When 'been there, done that' meets 'fresh mind, new thinking'

How does one country recover after war, when another will spiral into deeper issues? Is there a different way of working? Perhaps new ways of approaching issues, a fresh outlook on life?

Recently I went to some TEDx talks at Aston University. The theme was diversity and mindset. Always an interesting topic, as I am torn between thinking it shouldn’t be a consideration in business, but also interested to hear from people who use their voice to fight their corner. I’m not sure why it matters what age, sex, race, colour, sexual preference etc someone has to do a good job. Surely it’s more important to have the right experience, attitude, and ability..? I guess this spans wider than business, but that’s a whole new topic…

My main purpose of attending was to meet up with business mentor, Jess Butcher, and hear her speak. A powerful session in itself, deserving of a dedicated post (coming shortly) but this allowed me to participate in several other sessions and I found myself coming away feeling quite empowered and motivated by what I’d heard.

I’ve always wanted to develop and improve as a person. To progress in my career. Learn from those who have been there, done it all before and know the best way of attacking new projects and issues. They’ve made their mistakes, right? Have proven methods, guaranteed ways of achieving goals and business objectives? That’s who I want to learn from. Learn from their mistakes, their successes.  It’s the way I’ve done it until now.

What if there is a different way of working? New ways of approaching issues. A fresh outlook on life. It was these thoughts that kept going through my mind after the sessions.

We heard from Munir Al-Akari, who asks the question, “How does one country recover after a war when another will spiral into deeper issues?”

At 18 Munir traveled to the Middle East to meet other like-minded teenagers trying to start a fresh life and address major issues. But they were young and not yet influential. They had no financial backing or experience. However, they were passionate and determined. They went on a journey to learn, and realised that historically the countries that recover have 3 things in common:

  • Knowledge – they had access to information, democracy, the ability to filter noise from facts to ensure an accurate understanding of events.
  • Skillset – which must work in tandem with knowledge. The people were given the tools to manage and develop. Help to shape, define and lead.
  • Proactivity – they take initiative. They leave their comfort zones. They do something different, not just sit and hope things change for the better.

Munir’s advice is that every institution that wants to practice good leadership should consider this triangle. And I can’t say I disagree…

Image courtesy of https://twitter.com/tedxastonuni

The experience feedback loop

Next up was Ajay Rose, creator of Plugsville, forever frustrated by being told he had no experience and therefore can’t get the job. But how do you get experience without a job? His belief is you need two things; perseverance and continuous improvement.

Ajay spoke of his playground enterprises selling contraband confectionary, and university ‘ebay’ opportunities for buying and selling books, expanding out to discussion spaces for a community chat to get help on assignments and coursework. In the background, he was writing a blog and for 12 months, with record views of 237 (thank god for friends and family!), he realised he must do something to build this if it were to become his business. He knew he needed to do things differently and he wanted to make improvements. He looked for feedback from his current audience, his subject matters and his potential audience. He focussed on what they said and worked to close the gap on expectation and output.

Identify the critical information that can launch your business to the levels you want. Make it work, then get more feedback. Never stop wanting to improve.

He acknowledged that it’s difficult to take criticism on the areas you’ve been working so hard at, but sometimes you just have to stop, understand what’s missing.

There were many other young speakers at the event, including Hayden Taylor who, at 21, is already Managing Director of his own business, a UK One Young World Ambassador and a Jo Cox Memorial Scholar.

He claims the world needs leadership now more than ever. And it’s up to the youth to provide it. To be the change-makers. Hayden understands that having the right mindset is integral to implementing change. And having permission to question and challenge, and permission to fail.

Images courtesy of https://twitter.com/tedxastonuni

I came away from the talks quite impressed, not only by the content but by the approach to which the speakers work to in everyday life. I’ve spent my career being the mentor or coach to those in more junior roles to me, or to Air Cadets still in their teens trying to work out what their journey in life looks like. I’ve looked up to people who have been there and done it all. They’re older and wiser and have so much information to pass on. But maybe I’ll readdress that balance now. Start listening to those with fresh minds, new ways of thinking, not yet forced into doing things because that’s what’s worked before.

What better ‘start-up’ mentality than a completely undamaged, unsullied mind of a generation that won’t be told what can’t be done or what should be done. A generation of determined, intelligent people who one day soon will be the leaders in business and in life.