Australian Perspective on Goal-Free Careers

November 29, 2006

This was sent to me by a reader in Australia.

Job Myth: Setting career goals and sticking to them is the best way of having a successful career.

Dr Jim Bright: “The evidence in favor of goal setting is not great. Most diets use goal setting as a motivational technique but the failure rate for most diets is more than 50 per cent. That great careers adviser, John Lennon, said, ‘Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.’ Being flexible, open to opportunity, persistent and optimistic are probably more important qualities. Goals can be useful, but mostly in the short-term.”

Source: Sydney Morning Herald, November 25-26 2006.

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Speaker’s Corner Brainstorming

November 21, 2006

Today’s blog entry is a goal-free approach to brainstorming.

Brainstorming sessions are useful. The standard approach is one person up front facilitating, while the conversation is single-threaded. To overcome this limitation, some groups use breakout sessions. The problem with this is that they do not allow for cross-pollination of ideas.

To combat these problems, I developed a powerful technique called “Speaker’s Corner” – named after the place in Hyde Park London where people can speak on any topic of interest (typically religion, politics and aliens). Instead of one conversation, there are many conversations. Instead of the leader deciding what to discuss, everyone decides what is important.

Here’s how it works:

  • The group captures (either in the meeting or in advance) a list of topics that are of interest to the individuals
  • The group then prioritizes this list down to critical few – typically the number of people divided by 8. For the sake of argument, let’s say there are 30 people, and hence four topics/corners.
  • We ask for four volunteers (one for each topic) who agree to facilitate a conversation. Each facilitator goes to a different “corner” with a flip chart to capture the ideas associated with their assigned topic.
  • All other meeting attendees then wander freely from corner to corner as they see fit. The only rule is to make sure they are either adding value to a corner, or are receiving value from a corner.
  • Any person, at any time, can create a new corner around any topic.
  • A corner leader can recruit a new leader if that individuals want to participate in other corners.

What you find is that the most important topics with the highest level of energy attract a lot of people. The conversation can continue for quite some time. Topics which fail to attract a crowd wither on the vine (just like in Hyde Park – time to pick up the soap box and call it a day). This is the ultimate “free-market,” egalitarian approach to meetings. In one hour, you can capture more ideas than you would from a full day meeting. And each topic benefits from the cross-pollination of ideas from all attendees.

Rather than having a specific meeting goal, let the attendees determine what is of value. Let go of control and you will find unpredictable – and spectacular – results.

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Procrastination is Good

November 16, 2006

A reader sent me the following excerpt from “Good and Bad Procrastination” by Paul Graham:

“When I think of the people I know who’ve done great things, I don’t imagine them dutifully crossing items off to-do lists. I imagine them sneaking off to work on some new idea.”

“Any advice about procrastination that concentrates on crossing things off your to-do list is not only incomplete, but positively misleading, if it doesn’t consider the possibility that the to-do list is itself a form of type-B procrastination (something less important). In fact, possibility is too weak a word. Nearly everyone’s is. Unless you’re working on the biggest things you could be working on, you’re type-B procrastinating, no matter how much you’re getting done.”

“I think the way to “solve” the problem of procrastination is to let delight pull you instead of making a to-do list push you. Work on an ambitious project you really enjoy, and sail as close to the wind as you can, and you’ll leave the right things undone.”

This is so beautifully said. Activity for the sake of activity is worthless. Most goals are about controlling the uncontrollable and are based on a limit set of data. Instead, play a game that is big and bold, and gets you jazzed up. This will more likely lead to unpredictable, spectacular success. And you’ll have one heck of a time in the process.

One of my next blog entries will be on the distinction between finite and infinite games.

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Innovation Podcast

November 9, 2006

Although many of you know me as the “goal-free” guy, my main business is innovation and creativity. I am an advisor to large corporations who want to create a culture of innovation. And I help individuals and organizations develop break-through solutions to their most thorny issues. I have been doing this for over two decades, with 15 years at the international consulting firm, Accenture. If you want to learn more about my background, be sure to read my bio.

If you want to learn about my perspectives on innovation, you can visit my other website, There you will find articles on a wide variety of innovation topics.

And now, you can hear me speak about innovation in the workplace with Dan Keldsen from Perot Systems’ Delphi Group. Click here to listen to the podcast or read the transcript.

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GFL on Between the Lines TV

November 2, 2006

Goal-Free Living has been featured on the PBS TV show “Between the Lines” for quite some time now. It has been slowly making its way around the country. Recently the show aired in Philadelphia. Barry Kibrick, the show’s host, noted in a recent newsletter, “And a special note to all you Philly viewers who wrote about Stephen Shapiro’s Goal-Free Living, you’re not alone. That episode inspired many.”

Want to see the show? Click here to watch the entire 30 minutes in streaming video.

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