Friday, July 30, 2010

One Idea for Back-to-School

If someone asked you to invent a high school or college course what would it be?

My pick would be "Building Your Platform for The Platform Age."

This class would be about leadership. It would be different than the standard vision, values, integrity and intellect courses designed to lay the foundation for good and great leaders.

The first day of this class would start with an offbeat exercise. Imagine yourself as a great technology platform like Apple or Microsoft or SAP. These platforms are built to be easy to connect with, to get stuff done. The result is tens of millions of people do so to get lots of work accomplished.

Homework for the first day of class would ask leaders to describe all the ways you are, or could be, easy for people to connect with. It'd also ask to identify ways you make connecting difficult and how you can fix that.

This platform building class would examine the concept of platform, chiefly understood as your community with intention; something that doesn't simply happen. No, great leaders work hard at building their platforms, their communities, disciplined with consistent purpose, seasoned with distinctive culture biased toward action.

This class would provide context about The Platform Age. We live in a moment, according to the Association of American Colleges and Universities, when one-third of the entire U.S. labor force changes jobs every year; when 91% of employers need their employees to take on more responsibilities and use broader skills than in the past; when writing, reasoning and social / interpersonal skills are most in need and command the highest salaries.

Yes, we live in an age screaming for good and great leaders nurturing communities. People who have fundamental leadership skills. But who also have the know-how to build platforms of people and processes to connect to make things happen together.

This class will teach that building platform is art. There is no standard template; no one-size-fits-all platform.

There are, however, tools of the trade. And today they are abundant. Many are free and easy to use. And they help amplify communication and culture, reinforcing connection across the platform. Blogs, social media, podcasts, are a few of these tools.

The art of platform building is seeing a need in the world and defining your response, then finding your voice and communicating it authentically and consistently with the right tools in a way that inspires others to join your response.

History is generous with the grandmasters of platform building. So class will dwell on maestros from various walks, from civic leaders such as Kennedy, Reagan and Obama; to the religious, Gandhi, John Paul II and The Dalai Lama; to business, Welch, Jobs and Gates; to thinkers and writers, Merton, Tolle, Godin.

Final exams will be in essay form, asking students to stretch beyond their fundamental leadership skills; those you've acquired to climb the mountain.

This final test will ask a simple question. Even more important than climbing the mountain, this examination wants to know,

"How will you go about moving the mountain?"

--tim

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