Sometimes we creatives are not good leaders? Are we?

We are visionaries!
We are creative and we are strategic. We have passion and willingness to work infinite amount of hours to execute an idea. But sometimes, it is hard to lead. Seriously! This is by means no admission that I have not tried or will try again to successfully lead a group with a common mission/goal. It is a self-reflection that I realize that I was not pre-disposed to be a natural born leader. I think? We just believe in tomorrow’s human capital!

We generate great ideas!
We live in a world that beats to many different drums. We feel our path and not objectively understand how to get to the final resting place. But we understand that the path is so much fun. Our ideas do not come to us during a planning session, they happen in the middle of the night when we least expect. They happen in the shower or when we are screaming down the road at 85 mph with the windows down. But the logical side of our brain knows and understands that we must capitalize on that very moment of true epiphany. We must implement the creative thought right when it pops in our brain. You will find us running through the house stark naked to jot down the idea, draw that vision, create that master piece. We will cut across five lanes of traffic under creative transcendental inspiration, just to get to the side of the interstate to jot it down. We are passionate about our ideas.

We need implementors!
We need help. We see the vision and can articulate the vision, but we rely on those who have the expertise to help us implement the vision. The vision is clear in our head…so clear we can almost reach out and touch it. But, we need those who can decipher our vision into a palatable final product. Yes, we can be technicians of our trade, but as practitioners we understand to rely on those have the technical expertise to make the final product shine!

We like living within our creative freedom!
We know when to turn on that perfect song to get us into a creative rhythm. We like to spread our wings and let the emotion of the story influence the direction. We get so in-tune with our creative thoughts that those looking in have a hard time communicating with us during the moments of inspiration. We can see the lips flapping, but the words just do not register. We are in the zone. We are in the place where we so connected with our big “T” truth, that it only makes sense to us. It feeds our ego and separates us from others. We love our passion.

Structure is a necessary evil!
We understand that organization is the one thing that still keeps us human. It is that calendar or the to-do list that brings us back to reality. It is that assistant that is so OCD about keeping structure, that we knew when we hired them…it was necessary for not only our mental sanity but to ensure we kept our business thriving. We find value in the other side of the brain, just sometimes it is hard to make it happen.

Our minds rationalize differently!
We articulate our thoughts verbally so that we when hear ourselves say it out loud, we can then find the holes in the idea. We speak in tangents and outliers that ultimately have meaning to the bigger story, but we have to rationalize it in our own brains just to get to the final point. We chose to take the road less traveled because sometimes we do not like to feel mainstreamed. We like the opposing argument, just to argue that position with out any pre-disposition…because we can! We like a-typical. We want to be in the minds of those we are trying to influence, so we can understand how to truly create and influential piece of creative. We are flat out manic!

We do not create on a timeline!
What is a timeline…oh, that thing that keeps us on task. We just cannot force our inspiration…it just happens at 3am when the dog happened to lick our face and that is the one little thing that made it all click. We procrastinate because we work better under pressure, knowing we have to deliver the best thing since sliced bread in the next few hours. It is like a drug…the ability to create a masterpiece in a tight timeframe knowing inspiration will hit us at that an unknown moment. Then we deliver and sleep like no tomorrow.

We lead by example!
We lead from our hearts, our passions, and our past experiences. We want to create a community of ideas, bring people together with a common vision, and allow them to create more pieces of fine art. We have been down that road before. Living the dream with bad bosses, bad corporate structure…and it is our hope to make it a little better for those that will lead us to the next millennium. Why, because we believe in our future. We believe we must give back because those we are trying to inspire will be the ones who decide how our legacy(s) will live for the next millennium.

How do you write? How do we educate?

I was walking through a little thrift store today and noticed something…and it struck me. A pencil sharpener…remember those days? I remember when I was a kid and it was this time of the year. Mom would load us up in the car and take us to the store for school supplies. We had a list of items from our school sent home informing the parents what supplies we will need for the coming year. Notebooks, paper, pencils, crayons, etc. created havoc in the local store where moms and dads were loading up children’s school bags.

I remember getting those brand new pencils. They were freshly packed and un-sharpened. They came in all different types of colors; red, blue, yellow, and green. Sometimes you could buy them with your name on them, especially if you had a common name like Bobby. Remember the first pencil you pulled out of the pack and you could go sharpen the pencil for the first time. It was more fun to sharpen the pencil than actually take part in the classroom exercise. I even remember some of my teachers started the day with the whole class in line, sharpening our pencils before starting the lesson.

Do they still have pencil sharpeners in classrooms? Some schools, maybe…if the buildings have housed generations of students. They are still probably on the walls or bookshelves, well because they have become nostalgic reminders of our yester-years. Public education is changing faster than the technology that is leading the way. Dollars are decreasing, teachers are being laid off, classrooms getting crowded, and some of the best and the brightest are loosing site of the age ole testament…education shapes our future.

Just a few months ago, I bought an iPad from Apple. The new wave of the future when it comes to personal and business computing. It is not only a computing tool but a business class communication tool. As a college instructor at Clemson, we are being challenged to find innovative ways to engage our students and still conserve if not cut costs. I have made a vow to try to teach the whole class this coming semester using just the iPad. I am not sure if I can execute this plan, but I am going to try.

Today’s teaching tools are technologies that are shaping the way we teach and the educational process of our future. At the end of last semester’s class, I asked each student to write a thank you note  to one person that has shaped their future. I asked them to hand write the note, with their signature, and hand write the envelope. Some students were perplexed with the assignment, either not understanding the purpose or the means to execute the assignment. The hand written note is so much more powerful that an email. Think about those hand written notes you receive in the mail. I am hate throwing them away, so I have a place for each one that I receive.

Writing a hand written note takes time, effort, dedication, and thought. If you are writing a two page letter and it is pen…you better chose your words carefully. It is hard to go back and fix something. We now are surrounded by spell check and other grammatical word fixing mechanisms…you know the red and green lines under a word or sentence. They use those colors so we feel annoyed until we fix the error. But they become our crutch. I am a poor speller; by the mere fact that I am not only an educated individual, but one that depends on technology.

So what is the balance? How do we still teach our next wave of leaders, our new knowledge economy how to think like practitioners and not as technicians.  How do we teach them to evolve with the technologies and not be so dependent upon a tool. How do we teach to creatively write and allow the tools to facilitate the process instead if dictating the process.

If we are going to have a bigger and brighter knowledge economy, we have to compete on a fundamental level…in our education system. Yes…it takes dollars, but it also takes a commitment to tomorrow and knowing our past. There are days where I wish I could have a pencil sharpener again, bringing the fun back into the creative process. But I sure do like the iPad as well. But, we have to find the middle ground between age old technology and new innovation to set the stage for tomorrow. We can’t just go lay-off old teachers just because they are going to retire eventually, but we can’t just lay-off the new teachers because of seniority. We need to be selective in who is teaching in our public schools, ones that are going to inspire the next creative class of human capital.

I will leave you with this…have you ever heard of the Call Me Mister Program, housed at Clemson University? The sole purpose of this program is to empower and educate young African-American males to be elementary school teachers here in South Carolina.  To put more African-American males in leadership roles to become role models for our young students. Imagine the opportunity to change the face of South Carolina by changing the image of African-American males from the years of oppression this state has witnessed. Now that is innovation. It did not take technology…it took vision.

Will the market bear more education?

Over the last few months I have been thinking about how the educational system here is South Carolina  is changing and being forced to change. For the past few years, state funding for higher education has continued to drop substantially, each year forcing institutions of higher learning (that depend on state funds to operate) redefine how they support the demand. Well, there are two scenarios to this business proposition, raise the cost of a public education and/or seek more and more private funding. But before going down that thought process, I want to back up a few minutes.

Currently, my wife and I have been put in a position to support (both financially and parentally) my wife’s younger sister Susanna. She is a rising junior at the College of Charleston studying history. For the past two years, after Sarah and Susanna’s mother died of breast cancer, we have been helping Susanna navigate this convoluted financial-aid maze. From applying for expensive and inexpensive student loans to finally being eligible for grant monies, there is a serious conversation concerning “return on investment,” picking a educational path that is going to yield a direction post graduation that provides either a job paying a good wage or moving on to a graduate level education. But what is the ROI on a history degree? That conversation is soon to come.

We are just one of many families having this conversation right now, educational dollars spent should be taken just as seriously as a house purchase. When it is all said and done, one family can spend or borrow close to $7K – $10K per semester. These dollars add up and can come close to a $50K-$80K investment for a four year education. There is a serious business model behind providing loans for those to get a “quality” education. Think about it for a second…it is a like a revolving door behind the rising costs of education and the educational tracks being offered, but…are those tracks market driven?

As a side note, this blog post comes after a Saturday morning conversation with John Warner, he made me think more about market driven education.

More and more degrees are being offered, more and more dollars are being borrowed, more and more institutions are getting fatter, and now we have educational institutions moving away from market driven education. Each day I walk into another Panera Bread where the cashier working is a recent college graduate with a marketing degree and no job. Take a look at my wife’s MA in Professional Communications, she has yet to find a job using that degree. She worked in Manufacturing for close to five years becoming a strategic buyer and then became burned out and now teaching pre-schoolers. She was sold this degree track right out of undergrad at Lander on the fact she would find a high paying job, yet no one helped her in finding that job. It was not market driven…at the time. Side note, she and I graduated with our MA’s right after 911, the market was rock bottom.

So what are we seeing, educational institutions are starting to get back to basics. They will begin doing a couple of things. Identifying market driven degree programs that make sense and begin cutting programs that basically have no funding. As funds continue to decrease from the state, institutions like Clemson, USC, and other state supported schools will begin moving closer and closer to privatization. Now they will not become “Private” but they will be supported by private sources that have a vested interest in the types of programs that will be offered, supported with a pipeline of talent educated to fit that market need.

Clemson University was founded to provided the “Common Man” of South Carolina a technology and mechanical education to solve the agricultural problem in the state.

From Thomas Green Clemson’s Will
“My purpose is to establish an agricultural college which will afford useful information to the farmers and mechanics, therefore it should afford thorough instruction in agriculture and the natural sciences connected therewith — it should combine, if practicable, physical and intellectual education, and should be a high seminary of learning in which the graduate of the common schools can commence, pursue and finish the course of studies terminating in thorough theoretic and practical instruction in those sciences and arts which bear directly upon agriculture, but I desire to state plainly that I wish the trustees of said institution to have full authority and power to regulate all matters pertaining to said institution — to fix the course of studies, to make rules for the government of the same, and to change them, as in their judgment, experience may prove necessary, but to always bear in mind that the benefits herein sought to be bestowed are intended to benefit agricultural and mechanical industries.”

What type of education is necessary for the “Common Man” of South Carolina today? One of the “new technologies” is automotive innovation as seen with the creation ICAR. What other innovative, market driven, educational tracks will be created and be supported through private funds? This will be decided because in 2011, the federal stimulus money provided to subsidize the short fall for the 2010 academic year will be gone, and the fat will have to be trimmed and the deficit will have to be managed. You can read about the impact on Clemson in President Barker’s Blog.

Over the past 50 years, especially during the rising and falling economies, their has been an upward trend in expansion of higher education degree tracks. More and more diverse educational opportunities were created either by the market or a vision. More and more dollars were spent by families in a competitive battle between educational institutions. Now, we will be getting back to basics. Degree programs that have a path. General education requirements will be re-evaluated and the new professors will be ones of innovation, entrepreneurship, and educational economics (bring true business value to the classroom).

There was at one time in this great nation the opportunity to get a law degree or a medical degree without a four year bachelorate education…why not today. Is it time to reconsider the four year track for a BA or BS and combine with graduate level education? How can we put value back in the education we pay dearly for and work hard to obtain. Right now, some of it is not worth the piece of paper that it is printed upon, but rather the interest it is accruing for those student loan payments we pay each month. We are paying ours each month as Sarah walks into the daycare classroom each day.

What about my sister-in-law working on a BA in History? It is our hope she will keep on studying to become a librarian after getting a Masters from University of South Carolina. That separate degree was not created for the job market but for the institution’s margin. They are in that cyclic process of creating new degrees just to make money.

The higher education system in South Carolina is fat and needs some trimming, not only from a degree offering stand point, but also from a market position. There is a need to critically examine the type of high dollar education that is being taught and figure out what is really necessary to provide a market bearing education.

So on this line of conversation, there are groups that are wanting to capitalize educationally with this current market. Take Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina. Here is a group that makes money off of transactions. They are a company of IT professionals and they build their systems on COBOL. They are in a position to aggressively seek the next wave innovators to fill positions that are being vacated through attrition. The problem, it is not cool to go into “IT” anymore and the educational systems are not teaching COBOL. So Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina has teamed up with educational institutions like University of South Carolina, Clemson, and others along with IBM to re-shape the perception and educational tracks for the world of “IT”. There is a market need and there is value in teaming up with high education to shape curriculum so that the Blue Cross Blue Shields of the world can capitalize on the new emerging talent. This entity is know as the Consortium for Enterprise Systems Management and is based in Columbia, SC. This group is a marketing engine working with groups to change the face of “IT” and educate and recruit the new talent but educate and reshape our educational system from K-12 to higher education.

So ask yourself, if you had to do it all over again…what would you study? Would you study your passion or what the market would bear. Maybe it is a combination of both, but it is time to shift that conversation back to where there is a need in the market for job opportunity and growth. Or…is a higher education truly standardized just for jobs or theoretical education? The pendulum is swinging back and it is time to figure out what is up next for our new leadership. That leadership are those students, our children, our future, our legacy. Remember, it is up to us to help shape our future…the decisions we make now will shape how we, our children, and our children’s children will live one day.