Archive for May, 2012

Adapt Your Career Following Nature’s Lead

Monday, May 7th, 2012

I heard Dr. Rafe Sagarin (University of Arizona) speak last week at the CBODN conference focusing on Resiliency. His book, “Learning form the Octopus” is just released.

Do you know someone who readily adapts to changing circumstances without planning, predicting the future, or striving for perfection? Plants, animals and humans face the same problem, which is that risk in the world is inevitable and unpredictable. Whether we are dealing with a hurricane, a stock market crash, a war or job loss we can learn from the way nature deals with uncertainty. Here are just a few points from what he’s learned:

1) Focus on the immediate problem.  First, don’t get eaten or die. Then we can figure out the next step.  This means its ok to just get a job to pay the bills. But let’s not get stuck there.

2) Like an octopus, seek out information from many sources and decentralize to respond immediately. When the octopus ‘feels’ danger on one tentacle, that tentacle changes color or shape right then. It doesn’t send a text to the home office and wait for permission to do something to survive.  Career-wise we need to always stay attuned to trends that can affect our work and be ready to learn new skills.

3) Look at the problem from a wide variety of perspectives, especially the “crazy” ones that others tend to disregard. There are thousands of different types of beetles because they have adapted their appendages into claws, wings, hooks, or whatever they need to survive. Not every career-move is going to make sense to others; but it may be exactly what you need to do to learn and position yourself for your perfect work.

4) Use unlikely partnerships to serve the mutual need. Look at the instances where predators are serviced by their prey, such the wasp fish which clean the teach of their predator.  Too many people look at teammates as competitors for the next promotion.  Look at what others bring to the table that qualifies them for the promotion and see what you can learn from them. Use it to add your own value!

5) Learn from and build stories of success by providing the right incentives.  Beach-born turtles, or sea lions find their way to the sea despite tremendous odds. Issue fewer orders and offer challenges for people to develop what they need to succeed.  What is your innate, driving incentive in your career?  Is there a need or problem you want to address?  Making money to support our selves and families is a huge incentive, but not the only one.

If you can, go hear him speak. It will keep you thinking for weeks afterwards…maybe a lifetime.