing my order I noticed a piece of paper taped to the wall titled, Grandma Dot's Words of Wisdom. I found the bullet points written were nothing short of brilliant and spoke directly to the mindset required in cultivating a culture of growth in business. Here is what it said:

  1. It takes months to find a customer but only seconds to lose one
  2. Customer service is not a department, it's an attitude
  3. If we don't take care for our customer someone else will
  4. Service does not come from a manual it comes from the heart

Perseverance Will Fix What is Broken

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Teams are complicated and building relationships with colleagues to grow professionally is so important. I always like to take every opportunity to learn as much as I can from others and do what I can to share whatever knowledge I have picked up from other mentors along the way. Everyone has something to teach so long as there is someone willing to learn.

Being a college level instructor for a younger generation of students is truly an educational experience for me. If find interesting nuances between how this generation of creative professionals approaches learning as we study in the evening two days a week. I am incredibly blessed to have an opportunity like that. Eager to learn and driven by opportunity, they are hard working, dedicated, and full of promise. During the work week, I serve an industry that focuses on educating an older generation of learners. These professionals hold MD and PhD degrees from the most world renowned cancer research institutions and medical universities in the world. This is an inspiring group as well, as they are incredibly well-accomplished and are truly driven to make the impossible; possible.

So in the economic environment we are in, how do these qualities translate to professional work environments? I can tell you what I have taken away from my experiences and interactions with these different groups professionally over time. To do so, it helps me to develop a hierarchy of professional roles to executive leadership and management roles.

For effective executives, attributes tend to be geared towards the drive to find understanding. I would say that these qualities would include:

  1. Patience
  2. Courage
  3. Heart
  4. Curiosity
  5. Character

Effective managers show qualities that are driven by process understanding. These would include:

  1. Dependability
  2. Consistency
  3. Ethics
  4. Creativity
  5. Skill

Perhaps there is something in me that would like to take this complex world we live in and figure out the best way to segment it into demographics, measurements, and data. But if I was to look at the base-line I created for myself to map common qualities that are different between managers and executives as I am doing above, I could come to the conclusion that hard-coded skills like that of an effective manager and human-coded skills like that of an effective executive come down to possessing survival characteristics – like perseverance. It forces us to approach life not to win, but to show up another day.

Creativity Changed the Supply Chain

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Supply and demand is at the core of how value is built through brand equity in the market. In a national business climate it's all about mutual interests and working within the rules of a fragile capitalist ecosystem. But the last decade has brough the U.S. worker into an international business arena and things are different; no? One could argue, yes. What if business was about connecting with people now – on their terms. What if businesses were driven by a work environment that is defined by giving service to the vision of many individuals. One would say it is, and that is the work required of building a culture. In essence, the business model of capitalism, once thought would negatively impact our own humanity, is actually becoming a force to save it through the empowerment of self expression, or art.

That is because creativity is the skill that is most valued globally when considering how people build a corporate vision and culture in a business climate that reaches across nations. It requires constant learning and adjustment in the persistent work of understanding. Businesses like to seek solutions to get better results, more cost-effectively. So do creatives.

The nature of creativity is to serve – which is the driver of its value. This mindset is not easily interpreted on its surface. Because service can take many forms, the key to providing great service is the ability to manage a hierarchy of priorities to achive a vision efficiently. That ability to manage hierarchy is what makes brilliant artwork. An artist will look to hue, line, form, contrast, value (lightness and darkness), and other aesthetic elements to bring visual balance to a piece. Professional creative management.

If one believes that the most valuable component of a brand is the intellectual property it creates to communicate to the market and survive against competing brands for a customer, then the creative management of intellectual property is essential to an efficient supply chain.

America's Got Talent

Thursday, August 11, 2017

The news will sometimes make you think that the world can be summed up in a box. I understand how one could look at buzz terms like "Fake News" and think that it is a legitimate characterization of news in general. A few rotten apples will inevitably spoil the bunch. The characterization started when news outlets began structuring opinion driven programing around newsworthy events; a new business model is born.

What is surprising is that news outlets allowed politics to take over the conversation. It was certainly meant to happen and the world had to go through growing pains from it, but I believe that world is tired of being told how to think. People are so much more educated and won't accept anything less than the opportunity to achieve its incredible talent and potential. What's great about being an American?

Nothing short than having the freedom to make change with equal opportunity.

An American president once said to the people, "We are the change we have been waiting for." Whether or not I agreed with him 100% of the time during his tenure didn't change fact that his statement fundamentally changed me as a person. Waiting is subordinate. It's passive.

Never stop believing in yourself America. You are great by virtue of the fact that you are free to change how greatness is defined.

No One is Ever Done Learning

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Being comfortable is great, but living life to its fullest is all about connecting with people. Undoubtedly the most important skill in life is the ability to learn from others. One of the most marketable skills one can have is the ability to learn how to think like colleagues collectively in pursuit of a vision.

So why do we do it? Why do we continue to refrain from moving outside of our comfort zone, when in the end connecting with people is what really makes us happy?

Workspaces are exciting places to learn new markets and skillsets for the development of one's career. Making a difference in an industry can be very fulfilling; not to mention the difference in lives business people make everyday, especially in the non-profit space. It is only a matter of time when the influence of comfort and learning come to a confluence in the workplace and the future of employment for the next century is born. Learning is constant.

When people are not learning, they are not happy. No matter if they are getting paid. The key to creating a good culture at work is to create a culture where leadership rewards teachers on the team. Those are the same individuals that are the most dedicated students themselves – facilitating a work space of learning, which directly leads to great workplace culture.

Policy that Stifles Learning

  • Resisting new approaches for the status quo
  • Dropping off problems without proposing solutions
  • Uncooperative behavior towards others
  • Behaving with a victim mentality
  • Breaking character

Personally speaking, what's interesting about being in the ad design field is that art, aesthetically, is a theoretical practice. The key to making effective advertising in the marketing space is the mastery to rationalize to oneself a piece is complete. Time is still money, that is one thing that will never change.