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Bright young old things!

“To be a genius, think like a 94-year-old.”

If you’ve ever worried about your declining IQ, take heart from this fascinating profile of 94 year old John Goodenough who, together with his team at University of Texas, has filed a patent application on a cheap, lightweight and safe battery to revolutionise cars.

How does a man born in the 1920s outsmart the millennials?

The masterful application of knowledge and problem solving is behind Goodenough’s patent. And there’s a name for it – it’s called Crystallized Intelligence. The good news: as we age Crystallized Intelligence continues to increase (whilst our IQ shows a gradual decline). Crystallized Intelligence is accumulated information and vocabulary acquired from school and everyday life. It encompasses the application of skills and knowledge to solving problems.

Fluid Intelligence (also called native mental ability) is the information processing system. It refers to the ability to think and reason. It includes the speed with which information can be analysed, and also includes attention and memory capacity.

Neuroscientists at MIT and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) suggest that the details on our mental acuity are far more complex than previously thought. The researchers gathered data from nearly 50,000 subjects and found a very clear picture showing that each cognitive skill they were testing peaked at a different age.

There’s little doubt that aptitude testing is prized in profiling new hires. What is less clear is the weighting we should apply to Crystallised and Fluid Intelligence for various roles, different industry sectors and on a hierarchy of leadership.

What’s becoming evident:

  • IQ peaks between 25 and 29 years old, then drifts down through the working years, with decline becoming more steep after age 70.
  • If you’re Under 25 – you should be feted for your raw speed in processing information, logic, numeric and verbal reasoning.
  • Until around age of 25, short-term memory continues to improve, when it levels off and then begins to drop around age 35.
  • Different components of fluid intelligence peak at different ages, some as late as age 40.
  • For the ability to evaluate other people’s emotional states, the peak occurred much later, in the 40s or 50s.
  • While data from the Weschler IQ tests suggested that vocabulary peaks in the late 40s, the new data showed a later peak, in the late 60s or early 70s.

Professor John Goodenough refers to himself as a ‘turtle’ who has kept on walking and meandering through life looking and picking up clues along the way. There was no ‘Big Bang’ moment for him, even though at 30 he was probably an intellectual giant. Rather, the collected wisdom and observations over his turtle life have led to that new battery patent.

“Last but not least, he credited old age with bringing him a new kind of intellectual freedom. At 94, he said, ‘You no longer worry about keeping your job.'”

Where do you think Crystallised Intelligence fits into your world @work?

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How to learn Italian… without going to school

It’s needless to say that childhood experiences shape a significant part of our adult persona, but they also help to build some of the skills and attributes that we carry with us during our working life.

While in pre-elementary (equivalent to kindergarten in Australia) and then elementary school (primary school), I, like many of my peers, revered television for its ability to entertain, educate and simply provide an escape from everyday reality. However, in Albania where I grew up, the State-run channel was pretty dry on children’s programming, with limited variety, laughably amateurish sets and substandard directing, which had little appeal to my youthful imagination. Like many others at the time, I turned to Italian TV for entertainment because it featured many cartoons for children.

The geographical proximity of the two countries (Albania is only 40 miles across the Adriatic Sea from Italy) allowed us to receive Italian broadcasts with a simple medium-wave receiver. From age five onwards I was watching cartoons on Italian TV. I would wake up at 6am along with my brother to watch Anna Dai Capelli Rossi, Heidi, Power Rangers and Sailor Moon, which were all featured in Italian. Enraptured by the stories and delighted by the colourful images, I naturally started to interpret what was being said and my understanding of Italian improved day by day. As I grew a bit older, I progressed to watching a TV series called Amico Mio and even developed a crush on the actor who was about my age! At ten I was able to fully converse in Italian, and have been fluent in the language since then.

I went on to improve my language skills, taking Italian courses in university, where I learned to read and write besides speaking. It’s a skill that came in handy: my first job at 16 was working in an Italian bakery in Toronto. I took a Modern Italian Culture course at university in Canada and shared a house with five Italian girls for a few months in regional Victoria, when I moved to Australia. Funnily enough, I have only once set foot on Italian soil (while visiting a friend in Rome, and just for two days), nevertheless those language skills I acquired from Italian television were my trampoline to the wider world.

Tons of research demonstrates that our behaviour as adults stems from what we have experienced during our childhood. If you are afraid of dogs, it’s probably something you can trace back to your younger days. If you speak Italian in a Micky Mouse voice, you probably grew up somewhere along the Mediterranean.

What about you? Is there anything you have learned in an unconventional way?

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It’s networking, but not what you think!

Jenny comes from a disadvantaged family in Asia. She had to work to help her single mum with living costs so she could afford to send her to school. Jenny will never forget a primary teacher who paid for her school fees. Jenny loved school and this teacher inspired her to become a teacher herself.

This was just one of the many stories shared at our first Teachers Meetup of the year, which Andrew Barr and I hosted early in March.

Slade Teachers MeetupTeacher Meetups provide an opportunity for teachers to get together outside of the school environment, share their experiences and yes, network with their peers. As recruiters we focus on candidates when they need a new challenge, but we also care about experience in their current roles, their previous positions and the journey they take as their career in education progresses.

Here are some of the stories that we heard (names have been changed):

Laura’s parents were teachers. Like many children, she had initially resisted following in her parent’s footsteps. Later in life she came to realise that learning was integral to her upbringing and teaching was in her blood.

Eric is a former teacher. It can be a tough job and his years of teaching were physically and mentally demanding. He wanted to share his story with others in the profession to help teachers take care of their personal wellbeing and prevent burnout.

Claire became a teacher because she loved the French language (I can’t blame her for that). No matter how much you enjoy teaching, it takes a lot of energy. It wasn’t long before her passion for the subject was equalled by her care for the students.

Networking therefore, can simply be sharing a moment.

One reason I push myself to go to networking events is because, as you’ve just read, sharing your experiences with others is empowering. It boosts your confidence, nurtures affinity with peers, and makes you feel less isolated. As a former Principal, Andrew highlighted the collaborative and supportive actions of peers and colleagues as essential to teaching. In a teacher’s world, networking is about learning from each other to improve your ability to help students along on their learning journey.

After the meetup a few teachers went for dinner together to celebrate a recent VIT (Victorian Institute of Teaching) registration amongst the group.

What about you, why should you network?

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Hashtag fear less

We ALL fear change and that’s OK, says Marty Wilson. I was recently lucky enough to hear Marty speak at Mental Health in the Workplace, part of the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce People in Business series. He gave an inspiring talk on change and the fear that comes along with it. It’s a theme that often comes up in the workplace when you are faced with organisational change or are considering a career change, but what I couldn’t help think is how do we learn to embrace change and see it for the good that it can be?

As if we were linked via telepathy, Marty turned to me (I am sure at this point he was speaking DIRECTLY to me) and provided some answers to the questions I was contemplating.

First he looked at the Oxford Dictionary’s definition of the word life:

The condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity, and continual change [my bold] preceding death.

Did you see what I saw? Yep, you guessed it. Continual change is a part of Life.

At this point I was thinking to myself, I’m good with change… right? I realised, not only was Marty talking to me (directly to me, again), he was talking about me. Yep, I’m not afraid to put my hand up and say, “My name is Candice and I FEAR change!”

Recognising your fears are part of the solution, Marty gave me a few tips on how to deal with them:

  1. Life is change
  2. Trust your instincts
  3. Be grateful for tough times
  4. Take more risks
  5. Make more mistakes
  6. Lighten-up

Marty followed-up with this gem:

“Imagine if you could choose to become someone who welcomes change and disruption as a normal and exciting part of business and life.” – Marty Wilson

So here’s what am I going to do: I’m going to stop imagining and start changing, change and innovation will now be my middle names. I am going to let go of the past and take a fresh approach, to work and life in general.

If I’m going to tackle the elephant in the room in my workplace, it’s our database. It’s a pretty large elephant, lives in the cloud, has a few wrinkles… I’m sure most offices have a database/system/process/technology elephant lurking about. It’s that shiny new technology that will help us to work smarter, not harder, but often feels like it’s programmed the other way around. So from now on, in my role as Operations Manager, I’m going to focus on what the technology can do for us, not what it can’t do (although a few magic tricks wouldn’t go astray).

Applying #FearLess in a broader sense, I am going to embrace all of the curve balls life throws at me, which are by dictionary definition, part and parcel with change. I am going to fear less about the doing and dive right into change. I’ll make some mistakes along the way, but that’s OK. I started last week by changing my commute from the 75 to the 48 tram. Big mistake, constantly overcrowded, can never get on, changing back today… Yep, I am all about the change now!

What changes are you going to make?

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When I was a Temp

I often ask friends and colleagues about their part-time jobs during their school and university years. Those experiences, what jobs they did and how they were trained, have in one or another, often led them to where they are today.

I myself worked at McDonald’s – on the front counter and in customer service at the drive-thru window. If you know me, I’m sure you can picture me in a navy blue visor and striped shirt with the golden arches logo. My dear old Dad was so proud! I’m not shy to say I was pretty good at the job. I was awarded Drive-Thru Employee of the Month twice and Employee of the Month – May 1988.

Working at McDonald’s was such great training. I learned procedures, discipline and responsibility. Sure, I was selling Big Macs, but even mopping the floor – there was a process for that – you had to do it the McDonald’s way. It was a fast-paced and structured environment, a great start to working life. My pay packet was also good incentive. I remember working out what shifts I could do to get the best hourly rates so I could buy a fabulous outfit, shoes or put a full tank of petrol in my car.

But what I liked the most about the job was the customers. I came across all sorts – from kids with their fed-up parents, to fast-food regulars and the party goers at 1am who threw pickles on the ceiling in the dining room – I can recall many encounters!

I expect it’s dealing with people in all their diversity that led me to recruitment. I still find them entertaining, to say the least. What’s really inspiring when working with temporary candidates is that sense of satisfaction – the feeling you’ve been able to fulfil someone’s needs when you get them working on one assignment, which leads to the next and the next…

Working with temporary candidates and coordinating temp jobs day-to-day makes me think about all the different types of work people do when they need flexible employment or are just starting out in their careers. It’s fascinating to learn about some of the more unusual opportunities.

Do you have a casual work story that you’d like to share?

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I could have been French President…

Growing up in France, I’ve always been interested in politics, as well as the way people communicate.

I’m now an expat, but every day is still a cultural challenge, every meeting a learning experience.

As an education specialist, currently working with schools to recruit teachers, one of the first questions I always ask candidates, regardless of their level of experience, is “Why do you teach?” I’m looking for those éléments de réponse, as we say in French: I want to hear their aspirations, understand their motivation and learn why they care about their students.

Early in my career, I studied Public and Political Communication. After graduating with a degree, I worked as a project manager for a digital company. However, it was during an internship in a web agency as a 19 year old that I realised my ability to interpret what the clients were trying to say when we sat down with them for a project briefing. Those complicated design briefs which everyone struggled with, simply made sense to me. In the same way, I find I’m able work through all the strategic plans, position descriptions and resumes to find out what my clients and candidates are really looking for when recruiting today.

As a consultant, you uncover some inspiring stories from people at various stages of their careers, which often align to the growth and development of the organisation they are with, or seeking to join.

Back in France, in 2012, I had to forgo one childhood dream (the presidency) to fulfil another. I had always wanted to travel, so I left France to explore the world.

Arriving in Australia, originally to save money to travel to South America, I found my way to Broome, ended-up living there for two years, fell in love with the country and decided to stay. Living the life of a backpacker, working as host on a luxurious boat in one of the most naturally beautiful regions in WA – it’s pretty hard to beat.

I love meeting people when I travel, so eventually I met a guy, who knew someone and one conversation led to another… I moved to Melbourne and I’m now part of the Slade Executive team.

Like me, our team is passionate. We all have different reasons why we do what we do.

In the education sector, my colleagues and I have the ability to influence the growth and development of the people and the organisations we work with. When I think about why I’m really enjoying what I’m doing right now, I’d say it’s my curiosity about people that led me to recruitment. I am constantly inspired by the stories of others – whether your goal is principal or president, it’s always interesting to know what motivates people to achieve their dreams. I hope some of mine resonates with you.

So what about you, why do you do what you do?

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‘Finish Before You’re Done’

This summer I heard a great story from Davor Miskulin, a Slade Group ‘alumni’ now working with Burning Glass in Canada, but who visits us regularly when he’s in Australia.

At a Toronto saxophone masterclass last year, which Davor attended with his sax-playing daughter Iva Mari, David Liebman told the story about jamming with Miles Davis. It was many years ago when Miles was already the complete legend and David was building his reputation. As anyone who has followed Miles Davis knows, he was a man of few words.

At that session with David Liebman and Miles Davis the band of musicians played and played and played. Towards the end when musicians ‘downed tools’ and started packing up their instruments, Miles walked past David Liebman and said just four words… “Finish before you’re done.”

As Liebman told the master class, he mulled over that line for years, thinking about how it applied to his music. Davor and I mulled over those four words during a lunch before Christmas, and considered all the different ways that phrase applies to work and life.

Finish Before You’re Done.

It’s knowing when to quit. Knowing that you’ve given it your best, but leaving ‘them’ wanting more, not less. And leaving yourself room to do other things too.

John Key finished before he was done. Nico Rosberg finished before he crashed. Lincoln gave his famous Gettysburg address in 278 words. Shirley Temple quit at 22.

How many of us are tempted to go on and on – beyond the moment when we should quit? Our speeches, our board tenure, the emails we write, the presentations and reports we present, the…?

When have you wished you’d finished before you were done?

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Shower thoughts for the New Year

For many of us, we associate showering with waking up in the morning, so it’s no surprise that some of our best ideas fresh in the day are ‘shower thoughts’. I worked for a CEO who regularly called in with her shower thoughts on her commute to the office. Most were simple, practical solutions to everyday business problems, with an occasional eureka moment… Archimedes would have been proud!

Research conducted by psychologist Dr Scott Kaufman for Hansgrohe (the bathroom hardware manufacturer) in 2014 found 72% of people have creative thoughts in the shower and “14% of people have showers with the only reason being to generate new ideas”. The study concluded “the feel of the water together with the tranquillity of the shower experience and being alone helps generate new ideas and fresh thinking”.

Literally, you can forget about having creative thoughts when you’re under the pump… a full schedule, working to a deadline, competing priorities and other disruptions all require focused thinking. Routine tasks (showering, regular exercise, gardening or even ironing) however, allow your mind to wander while you’re on autopilot. Actually these activities allow your conscious mind to process ideas that your subconscious has been problem solving in the background while you were focusing on the other tasks at hand. The scientific explanation – it’s a combination of dopamine released in a relaxed state of mind. “The subconscious mind has been working extremely hard to solve the problems you face and now that you let your mind wander, it can surface and plant those ideas into your conscious mind,” explains creative thinker and social influencer Leo Widrich on his Buffer blog.

Thought leader and cultural change commentator John O. Burdett links strategic thinking and workplace culture. In his book Myth, Magic, Mindset: a template for organisational culture change, Burdett says, “Our economic future lies in having a better strategy, a far greater ability to innovate and a culture that is adaptable.” Could your organisation’s strategy benefit from some shower thoughts? What about your organisational culture… Is it healthy, does everyone in the team align with it, how could you further nurture it?

So while you’re enjoying some downtime over the holiday period, allow yourself the extra time to lay in bed, watch the sunset or sip your favourite Sav Blanc. Cast your mind to some of the strategic objectives you’ve been trying to resolve during the year. You’ll be surprised how creative thoughts will emerge and solutions will surface.

Downtime assists us tremendously with clear thinking (maybe before the Sav Blanc). Use this time to consider your business structure, your organisational culture, the approach you might take with a difficult colleague, client, or even your Board. It is also a great time to give your mind the freedom for self-reflection and reset your professional goals for the New Year.

Have a happy, safe festive season and enjoy your break. On your return, let me know if you had any shower thoughts that helped you with articulating new ideas.

 

This article was originally published on TRANSEARCH Executive Leadership Insights.

Republished with kind permission from TRANSEARCH International Australia.

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