Two of the Most Important and Undervalued Skills for Success in the Workplace

Reading Constantly and Writing Well are by far the most important skills in the workplace for success.

A few days ago, I was giving my team a much-needed lecture on the importance of constantly reading and staying abreast of trends, as well as improving upon their writing skills. In Asia, where a liberal arts education is virtually unknown, few people have proper reading or writing skills. One might easily fault the language issue…and to be honest, I can be very forgiving of people from countries who were never exposed to English. Still, I don’t think that’s an excuse for NOT reading and keeping up with the latest trends, even in your own language, improving your writing and diction in your own language. That said, even of the Asian countries with easily available English educations, and former British (or American) colonies , I find the South Asian countries (India, Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) churn out people FAR better at speaking, reading, and writing in whatever language, including English (of course, English is the only language I can really judge in, but I can extrapolate that to a general interest in writing as well). I’m honestly not sure why that is, but that’s a different story!

Why is reading and writing so important?? Well, they are the basis for communication, and communication is the basis for ALL business and work, generally. If you aren’t keeping up with the latest trends and reading constantly, you will soon become irrelevant; and, if you can’t write, you can forget getting very far in any aspect of your professional development.

Read constantly. Keep up with the trends in your industry. It is the only thing that will keep you sharp and growing at a rapid rate. This is a necessary key to success in the workplace, because to mentor and grow, you need to stay ahead of the people who surround you. Don’t believe me? Read this article about Warren Buffett’s success formula, and this one from HBR.

Write well – clearly and concisely. Today I was reading this post about Jeff Bezos’ leadership style. A trained engineer (like me), I was impressed by his emphasis on writing. To be honest, I find writing to be an extraordinarily important skill. It is the fundamental for all success in the workplace…documentation, letters, communication all involve writing, and without it, you can forget getting very far. How you write is how people will connect with you; how they will perceive you; its where all your speech starts, and your thought ends. And I find that clarity of writing correlates heavily with clarity of thought. If you write clearly, it means you are thinking clearly. And how do you write well? Start with reading…the more you read, the better you will write…

Innovation in Sanitation: The Man Who Wore A Sanitary Napkin

m4s0n501

Arunachalam Muruganatham at his desk working away on his award-winning sanitary napkin machine.

Lack of toilets and water during a menstrual cycle can mean huge drawbacks for women and girls. They can’t travel or get their work done on a regular basis; families that rely on a woman’s income will often starve during those days when she probably needs it most. Young girls often drop out of school because they can’t use the bathroom when they need, and this has lasting repercussions. Sanitary Napkins have traditionally been out of reach and too expensive for the poor.

Bring in Arunachalam Muruganantham, a poor handyman from a village in India and a high school dropout who was brave enough to take on the project to address the issues his wife was dealing with. It nearly cost him his marriage and made him the laughing stock of his community, but he stuck to his principles. Today, he has pioneered cheap and effective sanitary napkins for the poor in India and potentially the world. Watch his amazing story in his own words here:

Rounding up the week on Education: Sweden’s Newest School with Classroom

 

Who wouldn’t want to go to a school like this??

No doubt you’ve heard about this already, if you have been trawling the internet. If not, read on…

 

From Architizer:

The young—and the young at heart—have a seemingly infinite capacity to project fantasies unto ordinary spaces. It is this kernel of wide-eyed creativity that carries on into adulthood, fighting to stay alive and to push us to keep imagining new and better worlds. Swedish educators seem to have had this in mind when they commissioned the architects at Rosan Bosch to build a wholly original kind of schoolhouse. The Swedish Free School Organization Vittra has been pioneering a new kind of pedagogical space, specifically one without walls. Gone are the classrooms and their rigid alignment of desks, and in their place emerges a colorful, seamless landscape of abstractly themed learning environments.

Also read about the following alternative schools:

John Hardy’s Green School

African Leadership Academy

 

 

Free Online Education is Leveling the Playing Field for Economically Challenged Communities

 

What if these women were watching a lecture by a professor from MIT or Harvard?? Its now a reality…

Now that opensource thinking has proliferated the technology space, a whole slew of products have emerged. Now all you need is an internet connection of some sort, a pair headphones and a phone with video capability and suddenly a person from Somalia or an innercity kid from Nairobi or South Central Los Angeles can be educated  in the same class by a professor from Harvard.

Several years ago, MIT had decided to put all their courses up for free on something called OpenCourseware (OCW). I didn’t particularly enjoy the material on there, but I soon realized I was in the minority. During my travels, I came across several people from around the world, particularly parts where a lack of financial resources and good universities abounds, who had successfully used the material and even learned it better than me.

Since then, several others have emerged that can run the gamut of education from grade school (the Khan Academy, TED-Ed) to university education (EdX, the new MIT-Harvard initiative to replace OCW,  Coursera from Stanford, Udacity), and beyond (Udemy).

I’m slowly wading my way through all the different programs, and trying to figure out what works for me. But its super cool that finally the developing world has almost equal access to anyone else anywhere else. Hurrah to the future of education. Now if we can just get more women access to this, and we will see the world change for the better.